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John Medina Is Mourned

By Joan Brogan

John Medina III, 59, died on June 17 at Casey House Hospice in Rockville, Md. He had lung cancer with metastasis to the brain, diagnosed only 4 weeks before his death. Medina, who with his wife Janet lived just south of Frederick in Ijamsville, Md., had moved here from Kearney, N.J. in 1995.

Born in New York City, Medina earned a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Columbia University in 1976, and a master's degree in public administration from New York University in 1985. He was enrolled in a doctoral program from 1985 to 1987 at NYU's Wagner School of Public Affairs.

John Medina III

Medina's longtime commitment to civil rights and equal opportunity issues had become evident early in his life. His wife spoke about "the courage he displayed to fight racism during the late 50's and 60's, when it was not popular to do so." She recalled a story from when he served in the U.S. Air Force from 1958 to 1961.

"John and his buddies were driving from New York to a military base in the south when they stopped at a local diner late at night, having not eaten all day," she related. "The diner went silent as they entered and the owner came over to their table to tell them that only white people would be served and allowed in the diner. John's friend would have to wait outside. John refused to accept such conditions, stood up and in a loud voice said to his buddies, 'Let's go!' and they followed him out the door. They got in the car and drove all night back to the base."

Over the years, Medina was involved in the development of legislation pertaining to civil rights, especially with Sen. Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.) and his staff. His interest in this area led him to his first post in the federal government at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, where he headed the National Puerto Rican Project in the mid-Atlantic states. He wrote a report, "In Search of a Better Life: The Education and Housing Problems of Puerto Ricans in Philadelphia" that was published by the commission.

Afterwards, he served as an EEO specialist and Hispanic employment program manager for the departments of the Interior, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development in Washington and New York offices. In June 1994, he came to NIH as the Hispanic Employment Program manager in the Office of Equal Opportunity, where he remained until February 2000, when he accepted a position as grants management specialist in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

During his nearly 6 years of service in OEO, Medina was well known for the role he played in coordinating minority outreach programs, which included the student internship program sponsored by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities and the National Hispanic Youth Initiative sponsored by the Inter-American College of Physicians and Surgeons.

He also worked to bring closer collaboration with Native American organizations such as the American Indians Science and Engineering Society and other minority-serving institutions. He served as the OEO liaison to the Hispanic Employees Organization, the Native American Employees Group and the Asian/Pacific Islander American Organization.

His wife says, "John's days in the theater are probably the most fun to mention." Medina spoke frequently of his hobby of planting trees, and his close colleagues knew he was a good dancer, but Janet shared this tidbit: "Though I did not know him at the time," she said, "he was considered one of the best dancers in New York City and was sociable with Sammy Davis Jr., Ava Gardner, Frank Sinatra, Chita Rivera, other theater folks and several popular rock and roll groups."

Though NIH did not benefit from these skills, Medina's colleagues at OEO and the NIH community will remember him as having boundless energy and expertise in promoting the goals of civil rights, equal opportunity and diversity — dreams of his youth that played out in a positive way at NIH.

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