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Woman with town ties becomes a dean at Harvard
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One woman with close family ties to Newton County is proof that no matter an individual's humble beginnings, with enough hard work and determination, it's possible to achieve great things.

Dr. Evelynn Hammonds, whose parents grew up in Covington and spent many of her summers in the city, was recently named dean of Harvard College of Harvard University.

As dean of Harvard College Hammonds will oversee the college's curriculum, residential dorms and all other aspects of undergraduate life.

 Hammonds will take up her new position in June. She is currently Harvard University's senior vice-provost for faculty development and diversity.

Hammonds, who goes by her middle name of Maxine with family and friends, has not forgotten her roots, returning to the Atlanta area whenever work allows. While she grew up in Atlanta, Hammonds often spent her summers with her extended family in Covington.

"It was a very special place for us to grow up," Hammonds said of the summers she spent in Covington.

Recently she returned to Covington to enjoy a Southern home-cooked meal at her aunt and uncle's family residence next to Bethlehem Baptist Church, where she attended Sunday school classes as a young girl.

Family and friends, eager to see Hammonds, crowded into the Hammonds home, which has hosted countless Sunday dinners over the years.

 They fill their plates with fried chicken, cornbread, collard greens and biscuits, all made by Hammonds's Aunt Mary, the hostess of the afternoon's festivities.

 The conversation was lively as guests regaled one another with fond memories and tales of exploits from the past.

Once again ensconced in the close-knit family environment that encouraged her to pursue her interest in science when she was younger, it's evident where Hammonds draws her strong sense of self-possession, which has lead her to become Harvard College's first black female dean.

Hammonds recalled that growing up in the Hammonds household, certain things were not tolerated, such as disrespect, and she and her cousins understood that their schoolwork was their first priority.

"I just felt a part of a community that valued education very highly and it served us," Hammonds said. "It's the kind of community that's not the same anymore."

The success stories of a Hammonds' upbringing are many. Hammonds' cousin, John Robert Hammonds, now deceased, was the first black student to attend Oxford College of Emory University. His sister is employed today as a nuclear engineer.

"We've got so much richness," said Mary Hammonds. "I know the success of these kids and it started at home. That was just the way they grew up."

As senior vice provost, Hammonds advised Harvard's provost and president on faculty appointments and supported the recruitment and advancement of minorities and women, according to a press release from Harvard College.

 She is also the Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz Professor of the History of Science and of African and African American Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences for Harvard.

Hammonds earned her B.S. in physics from Spelman College and a bachelor's in electrical engineering from Georgia Tech. She left Atlanta in 1976 to pursue a master's degree in physics from MIT, and a Ph.D. in the history of science from Harvard.

 She worked as a tenured professor at MIT until accepting a tenured position at Harvard in 2002.

Her areas of scholarly study include the history of scientific, medical and sociopolitical concepts of race, the history of disease and public health, gender in science and medicine, and African-American history. She is the author of "Childhood's Deadly Scourge: The Campaign to Control Diphtheria in New York City, 1880-1930" as well as many scholarly articles.

 Hammonds is currently working on "The Logic of Difference: A History of Race in Science and Medicine in the United States."