ShareThis Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size

Memorial service announced for 1957 Tuskegee grad, former acting president Matthew Jenkins

September 25, 2019

Michael Tullier, APR, Office of Communication, Public Relations and Marketing

Dr. Matthew Jenkins with wife Roberta
Dr. Matthew Jenkins with wife Roberta

The family of former acting president and 1957 Tuskegee University alumnus Dr. Matthew Jenkins has announced a memorial service in his honor on Saturday, Oct. 19. A resident of Long Beach, California, the veterinarian, military veteran, entrepreneur, author and philanthropist passed away on Saturday, Sept. 14.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Pacific Time on Oct. 19 at Cornerstone Church on North Studebaker Road in Long Beach.

Jenkins, who served as Tuskegee’s acting president from 2013 to 2014 upon the resignation of then-President Gilbert Rochon, earned a doctor in veterinary medicine degree in 1957. He began his career in Boston with the U.S. Department of Agriculture before joining the U.S. Air Force and rising to the rank of captain. While stationed in Greenland, he discovered a rabies epidemic there and led the team that eventual eradicated the disease on the island country.

In 1960, he moved to California, where he was employed by the state’s Department of Veterinary Medicine. Shortly thereafter, he entered into private veterinary practice in Compton, which eventually grew to multiple locations and a team of 18 medical and office professionals. During his career, he developed a new anesthetic combination that was published in Modem Veterinary Practice in 1972 and continues to be used in many counties today.

Jenkins leveraged his standing in the veterinary medicine field to advocate for greater equality for African-American veterinarians. In 1970, his appeals to leaders of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) resulted in resolutions that would dismiss membership of those who practiced discrimination against minority veterinarians. He also introduced resolutions that gave African Americans greater access to leadership positions in AVMA and that created AVMA programs to enhance minority student recruitment.

Around the same time, Jenkins turned his business focus to real estate. Along with his wife, Roberta, he created SDD Enterprises, a real estate and property management company, which he managed on a full-time basis after retiring from veterinary practice in 1979. His ensuing success and professional acumen would lead him in 2017 to publish his autobiographical Positive Possibilities: My Game Plan for Success. In the book, Jenkins shares with youth desiring to shape the future his “game plan” for pushing one’s boundaries beyond the norm with purpose, passion and sensitivity.

“I wanted to record the myriad of challenges I had overcome. I believed those recordings could help anyone develop the knowledge and stamina that had allowed me to live a productive life,” Jenkins previously said of his autobiography. “This project would also help me discover what my life would say about me in the end.”

The couple also founded the Matthew and Roberta Jenkins Family Foundation in 1984. With Jenkins as its chair, the foundation donated more than $12 million to deserving students and academic institutions throughout the U.S. — including significant contributions to Tuskegee.

Jenkins’ modeled service to others through his professional, civic and business life. His many leadership contributions included serving as a member of the Tuskegee University Board of Trustees and president of the Tuskegee University Foundation; a trustee and board president at Compton Community College; vice chairman of the Charles Drew University Board of Directors; chairman of the Bank of Finance Board of Directors; chairman of the Telemedia Television Management Company; and a member of the California State University Foundation Board of Governors.

An Alabama native, Jenkins and his nine siblings grew up on a family farm. He frequently credited his mother Amelia, a widow, with imparting to him the values of hard work, the importance of an education, and the necessity of giving back to others.

He was married to fellow Tuskegee graduate Roberta Jones Jenkins, and together they had three adult children and six grandchildren. 

© 2019, Tuskegee University