The Duke Community was saddened to learn of the passing of MaryAnn E. Black yesterday. She leaves behind an extraordinary legacy of leadership and service to the Durham and Duke communities. Across her various positions as social worker, Durham County Commissioner, and State Representative, MaryAnn Black continuously sought to promote the health and human service needs of all Durham residents.
Upon hearing the news of her passing, we returned to an oral history interview conducted with Ms. Black to hear her insights. Her remarkable dedication to public service and gifts of cultivating partnerships is apparent throughout the interview. When talking about breaking down barriers in healthcare, she noted the importance of diverse hiring practices and avenues for progress:
“Breaking those barriers down just helped to make for a better world. You can't stay isolated and stay in a little small area and think that your world will stay safe. It doesn't work that way. When you extend yourself and figure out how you can work together as people should, then you provide, I think, a better opportunity for everybody to have better health care, because you come to understand differences in people. You also come to understand that collective thinking is always better than the thinking of one. I don't care how smart you are, you don't have the premium on knowing the answers to everything that comes up. You just can't know everything! You can't know every answer to everything in the world, and if you have seated around the table everyone who thinks like you, you're going to miss something. You must broaden the scope, and appreciate what everyone brings to the table, and think through what the other person is saying—What has validity, what doesn't, and how do we put all of this together to come up with a better package? YOU make things better.”
MaryAnn Black will be greatly missed.