December 6, 2004

Community service a hallmark for Covin

When an idealistic David Covin came to Sacramento State as a new professor in 1970, he was determined to use his college education to serve the black community. He and his wife moved into the Oak Park home they still live in, and he immediately got to work.

Photo: David Covin
David Covin

More than 30 years later, Covin, a government and ethnic studies professor and the most recent recipient of the Community Service Award from the College of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies, remains heavily involved. And Sacramento has been indelibly marked by his efforts.

Covin’s efforts in his early years in Sacramento involved working with community development and poverty programs in Del Paso Heights. He was involved with the University’s Black Student Union, and among the students he mentored was Grantland Johnson, the future California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary.

In 1972, Covin was a founder of the Sacramento Area Black Caucus along with Bill Lee, the publisher of the Sacramento Observer. That group is credited with many accomplishments, including increasing the number of African Americans on local boards and commissions.

He would later work with countless community groups. Among them is the Women’s Civic Improvement Club, which works to improve the lives of black people in Sacramento. He’s been on that group’s executive board since 1987.

“I came out of the black student and black power movement in graduate school, and I wanted to continue that type of work after I graduated,” Covin says. “Working with these community organizations is rewarding in many ways, and part of it is just the engagement with people. You get exposed to ideas and questions you would never have expected otherwise.”

In her letter nominating Covin for the award, longtime friend and colleague Jean Torcom wrote: “If ever there was a faculty member at CSUS who is highly deserving of recognition for his unflagging service to his adopted community, it is he … Community involvement and commitment to other has not been a some-time-thing in David Covin’s life. It has been his life.”

In addition to his community service and activism, Covin is called upon often to share his academic and inspirational talks with gatherings of scholars, at countless community events and at local schools.

And in recent years, he has expanded his definition of “community” to the national and international levels. In 2001, he hosted a highly successful meeting of U.S. and Brazilian scholars at Sacramento State to talk about challenges facing black communities. The meeting led to multiple ongoing projects. In 2003, he helped organize the first of what has become the annual Congress of African Peoples, which is designed as a forum to discuss issues facing black communities and is affiliated with the National Black Political Convention.

Covin says that while it can be challenging for new faculty who are not yet tenured to pursue community service, he has seen a promising surge in interest.

“I would say that in the last four of five years, there has been much more,” he says. “Many more new faculty are interested in getting directly involved with the community than I have seen in the last 20 or 25 years.”


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