WINTER SPRINGS – Former Daytona Beach resident Dr. Valarie Greene King, a pioneer in educational and workplace diversity that has become standard operating procedure in top-performing schools and businesses, died Feb. 26 after a decade-long battle against breast cancer. She was 70.
Born in Hawthorne, Fla., to James R. Greene and Mildred Barlow Green, her family moved to High Springs, then Titusville, then Cocoa, where her father served simultaneously there as principal of Monroe High School and as president of Carver Junior College.
(Carver was an all-Black junior college, as community colleges were called then, during Florida’s era of racial segregation. It is now known as Eastern Florida State College.)
After she graduated from Cocoa’s Monroe High School in 1963 – where she was elected homecoming queen and then Miss Monroe High – the family moved to Daytona Beach in 1964 after both her parents were hired by then-Bethune-Cookman College. Her father became an instructor and supervised student interns; her mother was the school’s librarian who also taught English.
King went on to earn a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from Atlanta’s Spelman College, then earned a master of education degree in counselor education from North Carolina Central University and a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from the American University.
During a 35-year career as an administrator, counselor and psychologist, she worked at Bethune-Cookman College (now University); Southern Methodist University, Dallas; and the University of Central Florida, Orlando.
According to her sister, former Daytona Beach City Commissioner Cassandra Greene Reynolds, King got the urge to travel from their mother.
“Our great aunt, Leila Barlow, was an English professor at Alabama State University who traveled alone through Europe in 1939 with just one black dress,” Reynolds remembered. “Aunt Leila took my mother under her wing, and Valarie got the travel bug from Mama. Valarie was always interested in learning about other cultures.”
In the 1970s, she traveled to Europe and Africa for the first time during her tenure as an instructor at Bethune-Cookman. Her experiences and interest in travel and other cultures eventually led to a career focused on including people from diverse cultures in every aspect of organizations – something that had never been a priority in American education or business.
During a pause in her career in education, King served a three-year tour of duty in the U.S. Army with the rank of captain as a clinical psychologist at William Beaumont Army Medical Center, El Paso, Texas, and DeWitt Army Hospital, Fort Belvoir, Va. There, she was executive officer and chief of clinical psychology services.
She also was a member of the U.S. Army Drug and Alcohol Activity at the Pentagon, with responsibilities for working with the Air Force and Navy for developing and implementing certification criteria and procedures for military and civilian counselors.
King was the founding director of the University of Central Florida (UCF) Office of Diversity Initiatives, serving in that role for more than 24 years. She was an acclaimed leader in the field of workplace diversity and inclusion, and her leadership led UCF to be nationally renowned as a champion for promoting and sustaining innovative diversity efforts.
“Valarie was nationally recognized as a leader in designing innovative programs to further inclusivity in higher education,” said Rick Schell, vice president and chief of staff at UCF in a posting on UCF’s website. “The Leadership Enhancement Program she began at UCF has been emulated at other schools.”
One of her final projects before retiring from UCF was a partnership with the Library of Congress and the university to establish the UCF Community Veterans History Project, which began operations during the 2010-2011 academic year.
After her retirement from UCF, she launched a consulting firm, TacticalDiversity.com, which continued her work on inclusion, strategic diversity planning, stress management, career development and culturally competent leadership.
King was widely recognized as a pioneer in the field she helped developed and was cited as one of 25 Outstanding Women Leaders Making a Difference in the March 2012 issue of Diverse Issues in Higher Education.
In 2013, she was selected as an inaugural recipient of the Pharos Award given by the Commission on Diversity and Excellence of the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, the nation’s oldest higher education association with member institutions in all 50 states.
She was a member of many professional, community and service organizations, including Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and The Links, Inc.
“She never stopped traveling,” Reynolds said. The two sisters often journeyed together.
“She lived cancer-free for seven years after her initial diagnosis. After the cancer came back, she still went to the Super Bowl last year in California after she fell in love with (Carolina Panthers quarterback) Cam Newton. She lived longer than the doctors thought she would, and she fought until the end.”
Dr. Valarie Greene King was preceded in death by both her parents and another sister, fellow educator Janet D. Greene, formerly the head speech pathologist of the state of Connecticut.
Survivors include her son, Steven Randolph King; her sister, Cassandra Greene Reynolds; a niece and nephew, Stacey Y. Reynolds-Carruth (Robert) and Michael James Greene McLaughlin, Sr. (Kezia); grandnephews and grandnieces Robert C. Carruth, III, Gabriel Clinton Carruth, Cassandra Diane Carruth; Michael James Greene McLaughlin, Jr. and Charles McLaughlin; and host of cousins, including the Barlows, Cherrys, Greenes, Langs, and Taylors, as well as many friends and colleagues.
Funeral services will be held Sunday, March 12, at 3 p.m. at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, 2021 W. State Road 426, Oviedo.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Dr. Valarie Greene King Memorial Fund at the UCF Foundation in support of the Leadership Enhancement Program sponsored annually by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion benefitting UCF faculty and staff seeking professional development. Make checks payable to UCF Foundation, Inc., Attn.: Dr. Valarie King Fund, 12424 Research Parkway, Suite 250 Orlando, FL 32826.
For credit card donations, go to https://www.ucffoundation.org/give-to-a-ucf-program. For “Designation,” select “Other” and paste this information: Dr. Valarie King Fund. Complete other billing and name information as instructed, then click “Donate Now.”