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Jobe L. Payne Foundation

The Jobe L. Payne Foundation is currently partnered with The Social Circle Foundation to accept donations on its behalf.  To make a donation in honor of Dr. Payne, please click the DONATE button below.




Life Begins

Jobe Leon Payne was born on May 8, 1933, in Pontotoc, Mississippi. He was the sixth child of Gladys Hall and Peter D. Payne and one of seven brothers and two sisters. In 1937 the family moved north to Beloit, Wisconsin, heeding the call of the Great Migration. Jobe began attending public school there, and this was when his love of learning began. This love would lead him to become a student of many passions — reading, listening to music, playing sports, gardening, and most especially, science.


Early Days – 1948-1951

Jobe attended Beloit Memorial High School in Beloit, Wisconsin, and there he excelled in everything he set out to do. He was an all-around athlete, lettering in Football, Track, and Baseball. While playing baseball for the Junior Legion, the team earned a second-place finish in the 1950 State Championships. He played basketball his sophomore year, and he served as the manager for the wrestling team his senior year. He was a sportswriter for the school newspaper, a member of the National Honor Society, and a participant in Badger Boys State Activities. Unable to just be team active at Beloit High, he served in the community as an umpire in the Beloit Playground Softball League. During World War II, he helped maintain a large “Victory Garden,” which supplied fresh vegetables to most of the neighborhood. It would be the first of many gardens he had a direct hand in managing or creating. He performed in several plays at his church and assisted in the church recreational programs. All this while working as a newspaper delivery boy from the eighth through twelfth grades.


College Days – 1951-1956

After high school, Jobe decided he wanted to attend the University of Illinois, Champaign in Champaign, Illinois. His father gave him his blessing but told him he’d have to figure out how to do it on his own dime. Jobe left Beloit, Wisconsin, and headed south. He set down roots in central Illinois, spending his first year there working full-time to save enough money to enroll as a student the following year. Once again, he got to work making the most of the opportunities available to him and making an impact every step of the way. While he was there, he played Intramural Football, Soccer, Track and Field, and Wrestling. He was inducted as a member of Phi Epsilon Kappa Fraternity, an honorary health education fraternity, in 1953. In 1955, he was awarded the fraternity’s Scholarship for his work in health education and was also awarded the University of Illinois Scholarship Key. He graduated that same year with his Bachelor’s Degree in Health and Physical Education, and a year later, he earned his Master’s Degree in Health Education with a concentration in Biology. His thesis was “The Readability of Selected 8th Grade Health Texts.” He did all this while holding down multiple jobs to fund his education. He taught at the U of I as a Graduate Assistant, and he was a resident assistant to over eighty students. He devised a curriculum for Track and Field and used that to assist the Track Coach at Elgin High School while working there as a student teacher in 1955.


Fresh Out of School 1956-1959

While working as a science and health teacher at Roosevelt Junior High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Jobe instituted a science club and produced two major all-school assemblies in 1957 and 1958: What Is the Polio Vaccine: Harmful or Helpful, and Nutrition and Your Health, respectively. These programs involved a multi-media approach, and he got the students to create artwork and make props. These programs were awarded citations from the Milwaukee Health Department.

Jobe never strayed too far from athletics. In 1957, he became the Director of Intramural Athletics at Roosevelt, reorganizing the existing intramurals program, creating a small interscholastic basketball and softball league, and coaching both teams. As if that wasn’t enough, he added gymnastics to the intramural offerings. Jobe was always one to challenge students while being hands-on. He created student-teacher competitions in basketball, football, volleyball, and softball.

Jobe was a man who believed you needed to know about the world beyond your neighborhood borders. He truly desired to expand the cultural horizons of the students. He created a travel club for science trips, general interests, and cultural exposure. In 1958 he became the Director of Audiovisuals at Roosevelt and added technology as a feather to his cap.

And still, this was not enough for him.

In the local community, Jobe worked for the Milwaukee Department of Recreation and was the Director of the La Follette Playground, where he created programming that ranged from sports to arts and crafts for people ranging in age from 6 to 80 years old. He coached a softball team at Lapham Park, and the following year, he taught mother-daughter classes for the health department at the same park.


Back to School 1959-1963

In 1959, Jobe returned to the University of Illinois in Champaign to become a full-time graduate assistant. He worked alongside the Health and Safety Laboratory Director and assisted on various research projects, administered the school’s Driver Education program, and taught Health and First Aid courses. He began his pursuit of his Ph.D. focusing on Health Education, Physiology, and Microbiology, but it was not meant to be, seemingly due to the times and the color of his skin.

Disappointed but no less determined, in 1963, Jobe moved on to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in Argonne, Illinois. There he worked in the division of health and safety as a radiation biologist. He monitored the atomic accelerator and revised the Commission’s installations to consider the health hazards caused by radiation exposure.


Chicago-Bound 1966

Jobe landed at Bogan College in1966, a City College of Chicago, where he worked until he moved to Southeast College — now Olive Harvey — in the fall of 1967. He participated in the Martin Luther King Memorial Services in 1968, and then in 1969, he took over organizing and managing the program. Before leaving in 1969, he sponsored the college’s Photography Club. He served on the Grievance Hearing Board and the Planning Committee for the New Campus and established a Red Cross First Aid certificate course for the Adult Education Program.

During this time, Jobe was also a member of the National Science Teachers Association, the National Safety Council, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Geographic Society.

Never straying far from his roots, Jobe produced and directed plays at his church for Easter and Christmas and managed to have hobbies and interests outside of work. They were gardening, camping, woodworking, travel, and interior design.

For some, this could be considered a lifetime of work and accomplishments. But at the age of 36, Jobe was just getting started.

In 1971, Jobe became the Project Director for the Urban Doctors Program at Northwestern University. He was there on a one-year grant to write and develop a program to provide access to Northwestern’s medical school for inner-city youth. He created the program, but it wasn’t implemented due to budgetary constraints and lack of funding. What appeared to be a setback would become the platform on which Jobe would base the remainder of his career.

In 1972, Jobe became the Coordinator for Minority Programs at the University of Illinois Chicago, College of Medicine. When he first arrived, the college did not have programs for Black students, and he was given the responsibility of creating programs to fill this gap. He credited Dr. Theodore Sherrod, a pharmacologist, and faculty member at the College of Medicine, for opening doors for many minority students and staff, including himself. He would soon work closely with Dr. Sherrod in advancing and implementing his ideas for minority programming. Dr. Sherrod became a mentor and friend, and together, they shared interests in gardening and piano. Years later, they would maintain a garden together on the South Side of Chicago, and eventually, Jobe’s son, Eric, would cut the lawn that bordered it.

Jobe transitioned into the admission program as a consultant after openly voicing his disapproval over minority enrollment numbers at the medical school. His role expanded with Dr. Sherrod’s initiative to increase the number of Black students in the health professions. The Minority Opportunity Program (MOP) was founded in 1968 and remained active through 1978. The Urban Health Program (UHP) was created by a state mandate to expand the efforts of the MOP to include programming in all their health professions programs. Jobe became its first director. As Director, Jobe was charged with recruiting, retaining, and graduating underrepresented minority students in the Health Professions.

Additionally, the program worked to serve the underserved communities of color on the South and West sides of Chicago. Jobe was a member of a critical small few that had a vision for racial and ethnic equity in health education and healthcare. That vision expanded to serve many and still does to this day. By the Summer of 2022, The UIC Urban Health Program will have successfully supported and graduated nearly 10,000 minority health professionals, making UIC among the top educators of minority health professionals in the nation.

Jobe dedicated his public working life to being an effective advocate of minority students’ education in the health professions. Behind the scenes, he toiled nights and weekends to fulfill a goal that had been refused him some 25 years earlier. In 1988, Jobe successfully defended his dissertation and was conferred a Doctor of Philosophy in Public Health at what is now the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. His wife, son, and mother were there to cheer him on.

Some of Jobe’s lasting legacies are his roles as the UHP’s statistician and historian. He was a dedicated and meticulous administrator who painstakingly preserved the program’s records, including the numbers and the stories. He was responsible for housing the UHP records from 1978 – to 1993 at the UIC archives. In addition, as an avid gardener, Jobe started a pilot mentorship program for junior and high school students, where students were paired with professional students and encouraged to grow their own food. In 1995, Jobe was a science coordinator for a $175,000 grant awarded by Howard Hughes Medical Institute to the University of Illinois. The grant provided resources, students, and health professionals from the various colleges to enhance the science program at Frederick Douglass Middle School. He enthusiastically developed numerous programs for the school, with his favorite being a rocket development and launch program, breathing new life into a pastime he shared with his son years earlier.

Throughout the totality of his working life, Jobe can be defined as a simple man and a straight shooter who was a servant-leader and a scholar. He worked hard to accomplish his goals, nearly all of which were for the benefit of others. He collaborated and partnered across race, ethnicity, and nationality to achieve goals. He led by example, made no excuses, and set high standards for himself and everyone around him,  overcoming obstacles and creating precedents to educate, empower, and open doors for others.



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