David Dinkins

David Dinkins

Professor of Professional Practice in the Faculty of International and Public Affairs

David Dinkins

July 10, 1927 – November 23, 2020

Personal Details

Read more: SIPA Remembers David N. Dinkins | SIPA Faculty Remember David Dinkins

Mayor David N. Dinkins (July 10, 1927 – November 23, 2020) joined Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs as a Professor in the Practice of Public Policy in 1994. He served on SIPA’s Advisory Board and hosted the annual David N. Dinkins Leadership & Public Policy Forum for more than two decades. The inaugural David N. Dinkins Professorship Chair in the Practice of Urban & Public Affairs at SIPA, Michael A Nutter, 98th Mayor of Philadelphia was selected in 2015. The same year also welcomed the opening of the David N. Dinkins Archives and Oral History Project at the Columbia University Libraries. 

Mr. Dinkins began his public service career in 1966 as a member of the New York State Assembly. He was president of the New York City Board of Elections, and served as City Clerk for 10 years before his elections as President of the Borough of Manhattan in 1985 and 106th Mayor of the City of New York in 1989.

As Mayor, Dinkins was responsible for the establishment of numerous widely heralded cultural staples such as Fashion Week, Restaurant Week, and Broadway on Broadway. His administration initiated the revitalization of Times Square and secured an unprecedented deal to keep the U.S. Open Tennis Championships in New York for the next 99 years. This arrangement generated more annual financial benefits to the city than the Yankees, Mets, Knicks, and Rangers combined. Mayor Dinkins also instituted “Safe Streets, Safe City: Cops and Kids,” a comprehensive criminal justice plan that expanded opportunities for the children of New York and continued to reduce crime in the years that followed his term.

In 2013, Dinkins published his memoir A Mayor’s Life: Governing New York’s Gorgeous Mosaic, chronicling his career as a devoted public servant and New Yorker in love with his city.

The former mayor received numerous awards and accolades throughout his long career, most notably, the renaming of the David N. Dinkins Municipal Building on October 15, 2015. In July of 2017, Dinkins celebrated his 90th birthday; he stepped down from teaching his popular course at SIPA the following year. In his final years he continued to play an active role at Columbia University and served a variety of civic and charitable organizations and boards that assist young people—including the Association to Benefit Children, Children’s Health Fund, Coalition for the Homeless, Jazz Foundation of America, The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, and Posse Foundation, to name a few.

Dinkins was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Advisory Board of the International African American Museum and also served on the steering committee of the Association for a Better New York and the Advisory Council of New York Urban League. He was a founding member of the Black & Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus of New York State and The One Hundred Black Men; a former vice president of the United States Conference of Mayors; Member-at-Large of the Black Leadership Forum; chairman emeritus of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS; Honorary Life Trustee of the Community Service Society of New York; Honorary Trustee of the Friends of Harlem Hospital; and Lifetime Member of the NAACP. 

Dinkins graduated with honors from Howard University in 1950 with a B.S. in mathematics and an LL.B. from Brooklyn Law School in 1956; he maintained a private law practice prior to entering public service. He was a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal for his service as a Montford Point Marine in the United States Marine Corps, during World War II.

Dinkins and his late wife, Joyce Burrows Dinkins (1930 – 2020) raised their children, David Jr. and Donna Dinkins Hoggard, in Harlem and long enjoyed life in their beloved City of New York (though the former mayor was born in Trenton, New Jersey). They have two grandchildren – Jamal Hoggard and Kalila Dinkins Hoggard.


  • LLB, Brooklyn Law School
  • BS, with honors, Howard University


  • Founding Member, Black and Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus of New York State
  • Founding Member, Council of Black Elected Democrats of New York State
  • Founding Member, One Hundred Black Men
  • Black Leadership Forum
  • Association to Benefit Children
  • Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)
  • Children's Health Fund
  • Nelson Mandela Children's Fund
  • Posse Foundation
  • Coalition for the Homeless
  • The Amadou Diallo Foundation
  • National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS
  • Constituency for Africa (CFA)
  • Steering Committee, Association for a Better New York
  • Council on Foreign Relations

Research And Publications

In The Media

Arnie Segarra remembers Mayor David Dinkins.

Dec 09 2020
The New Yorker

David Dinkins made us stronger, but he also made us and our city better, and we should honor his memory in this difficult time by rededicating ourselves to public service. Steven Cohen writes.

Nov 29 2020
State of the Planet

The pioneering former NYC mayor was a faculty member for 27 years.

Nov 23 2020

The Move On national spokesperson and MSNBC commentator Karine Jean-Pierre MPA ’03 visited SIPA to discuss her new book “Moving Forward.”

Dec 11 2019

Award-winning journalist gave keynote remarks at this year's David N. Dinkins Leadership and Public Policy Forum.

Apr 16 2019