Scholarships and Grants

Eligibility for the Lillian Roberts Scholarship requires DC37/AFSCME members to have been officially admitted to CUNY-SLU and have accepted their offer of admission.

Award Amount $1250

Lillian Davis Roberts (born January 2, 1928) served from 2002 through 2014 as the Executive Director of District Council 37 (DC37), the largest municipal union in New York City.

Roberts was a nurse’s aide, and was secretary of the University of Chicago Hospital local when she was invited by Victor Gotbaum to join his AFSCME union staff in Chicago in 1959. This began a professional relationship between Gotbaum and Roberts that lasted for decades. When Gotbaum became head of DC37, Roberts joined him in New York as a director of hospital field operations, and eventually became Associate Director in charge of organization. In 1969, she was jailed for two weeks for defying New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller and leading a strike against three mental hospitals.

In 1981, she left the union and was appointed as New York State Industrial Commissioner, the first black woman to hold such a high post in New York. From 1987 to 1992, she was senior vice president of Total Health Systems, an HMO. Roberts’ returned to DC37 as Executive Director in 2002 was seen, as noted in Roberts’ words, as a return to that “old time religion”. She retired at the end of 2014 and was succeeded by Henry Garrido.