Interim V.P., Conferences Department/Special Assistant to the President • National Urban League • New York City • Age: 32
Elvin J. Dowling, the second child of an unwed, teenage mother, lost two brothers and some cousins to gang and drug-related violence. As a consequence, he devotes much of his time to helping young people. He has volunteered with Gentlemen by Choice, a mentorship program born of a commitment by the members of the Zeta Upsilon Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. to intercede directly in the lives of young minority males, and as a motivational speaker in public schools in Florida, Virginia and Maryland. “I am convinced that God has spared my life for a particular reason, a special call which he has placed on my life,” he says.
Professionally, Dowling, a native of West Palm Beach, Fla., is the interim vice president of the National Urban League’s conferences department and special assistant to the organization’s president. He is tasked with developing a new direction and focus for his organization’s annual conference and with facilitating the League’s relationships with the country’s lawmakers on Capitol Hill. He earned a bachelor’s degree in social science, with a minor in government and politics, from the University of Maryland. He also attended Hampton University in Hampton, Va., where he met the late attorney and community activist William Malcolm Batts III. Batts quickly became Dowling’s mentor and close friend. “Batts, who had not had the pleasure of having a son, and myself, who had not the privilege of knowing my father, soon discovered that we were indeed kindred spirits,” Dowling says.
The lessons he learned from his mother, Essie Dowling, played a great role in his professional success and in shaping him as he is today, he says. Not only did she hold two jobs, but she also took classes at night in order to provide for a better future for her children. “She instilled in me a sense of optimism and independence, which continues to inspire me to this day,” says Dowling, who now makes is home in New York City’s Harlem community with his wife, Yadira Santana-Dowling.