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  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

A Star Is Born

Updated: Sep 12, 2018

By: Donald V. Watkins

©Copyrighted and Published on September 11, 2018

Every time I think I have experienced the depth and breadth of talent inside the Watkins family, I am pleasantly surprised to see it taken to a higher level.

My grandniece Kaitlyn was recently photographed showcasing her dance talents in NYC. Kaitlyn is my sister Marie’s granddaughter. She is extremely smart, classy, talented in the performing arts, and beautiful, inside and out.

Kaitlyn, a high school student, has performed with a number of ballet companies in the LA area. She has also participated in the summer programs at the American Ballet Theatre in NY and the San Francisco Ballet Company. This summer, Kaitlyn participated in a five-week ballet program based at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA.

Kaitlyn's mother, Dr. Isla Garraway, is a pioneering cancer researcher. A surgeon-scientist, Isla is the principal investigator of a basic and translational science laboratory at UCLA that is focused on characterizing human prostate stem and tumor-initiating cells, and examining the biological and environmental interactions that influence the growth of cancerous tumors. Isla is a member of the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and of the Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA. She is an attending urologist in the Greater Los Angeles VA Healthcare System. Isla holds Ph.D. and M.D. degrees from the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine in the same fields.

Kaitlyn's aunt, Dr. Doris Garraway, holds a Bachelor's degree in French Language and Literature from the University of California at Berkeley, a Masters degree in French Literature from Duke University, and a Ph.D. degree from Duke University in French Literature. She is the author of The Libertine Colony: Creolization in the Early French Caribbean (Duke UP, 2005; reprint 2008), and editor of Tree of Liberty: Cultural Legacies of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World (University of Virginia Press, 2008). She is presently an Associate Professor of French and the Director of Undergraduate Studies in French at Northwestern University.

Kaitlyn's uncle, Dr. Levi “Alec” Garraway, is Vice President of Global Oncology at Eli Lilly and Company. In May of 2015, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute selected Alec as one of the nation’s top biomedical scientists. He graduated from Harvard University with a Ph.D. degree in biomedical research and a M.D. degree in medicine, both of which were conferred simultaneously.

Kaitlyn's grandmother, Dr. Annie Marie Garraway, attended Owen Junior College in Memphis, Tennessee for her freshman year. My father, Dr. Levi Watkins, Sr., was the founding president of Owen Junior College, which later merged into LeMoyne College. Marie transferred to Northwestern University, where she graduated with a degree in mathematics. Marie earned a doctorate in mathematics from the University of California at Berkley and had a successful career in telecommunications. She was one of the "human computers" whose pioneering mathematical algorithms and inventions for Bell Laboratories and Lucent Technologies paved the way for the modern era of telecommunications and the electronic transmission of data around the world.

May God continue to bless Kaitlyn as she pursues her academic and performing arts goals in life. As the patriarch of the Levi and Lillian Watkins family, I am very proud of Kaitlyn and the way she represents our family.

PHOTO: My grandniece Kaitlyn.

PHOTO: Kaitlyn dancing in NYC.

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Koda Shepherd
Koda Shepherd
Sep 12, 2018

It is not the superstars but the hard working Americans who do the best they can with what God has given them, and do it without excuses or seeking the acclamation's of others that make this country.

Kaitlyn has a wholesome glow about her that cannot be purchased with fame and/or fortune.

You have every right to be proud.


Donald V. Watkins
Donald V. Watkins
Sep 12, 2018

The Internet has made it possible for African-Americans to record our history without it being marginalized in the mainstream media. I tend to focus on the substance and character of men and women of exceptional achievement, whether family members or others.

For reasons I will never understand, today’s mainstream media organizations tend to focus on African-American achievers only if they are super-star athletes, well-known entertainers, crime figures, or other controversial members of society.

Kaitlyn's story had to be introduced on this website. Her family’s incredible story of success in America had to be presented correctly.

I have learned that the Internet provides the ultimate tool for journalists who want to write, publish, and distribute articles on subjects that important to…

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