The Mike and Joyce Shinn African-American Leaders & Innovators Project recognizes leaders from the KU community for their impact on society. These talented and sometimes controversial African-Americans helped shape the University as well as the cities, states and nations their work touched. Following are brief biographies of inductees.
The 2019 inductees will be recognized at the Leaders & Innovators Reception on Friday, Oct. 25, at 6:30 p.m. at the Lied Center Pavilion. The event is part of the Black Alumni Reunion weekend activities. Please register here.
Katherine Conway-Turner, c’76, g’80, PhD’81
Conway-Turner, of Buffalo, New York, has been a leader in higher education for more than 20 years. Before becoming president of Buffalo State College-State University of New York in 2014, she served as provost and vice president of academic affairs at Hood College and State University of New York, and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at Georgia Southern University. A first-generation college student, she advocates for affordable tuition and food security for those who are underserved.
She serves on several national, state, and local committees and boards, including Haiti Outreach Pwoje Espwa (H.O.P.E.), based in Rochester, New York. As chair of the organization’s education committee, she travels frequently to Borgne, Haiti, to assist community members with health, education and economic efforts. She also created Bengals Dare to Care Day, an annual community service project at Buffalo State College.
Jyarland Daniels, b’97
Daniels, of New York City, is a steadfast advocate for social justice and racial equity. After graduating from KU, she launched her career in marketing and public relations and worked with several Fortune 500 companies, including Johnson & Johnson and Ford Motor Company, before earning her law degree from Wayne State University in Detroit, where she focused on education and civil rights law.
She has since served as executive director of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Detroit, and in 2016 she founded Harriet Speaks, an equity and inclusion consulting firm that provides services for corporations, government agencies and educational institutions nationwide. Most recently, she was appointed interim chief communications officer of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Bonita Gooch, j’77, g’78
Gooch, of Wichita, is a veteran journalist, community activist and entrepreneur. She owns TCV Publishing, which produces several local newspapers, including the Community Voice, the Tanker Times and the Big Voice. As editor-in-chief of the Community Voice, which features news, issues and interests of the African American community, she has been honored with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Media Advocate Award and two Kansas Press Association awards.
She volunteers for several organizations, including the American Red Cross and the Kansas African American Affairs Commission, and she has received numerous awards for her leadership and community service.
Eva McGhee, PhD’95
McGhee, of San Francisco, is a scholar and humanitarian whose research focuses on health disparities in African American and Hispanic women. One of her most notable accomplishments is the discovery of the candidate gene for Coffin-Siris Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. Her research has been widely published, and she contributed to a report for President Barack Obama on HPV vaccinations. She currently serves as assistant professor of medicine at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles.
As a professor, she has mentored hundreds of students in medicine, nursing, pharmacy and science, and she established a scholarship program for high school students at Mount Zion Baptist Church in San Francisco.
Ivory Nelson, PhD’63
Nelson, of Houston, has had a long and distinguished career as a scientist, educator and leader in higher education. At KU, he was the first African American student to receive a doctorate in analytical chemistry and to be inducted in Sigma Xi, a scientific research honor society. In 1986 he became chancellor of the Alamo Community College District in San Antonio and later served for more than seven years as president of Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington. In 1999 he became president of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where the Ivory V. Nelson Center for the Sciences was built in 2009, two years before his retirement. His career in higher education also includes receiving a Fulbright Lectureship.
A recipient of the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Citation in 1998, he has served as director of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and was appointed by the governor of Washington to the Washington State Commission on Student Learning.
Norma Norman, d’67, l’89
Norman, of Georgetown, Texas, has devoted her career to education and human resources. She served as an elementary school principal in California and managed a state education-certification program before moving to Las Vegas, where she directed employee and labor relations at the Bellagio Hotel for 10 years. She later served as a civil rights officer for the Department of Transportation in Nevada and as a human resources counselor and employee relations coordinator for the Texas Workforce Commission.
She has volunteered in her community for several years, working with the MGM Mirage Resorts Diversity Champion Program in Las Vegas; the Human Resources Management Association in Austin, Texas; and the Northeast Economic Development Corporation in Kansas City, Kansas. She was inducted in the Topeka High School Hall of Fame in 2008.
Nolen M. Ellison, d’63
Ellison has had a long and distinguished career in education. After graduating from KU, where he was an All-American point guard on the men’s basketball team, he taught in the Kansas City, Kansas, school district before earning his doctoral degree in leadership and management from Michigan State University in 1971. The following year, at the age of 31, he became president of Seattle Community College in Washington. He also served as president of Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio, where a building is named in his honor. Most recently, he was an endowed professor of urban leadership, management and economic community development for the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
He was a member of the Alumni Association’s national Board of Directors from 1981 to 1986 and has served on several other University committees. In 1983, he received the Distinguished Service Citation from the Association and KU for his service to humanity.
William H. Fleming III, c’67
Fleming has served as a leader in the medical community for more than four decades. A physician and neurologist, he became the first and only African-American president of the Texas Medical Association, the Harris County Medical Society and the Texas Neurological Society. He also holds the distinction of being the first African-American president of the Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States. He is a Texas delegate for the American Medical Association.
In addition to practicing at Memorial Neurological Association for the past 36 years, he also travels more than 100 miles twice a month to provide much-needed medical care to patients in rural, underserved areas of the state.
Zelema Harris, g’72, EdD’76
Harris is a veteran educator with more than 30 years of leadership in community colleges nationwide. She began her career in higher education in 1980, serving a seven-year term as president of Pioneer Community College in Kansas City. She later became president of Penn Valley Community College in Kansas City and Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois, where she was recognized as president emerita in 2006. She served as chancellor of St. Louis Community College, and in 2013 she became acting provost and interim chancellor of Pima Community College District in Tucson. At each learning institution, she advanced campus growth, program development and educational opportunities for underrepresented students. She has received more than 20 national and local awards for her service in education.
Her educational impact is also evident at KU, where she designed, implemented and directed a supportive educational services program that inspired the development of the University’s TRIO SES program, a federally funded initiative that provides support to first-generation, low-income and disabled students. She was inducted in the KU Women’s Hall of Fame in 1988.
Dwayne James, e’94
James developed a passion for local politics early in his career as an engineer. In 2007, he was elected to Ferguson’s city council, and for the next nine years, which included the tumultuous time following the shooting of Michael Brown in 2014, he was the only African-American city council member for Ward 2. He also served as mayor pro tem from 2010 to 2014. He spearheaded the Ferguson Youth Initiative, a program that encourages the city’s teenagers to become more engaged in their community, and he currently serves on its board of directors. He also is a board member of Live Well, a local initiative that promotes healthy living in Ferguson.
He is the St. Louis County program director for the Missouri University Extension and an adjunct professor of mathematics at St. Louis Community College.
Curtis McClinton, d’62
McClinton has pursued careers in athletics, public service and entrepreneurship. He distinguished himself as an All-American football player at KU, winning honors in the Big Eight, and he played professionally in the NFL as a running back for the Kansas City Chiefs. He later earned a master’s degree from Michigan State University and an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from Miles College in Fairfield, Alabama.
He served as deputy mayor for economic development in Washington, D.C., before founding Swope Parkway National Bank in Kansas City. He launched McClinton Development Company, a construction firm that built affordable housing in several municipalities in Kansas, and he is currently chairman and CEO of Central Contracting Company. He also served as an adjunct professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. His papers are housed in the Spencer Research Library at KU. He served two terms on the Alumni Association’s national Board of Directors, from 1969 to 1972 and 2006 to 2011.
Reggie Robinson, c’80, l’87
Robinson laid the groundwork for an eminent career in leadership as a student at KU, where he served as student body vice president and president of the Memorial Unions board of directors. In law school, he was editor-in-chief of the Kansas Law Review, and he graduated in the top 10 percent of his class.
He was an associate professor of law at KU, where he was twice awarded the Frederick Moreau Award for Student Counseling and Advising. He also served as chief of staff to Chancellor Robert E. Hemenway. From 1993 to 1998 he worked at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., where he was deputy associate attorney general and acting director of the Office for Victims of Crime. In 1999, he was appointed by President Clinton to the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships. Robinson also served as president and chief executive officer of the Kansas Board of Regents, overseeing the state’s six universities and its public postsecondary institutions. In 2014, he became director of the KU School of Public Affairs and Administration. He was named interim vice chancellor for public affairs in August.
Walt Wesley, c’79
Wesley set the stage for his career in the NBA at KU, where he played basketball from 1962 to 1966 under coaches Dick Harp and Ted Owens, who recruited him from Dunbar High School in Fort Myers during a time when many talented African-American athletes were not recruited to play at major universities. He led the Jayhawks in scoring and rebounding as a junior in 1965 and was named to All-Big 8 and All-America teams. He is currently ranked 29th on the University’s all-time scoring list with 1,315 points.
He was selected in the first round of the 1966 NBA draft by the Cincinnati Royals, and for the next 10 years he played professionally for several NBA teams. He retired from the Los Angeles Lakers in 1976 and began a 25-year career as a Division I basketball coach at KU, Western Michigan University and the United States Military Academy at West Point. He also served as executive director of the Police Athletic League. He was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, Kansas Athletics Hall of Fame and the National Negro High School Basketball Hall of Fame, and in 2010 he received the Jessie Owens Award of Excellence from Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. His jersey has been retired by KU and Dunbar High School.
Andrew Williams, e’88, PhD’00
Williams is recognized as a leader in the field of robotics. He has received awards from the National Academy of Engineering, Google, Microsoft Research and GEM, and he has been named among the Top 50 African-Americans in technology. He has a distinguished record of funding and has received grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and NASA, as well as several corporations, including Apple, Google, General Electric, Boeing and General Motors.
He is a former professor of electrical and computer engineering at Marquette University in Milwaukee, where he also directed the Humanoid Engineering & Intelligent Robotics Lab, and he is known for his work on programs for advancing diversity, equity and inclusion at universities nationwide, including the formation of the Spelbots, a competitive, all-female robotics team at Spelman College in Atlanta. In July, he became associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion at the KU School of Engineering.
Valdenia Winn, d’72, PhD’94
Winn has devoted her career to education and public service. She has served more than four decades as a professor of U.S. history and political science at Kansas City Kansas Community College. She has worked internationally with the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Program and has traveled to Senegal in West Africa, where she developed curriculum units, created guides and a website, and coordinated workshops on African studies. She also has served as project director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Strengthening Institutions Planning Grant, which focuses on multicultural education, student retention and student advising.
She has served in the Kansas House of Representatives since 2001 and is a ranking member of the Kansas House Education and Education Budget Committee. She also serves on several other legislative committees and commissions, and she is a member of Jayhawks for Higher Education. In 2015, she was elected to the USD 500 Board of Education in Kansas City, Kansas.
Nedra Patton Bonds, c’70
Bonds is an artist, civic activist and educator. Born into a family of quilters, she started quilting at age 6. As an adult, she has used her work to express her views. She has exhibited nationally and internationally, and her quilts are on display in prominent Kansas City locations, including the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. She also has participated in the AIDS Memorial Quilt and Quilts of Valor. Last fall, Bonds was inducted in Kansas City, Kansas, public schools’ Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll. She continues to conduct workshops and classes for adults and children.
Mickey Brown, c’59, g’65
Brown has served as a leader in his community for years. During his time in the Chicago area, he was involved in the local chapter of the NAACP and Community and Youth Development, an organization that provides mentoring programs for disadvantaged children. Brown is a life member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and participated in the Mu Mu Lambda chapter’s educational initiative “Go to High School, Go to College.” He has mentored high school boys and coached Little League baseball teams. As a scientist he has published several articles and earned recognition for his work with Abbott Laboratories, Argonne National Laboratory and Altria Group Inc.
Ralph Crowder, PhD’95
Crowder came to the University to pursue his doctorate in history. He received the George L. Anderson Award for Best Dissertation. He joined the history faculty at the University of California-Riverside and led the ethnic studies department as chair. He also served as a mentor for faculty and at-risk youths. In July 2012, he retired as professor emeritus. Crowder has widely published and presented his research on 19th- and 20th-century African-American history, Pan-African history and the Black Indian experience. His most notable books include John Edward Bruce: Politician, Journalist, and Self-Trained Historian of the African Diaspora and Black History Month: Reclaiming a Lost Legacy.
Nathan Davis, d’60
Davis is a multi-instrumental jazz performer and educator. Growing up in Kansas City, near Charlie Parker’s childhood home, he got an early education in local jazz from bandleader Jay McShann before coming to KU. After earning his degree in music education, Davis joined the military, studying at the Naval School of Music and playing in military bands throughout Europe. After his service, he became a stalwart of the lively Paris jazz scene, recording his first studio albums and building his performance career as a bandleader and a sideman to Kenny Clarke, Art Blakey and other jazz greats.
In 1969, Davis returned to the U.S. to found one of the nation’s first jazz studies programs, at the University of Pittsburgh. He launched the Annual Jazz Seminar, started an academic journal devoted to the scholarly study of jazz, and established the International Academy of Jazz-Hall of Fame, which preserves jazz artifacts in the Sonny Rollins International Jazz Archives. Davis received the BNY Mellon Jazz 2013 Living Legacy Award at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., for his contribution to jazz education and performance. He retired in 2013 to devote more time to composing and performing.
Cynthia Harris, c’78, g’82
Harris directs the Institute for Public Health at Florida A&M University. A Kansas City native, she earned degrees in biology and genetics from KU and completed her doctorate in biomedical sciences at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. After a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University, she became the first African-American to serve as branch chief for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a coordinating agency of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
She created the first doctoral program in public health in Florida, and she designed the online master’s degree program, a first for the university and among all historically black colleges and universities. Harris chairs the board of the Florida Public Health Association and the editorial board of the Harvard Journal of Public Health. She also serves as vice president of the Trust for America’s Health, and she serves on the Florida Sickle Cell Task Force and the National Science Advisory Board on Exposure and Human Health.
Alferdteen Harrison, PhD’71
Harrison was the first African-American to earn a doctorate from KU’s department of history, and she helped lay the groundwork for the University’s African and African-American Studies department. In 1972, she joined the faculty at Jackson State University in her home state of Mississippi and created the university’s academic program in public history, the first established among historically black colleges and universities. In 1977, she spearheaded the development of the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center, the first state museum to highlight African-Americans in Mississippi.
When famed poet and novelist Margaret Walker Alexander (1915-1998) retired as founder and director of Jackson State’s Institute for the Study of Life and Culture, Harrison transformed the institute into the Margaret Walker Alexander Research Center, a prominent museum and archives. Harrison received the 2012 Thad Cochran Humanities Award for her contributions to Mississippi history and culture.
Erica Hawthorne-Manon, j’02
Hawthorne-Manon has championed the arts in her community. As a poet and actor, she is popularly known as RhapsodE. She co-founded Spoken Soul 215, a collective of young artists, singers and poets who produce the Harvest Open Mic & Showcase Experience, a monthly event. Hawthorne-Manon also mentors aspiring artists in Campus Philly Open Arts program. In 2012, she received a Knight Foundation Challenge Grant and founded Small but Mighty Arts, a program that provides micro-grants to local artists. For her work, she received a Philadelphia DoGooder Award in 2013.
Audrey B. Lee, j’76, g’78
As a journalist, Lee, worked on international media campaigns for Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Pope John Paul II and U.S. ambassadors. She also served on the faculty of the University of Louisville, Sullivan College and Paducah Community College. After earning her law degree from the University of Kentucky, she now works as a senior criminal defense attorney in the Paducah Trial Office for the Department of Public Advocacy. In 2012, she was recognized as the Woman of the Year by the Kentucky Federation of Business and Professional Women, and she received the Mayor’s Award of Merit.
Julie Johnson Staples, j’78
Staples has pursued varied careers in journalism, finance and the ministry. She is currently interim senior minister of the 116-year-old Flatbush-Tompkins Congregational Church. As a KU student, she was the first African-American editor of the University Daily Kansan. She eventually became the White House correspondent for the Baltimore Sun and The New York Times.
In 1994, she earned her law degree from Georgetown University and went on to serve as the Justice Department correspondent for ABC News. She later began a career in international investing at Warburg Pincus and became the firm’s first African-American partner. Her career shifted again when she returned to graduate school to study theology and became ordained in the Congregational and American Baptist Church. She serves on the board of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches.
Evelyn Welton, c’49
Welton devoted her career to epidemiological and pediatric studies. She retired after 35 years as a medical technologist for the Veterans Administration. In her community, she advocates for older residents and leads the Center City AARP Chapter No. 1544 as president. She also serves on the city’s executive board of the NAACP. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and a founding member of the Kansas City chapter of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs. Welton is an active member in St. Paul Presbyterian Church in Kansas City.
Bertram Caruthers Sr., c’33, g’35 (Deceased 4/2002)
Caruthers, who died in April 2002, led a 38-year career as a science teacher, principal, assistant to the superintendent and university professor in Kansas City. He secured funding for and implemented the first Career Education Program in the state of Kansas, which became a model for promoting vocational education. Caruthers served on the board of several organizations, including the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and the Wyandotte House. In 1985, he received the Distinguished Service Citation from the Alumni Association and the University.
In 2002, Hawthorne Elementary School in Kansas City was renamed Bertram Caruthers Elementary School, and in 2005 he was inducted posthumously in the Kansas City Kansas Community College Endowment Association’s Mid-America Education Hall of Fame alongside his daughter, Patricia Caruthers.
Alversa Milan, f’55 (Deceased 4/2014)
Milan, who died in April 2014, led community programs for children and parents. She started her career as an occupational therapist at the VA Medical Center in Topeka and later served as assistant chief of domiciliary operations at the VA Medical Center in Leavenworth.
As a Lawrence resident, she was an activist for racial integration and supported those who faced physical and economic challenges. In 1964, she helped establish the Children’s Hour, the city’s first racially integrated nursery school. She welcomed KU students into her home for mentoring, meals and tutoring, and served as the undergraduate adviser for her sorority. Throughout the 1960s, she served on the Lawrence Public Library board. She also co-founded the Lawrence Branch of Concerned Black Parents, a social justice organization that provided support for students at Lawrence High School. After moving to Kansas City, Milan helped establish the Mother to Mother ministry, which provides support and mentoring for disadvantaged mothers. In 2013, she wrote Raising Children Is As Easy As 1. 2. 3.
Click here for an article and interview conducted by BBC with one of our 2015 Leadership & Innovators honorees, Nedra Bonds.
Past Leaders & Innovators Inductees
Wilbur D. Goodseal, d’53, Education; g’62, Speech Pathology (Deceased 8/5/2013)(2013)
The late Wilbur D. Goodseal distinguished himself during a 42-year career with the Kansas City, Mo., School District. He achieved local, state and national recognition, including the prestigious Rolland Van Hattum Award from the American Speech-Language and Hearing Foundation (1994) for his leadership in creating and implementing curriculum and cultural awareness programs for students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Goodseal, an avid supporter of the arts, also performed in numerous ensembles to promote the arts and community relationships through theater.
Homer C. Floyd, d’61, Physical Education (2013)
Floyd was among the first African-Americans in the 20th century to play on KU’s football team. He won All-Conference honors in the Big Eight and was co-captain, the first African-American to serve in this leadership role. After earning his KU degree, he began a pioneering career devoted to civil rights enforcement. During the 1960s, he served as executive director of the Topeka Human Relations Commission, the Omaha Human Relations Board and the Kansas Commission on Civil Rights.
As executive director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission from 1970 until his retirement in 2011, Mr. Floyd led the resolution of cases that resulted in benefiting millions of racial minorities, women and people with disabilities. In 1999 and 2002, he received the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Outstanding Achievement Award. When he retired from the Commission in 2011, Gov. Edward Rendell of Pennsylvania declared that Mr. Floyd “…leaves behind the legacy of a far more just and fair Pennsylvania.”
Chester I. Lewis, c’51, l’53, Law (Deceased 6/21/1990) (2013)
The late Chester I. Lewis Jr., distinguished himself as an attorney, as well as a local, state, and national leader in the freedom movement for black equality. Mr. Lewis graduated third in his KU law school class. A civil rights activist on campus, Lewis also served as president of his fraternity (Alpha Phi Alpha) and was a member of Student Senate. As an attorney, he challenged racial segregation in Wichita. He successfully sued Wesley Hospital, which had decreed that black patients could not have private rooms; the City of Wichita, which refused blacks admission to the municipal swimming pool; and numerous businesses, including Boeing Aircraft, for employment discrimination.
La Vert Murray, c’71, Political Science (2013)
LaVert Murray has excelled as a leader in economic development. A certified Economic Development Professional (EDP), he played a major part in bringing significant developments to Kansas City, Kan., such as the Village West/Legends shopping district and four of the top tourist attractions in the State of Kansas (Kansas Speedway, Cabela’s, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Great Wolf Lodge). As a community leader, Murray and others organized the first Kansas City, Kan., Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration in 1984.
Julie Robinson, j’78, Journalism; l’81, Law
Judge Robinson took full advantage of the legal barriers struck down by the modern civil rights movement and the women’s movement to fulfill her childhood dream of becoming a lawyer. She served as a law clerk for federal bankruptcy judge Benjamin E. Franklin, a U.S. assistant prosecutor for the District of Kansas, and a judge in the U.S. Bankruptcy Appellate Panel of the 10th District. In 2002, when she was sworn in as the 26th district judge in the federal district of Kansas, Judge Robinson became the first African-American woman to serve as a federal judge in the state.
Marie Ross, c’44, Journalism (Deceased 7/15/2007) (2013)
In 1927, Ms. Ross was the first woman of color to enroll in journalism classes at KU. When one of her professors tried to dissuade Ms. Ross from pursuing a career in journalism by claiming no white newspaper would hire her, she brought him examples of many newspapers owned and operated by African-Americans where she could find employment. In 1929, she left KU to work as a full-time member of the staff at The Call in Kansas City, Mo. During World War II, she moved to Des Moines to work for the African-American newspaper, the Iowa Bystander. While continuing her career, Ms. Ross completed her undergraduate work to earn her KU diploma in 1944. She returned to The Call in 1959 to serve as manager and editor of its Kansas City, Kan., office. (2013)
Leslie Meacham Saunders, c’73, Englishs(2013)
Ms. Saunders served as the University’s first coordinator of special projects / assistant director of admissions and helped to lay the foundation for what is now the Kansas University Black Alumni Chapter. Leslie was the executive director of Kaw Valley Girl Scout Council and was one of the youngest executive directors in the Girl Scouts’ national history. Her innovative approach to managing the organization’s work led to the IBM Corporation recognizing Leslie as one of the nation’s Top 1% of Nonprofit Leaders.
Cheryl Warren-Mattox, f’72, Piano (Deceased 2/2/2006) (2013)
The late Cheryl Warren Mattox was a brilliant classical pianist, composer, arranger, radio show host, elementary-school music teacher, and producer of children’s books. She and her husband produced two award-winning and critically acclaimed books, Shake It To The One That You Love The Best and Let’s Get The Rhythm of the Band, which were honored by the American Library Association and featured on the Emmy award-winning PBS children’s television program “Reading Rainbow.” She received a master of arts in music from San Francisco State University.
Lynette Woodard, c’81, Communications (2013)
Woodard played basketball at KU from 1977 to 1981. She was a four-time All-American, averaging 26 points a game and scoring 3,649 points during her KU career; and she was the first KU woman to have her jersey hung at Allen Fieldhouse. In 1984, she led the U.S. women’s Olympic team as captain; the team won a gold medal at the Los Angeles Olympic Games. In 1985, she made headlines when she became the first woman to play for the Harlem Globetrotters. Ms. Woodard has distinguished herself on and off the basketball court, and her accomplishments have reflected great credit on herself and on the University of Kansas.
Lucile Bluford, c’32, Journalism (Deceased 06/13/03)
After briefly working for an African-American newspaper in Atlanta, Ms. Bluford returned to Kansas City, where she began a 70-year career at The Call, following the example of her mentor and fellow KU alumna Marie Ross. Bluford ultimately became editor and publisher, earning praise for her forthright editorials advocating equality and social justice. Her numerous civic and professional honors included the Distinguished Service Citation from KU and the Alumni Association in 1990.
Wilt Chamberlain, Class of 1959 (Deceased 10/12/99)
After scoring 2,252 points as a high school All-American in basketball in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Chamberlain came to KU to play for Coach Phog Allen. On the Hill he also worked for KUOK, the student radio station, as a disc jockey, occasionally playing the bongos on the air. Fans flocked to Allen Fieldhouse to watch the “Big Dipper” play, and from 1955 to 1958, he scored more single-game points and rebounds than any other player. In 1957, he led the Jayhawks to the national championship game and was named Most Valuable Player.
He left KU in 1958 to play for the Harlem Globetrotters and begin his legendary NBA career. He retired from the Los Angeles Lakers in 1973 after scoring more than 30,000 points and setting numerous records. The Basketball Hall of Fame inducted him in 1979, and he returned to KU in 1998 for the retirement of his jersey, number 13. Wearing his KU letter jacket, Chamberlain addressed the adoring crowd, shouting “Rock Chalk, Jayhawk,” and signed autographs for the KU faithful.
Nicholas L. Gerren, d’34, Education; g’48, Music Education; PhD’53, Music Education (Deceased 12/10/02)
Dr. Gerren studied violin at KU and became the first African-American to play in the KU symphony orchestra. He also was the first African-American to conduct the orchestra. After graduation he studied in the Soviet Union and became fluent in Russian, French and German. He taught at Prairie View State College in Texas before returning to KU for his graduate studies, becoming the second African-American to earn a doctorate at KU.
He served as dean of the School of Music and Art at Central State University in Ohio during his 40-year teaching career. As a longtime KU volunteer and a member of the Alumni Association’s national Board of Directors, he was one of the first eight recipients in 1975 of the Fred Ellsworth Medallion for service to KU. In 1984, he received the Distinguished Service Citation from the Alumni Association and the University.
Elmer C. Jackson, c’33, Political Science; Law, ’35 (Deceased 03/19/99)
Jackson was a prominent lawyer in Kansas City, Kansas, for many years and became a statewide leader in higher education during his two terms on the Kansas Board of Regents. As the first African-American to serve as a Regent, he chaired the group from 1975 to 1978. He also remained loyal to KU as a member of the Alumni Association’s national Board of Directors and a longtime trustee of KU Endowment. He led the National Bar Association as president and created the National Bar Foundation. The School of Law honored him as a Distinguished Alumnus in 1973 and created a scholarship for African-American students in his name. He also received the Distinguished Service Citation from the Alumni Association and KU and in 1979 and the Governor’s Medal of Merit in 1986.
Dorothy Hodge Davis Johnson, c’37, Journalism; Master’s in Social Work,’60 (Deceased 07/07/04)
Dorothy Johnson was the first black woman elected to Phi Beta Kappa at KU, where she was a leader on campus. During the summers she worked the The Call newspaper in Kansas City. After the sudden death of her first husband and KU classmate Dowdal Davis, she returned to KU for graduate school and ultimately became a caseworker for Family and Children’s Services in Kansas City, Kansas. She later directed the Department of Health and Welfare for Jackson County, Missouri. She served on numerous community boards as an advocate for civil rights and mental health treatment, and she taught in the schools of Social Welfare and Medicine at KU.
In 1974, she received KU’s Distinguished Service Citation for her service to humanity. Three years later, the Kansas City Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers named her Social Worker of the Year.
Delano E. Lewis, c’60, Political Science and History
Following his KU graduation, Del Lewis attended Washburn University law school, earning his juris doctorate in 1963. He moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked as a staff attorney in the U.S. Justice Department and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He then joined the Peace Corps, serving as associate director in Nigeria, country director in Uganda and director of the Eastern and Southern divisions of the Peace Corps. He later began a 21-year career with the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co., leading the firm as president and CEO from 1988 to 1993. In 1994, he became president and CEO of National Public Radio, serving four years before his appointment as U.S. ambassador to South Africa. Now retired, he lives in New Mexico.
John B. McLendon Jr., d’36, Education (Deceased 10/08/99)
Like many fellow Leaders and Innovators, McClendon graduated from Sumner High School in Kansas City, Kansas. He wanted to play basketball for KU but blacks were prohibited from playing, so at the urging of his father, McClendon persuaded Dr. James Naismith to become his adviser and teach him the art of coaching. McClendon also became a campus leader, successfully winning a campaign to desegregate the campus swimming pool and becoming the first African-American on the Student Council and the first to graduate with a degree in physical education.
He began his coaching career at the North Carolina College for Negroes, and his team played in the first integrated college game at a time when the major college leagues barred such competition. During his long career, he was named NAIA Coach of the Year three times and won three consecutive championships at Tennessee State. Ultimately he became the first African-American head coach in professional sports. In 1979, McClendon was inducted in the National Basketball Hall of Fame; he received KU’s Distinguished Service Citation in 1981.
Cordell Meeks Sr., c’38, Liberal Arts; l’40, Law (Deceased 12/7/87)
After his family moved from Arkansas to Kansas City, Kansas, Meeks attended KU and became a campus political leader. As the first African-American elected to a countywide office, he served as a Wyandotte County Commissioner from 1950 to 1973. He also helped organize the first black-owned bank in Kansas, the Douglass State Bank, which he led as a director, vice president and vice chairman. He was the first African-American to serve on the Kansas District Court, presiding in Wyandotte County from 1973 to 1981.
Cordell Meeks Jr., c’64, Political Science; Law, 1967 (Deceased 06/28/06)
After winning a speech contest in the ninth grade, Judge Meeks set his sights on following the career path of his father, who was the first African-American judge in the Kansas District Court. Following his law school graduation, Cordell Jr. joined the Army National Guard Reserve in Kansas and served as a senior military judge, retiring with the rank of colonel. In 1980, he succeeded his father as a district judge in Wyandotte County. He received numerous honors for his local, regional and national civic leadership, including the 1995 Distinguished Service Citation from the KU Alumni Association and the University of Kansas. He led the Association as national chair from 1997 to 1998 and in 2002 received the Fred Ellsworth Medallion for his extraordinary service to KU.
Etta Moten Barnett, f’31, Voice (Deceased 01/02/04)
As a divorced young mother of three daughters, Ms. Moten attended KU, where she worked at KFKU, the student radio station, and became known for her singing talent. With the encouragement of Donald Swarthout, dean of fine arts, she began her performance career in New York and Hollywood, earning fame for her roles in “Lysistrata” and “Porgy and Bess.” In 1933, she became the first African-American stage and screen star to perform at the White House. She received the Distinguished Service Citation from the Alumni Association and KU in 1943.
C. Kermit Phelps, c’34, English and Psychology; g’49, Psychology; PhD’53, Psychology (Deceased 05/04/02)
Phelps was the first African-American to earn a doctorate at KU. He became a national leader for the Veterans Administration, serving as chief of psychological services and associate chief of staff for education during his 31-year career. He also led the American Association of Retired Persons as national chairman. He received KU’s Distinguished Service Citation in 1982.
Zatella E. Turner, c’29, English Literature; g’32, English Literature (Deceased 3/24/96)
Only the third KU woman elected to Phi Beta Kappa, Ms. Turner studied for a year at the University of London, specializing in Shakespearean drama. She wrote about her experiences in her book My Wonderful Year, published in 1939. She was a professor and chair of the department of languages and literature at Houston College before beginning her tenure as a professor of English at Virginia State College, where she became known for her annual “Shakespeare Hour” program in 1944 and wrote numerous scholarly articles and papers until her retirement in 1973. She was listed as an Outstanding Educator of America and profiled in Role Model Blacks.
I.F. Bradley Sr., Law 1887 (Deceased 1938)
As one of the first African-Americans to practice law in Kansas, Bradley was an attorney in Kansas City, Kansas, and served as justice of the peace and the first assistant county attorney. In 1930, he became owner and editor of the Wyandotte Echo newspaper.
Bishop John Andrew Gregg, c1902 Liberal Arts (Deceased 2/17/53)
Gregg became a national leader in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and led Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Florida, as president from 1913 to 1920. He also was president of Wilburforce University in Ohio from 1920 to 1924. After his election as the 49th bishop in the AME Church in 1924, he established a permanent AME mission in Cape Town, South Africa. He received the Distinguished Service Citation from the KU Alumni Association and the University in 1948.
Dowdal H. Davis, f’36, Fine Arts (Deceased 1957)
As a KU student leader, Davis helped abolish racial segregation on campus. He also met fellow activist Dorothy Hodge, who became his wife. He joined the staff of The Call newspaper in Kansas City, Kansas, and became general manager and editor by 1947. He led the Association of Black Newspapers as president and during World War II was appointed by President Truman as part of a delegation that toured Europe to examine the conditions for black soldiers. After Davis led the delegation’s second tour and subsequent recommendations, President Truman issued an executive order desegregating the U.S. armed forces.
Daniel W. Lewis, g’38, Education (Deceased 12/25/89)
After postgraduate study at the University of Washington in Seattle and Columbia University in New York City, Lewis began his career in his native Oklahoma before moving to Kansas City, Kansas, where he served a principal of various elementary schools, including Phillips, Lincoln, Grant and Douglass. He became supervisor of the area’s elementary school system in 1951, serving until his retirement in 1964.
William P. Foster, d’41, Music Education (Deceased 8/28/10)
After graduate study at Wayne State University and Columbia University, Foster became a music director for several colleges. In 1946, he began a long career as director of bands and professor at Florida A&M University. Known for its innovative, high-stepping marching style and renditions of contemporary popular music rather than marching band standard compositions, the FAMU band earned international fame as the “Marching 100,” and Foster was recognized as the dean of college marching band conductors. He earned numerous professional honors and in 1973 received the Distinguished Service Citation from the KU Alumni Association and the University.
Barbara Knapper Mason, d’38, Education (Deceased 1/1/99)
Following 22 years as a kindergarten teacher in Kansas City, Missouri, schools, Mason became director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Kindergarten Program for Kansas City and implemented innovative programs in early childhood development.
Josephine Campbell Vandiver-Boone, c’41, Liberal Arts (Deceased 11/7/10)
Vandiver-Boone worked for many years as a teacher at Douglass, Dunbar, Grant and Stowe elementary schools and as a counselor at Schlagle High School in Kansas City, Kansas. She also continued her education, earning a master’s degree from Hampton University and taking additional coursework at Atlanta University and the University of Chicago. She received the 1982 Counselor of the Year award from the Kansas Personnel and Guidance Association.
She also received the Equal Opportunity Award for 2000-2001 from the Kansas Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. In retirement, she served as a board member for the Kansas City, Kansas, chapter of the NAACP, the Domestic Violence Network and the Kansas City, Kansas, Community College Endowment Association.
Lillian Taylor Orme, d’41, Education; g’52, Education; g’61, Education (Deceased 4/22/93)
One of the area’s leading high school principals, Orme later directed elementary instruction for the Kansas City, Missouri, School District. In 1978, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education named her a Pioneer in Education. She was a member of numerous boards, including the Philharmonic Women’s Division, the Community Children’s theatre, the YWCA of Kansas City, Missouri, and the Women’s Chamber of Commerce, where she was the first minority elected to the board.
Lloyd Kerford Jr. b’48, Business (Deceased 6/1/00)
Kerford completed his KU business degree after serving in World War II and pursued his business career in Atchison, where his grandfather had established the Kerford Quarry Company in 1886. He was manager and auditor of the family firm and later worked as an auditor for the State of Kansas and the federal government.
Samuel C. Jackson (Deceased 1982)
As a national civil rights leader, Jackson was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson to served as one of the five original members of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He also served President Richard Nixon as general assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He left public service to work for a Wall Street law firm but returned as a member of the Housing Commission under President Ronald Reagan.
The Rev. Billy J. Johnson (Deceased 1990)
After his service in World War II and the Korean War, Rev. Johnson became a religious and civic guiding force as pastor of churches in Pratt, Lawrence and Topeka and a leader of the Baptist Church in Kansas, the Kaw Valley District Baptist Association and the Missionary Baptist Convention. He also served as a police and hospital chaplain and a board member for many social service organizations.
Herman T. Jones, c’31, Liberal Arts; g’33, Zoology (Deceased 4/3/83)
After working as an instructor, registrar and dean of Western University in Quindaro, Kansas, Jones was appointed by the Kansas Board of Regents as principal of the Kansas Vocational School in Topeka, where he improved the school’s ratings and increased enrollment. In 1951, he joined the faculty of Prairie View A&M University in Texas. In 1992, a Texas school district named an intermediate school in his honor.
Bishop William T. Vernon (Deceased 1944)
As a leader in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Bishop Vernon served as president of Western University, an AME institution, winning approval from the Kansas Legislature for increased funding to support the school’s academic programs and facilities. President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him as register of the U.S. Treasury, and in the 1920s he led the church as a bishop in South Africa, serving as a mediator between the African nationalist movement and the colonial government. In 1933, he returned to Kansas to served as superintendent of the State Industrial Department at Western University.
Emily Embry Vernon (Deceased 1944)
As a faculty member in mathematics and Latin at Western University, she met and married Bishop Vernon. During their time in South Africa, she helped expand educational and health services for women and children, and the Emily Vernon Insitute, an AME missionary school, was established in her honor in 1924. She later became a U.S. advocate for youth educational opportunities.
Emma Ellene Cooper (Deceased 1972)
As a teacher in the Topeka schools, Cooper helped African-American students achieve despite the limits of segregation. She taught at the Monroe School from 1911 to 1941 and later served as librarian of the Kansas Vocational School. She was a lifelong member and volunteer at St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Evelyn Wofford Harper, g’63, Special Education (Deceased 5/23/92)
Harper began her career as a social worked and high school counselor in New York City. After World War II, she returned to Kansas and served as principal of several schools in Atchison. In 1966, she was elected Kansas Teacher of the Year and later led the Kansas National Education Association as president She received an honorary doctorate from Benedictine College in Atchison.
Ethel May Moore (Deceased 1983)
A Lawrence native, Moore was a prominent local and state leader of African-American religious, civic and educational groups in a time of exclusion and discrimination. When her father died in 1904, she was forced to drop out of Lawrence High School to help her mother earn a living, abandoning her youthful ambition to become a schoolteacher. In 1978, at the age of 89, Mrs. Moore completed her high school education through the General Equivalency Diploma Test and became one of the oldest Kansas women to earn the award. She taught Sunday School and volunteered for the Lawrence League for the Practice of Democracy. She was president of the Interstate Literary Association of Kansas and the Lincoln School Parent Teachers Association.
Mildred Reid Mounger (Deceased 1996)
After growing up on her family’s farm in Gray County, Mounger became a leading labor activist for domestic workers in California and Kansas. In Sacramento, California, she advocated for better working conditions and benefits by creating the Capital Household Technicians, an affiliate chapter of the National Committee on Household Employment. After returning to Kansas, she created a similar organization in Topeka and participated in numerous other civic and social welfare organizations.
Gloria McShann Blue, h’60, Medical Technology (Deceased 6/11/11)
After receiving her nursing education in Chicago, Ms. Blue studied radiological technology at the KU Medical Center’s School of Allied Health. She worked at KU for 31 years, becoming supervisor and instructor of surgical and portable radiology. She served on the KU Continuing Education advisory board from 2004 to 2010. She co-founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Grandview, Missouri.
Thomas E. Vaughn, g’78, Business; l’78, Law
Vaughn has practiced law in the Chicago area since 1978 and served the past 15 years as a Chapter 13 bankruptcy trustee. He also taught accounting and finance as a professor at Chicago State University, where he was on the faculty for 26 years and led his department as chairman from 1985 to 1993. He has led the KU Black Alumni Chapter as president and has won the Dick Wintermote Volunteer of Year honor for guiding the chapter’s growth in outreach to both alumni and African-American KU students.
Joseph “JoJo” White, Class of 1969
JoJo White , a St. Louis native, led the KU basketball team to the Big Eight Championship in 1966 and twice was named to the All Big-Eight first team. He also represented the United States in 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, helping the U.S. team win the gold medal. The Boston Celtics drafted White number nine overall in 1969. He was a seven-time NBA All-Star during his 10 years with the Celtics, guiding Boston to the NBA Championship in 1974 and 1976.
Sharon Woodson-Bryant, j’69, Journalism; g’75, Journalism
Woodson-Bryant manages media relations for First 5 LA, an organization advocating for children during their critical first five years of life. First 5 partners with various agencies in the Los Angeles area to advance educational and health care programs for young children. Before joining First 5, Woodson-Bryant was a columnist for the WAVE Newspaper Group. She also has worked in banking as the vice president and news bureau manager for Union Bank of California and the public relations manager for Great Western.
Gale E. Sayers, d’75, Education; g’77, Education
Sayers was a KU football All-American and three-time All-Big Eight running back before playing for the Chicago Bears in the NFL. He was the 1965 Rookie of the Year and established himself as one of the game’s leading running backs and punt returners in a career that was cut short by serious knee injuries. The Bears retired his No. 40, and he is a member of the NFL and KU halls of fame, and his name is included in Memorial Stadium’s Ring of Honor. His book, I Am Third, led to the beloved movie “Brian’s Song” about his friendship with his late teammate Brian Piccolo.
After his football career, Sayers succeeded in business as president and CEO of Sayers 40, a national computer equipment and supply firm based in Chicago. He served on the Alumni Association’s national Board of Directors and worked for Kansas Athletics as a fundraiser. He served on the School of Education’s Advisory Board and created an annual golf tournament to benefit the school. He received the school’s Apple Award for distinguished achievement and the Association’s Fred Ellsworth Medallion for service to KU in 2005.
Michael G. Shinn, e’66, Aerospace Engineering
Shinn also played football for KU as an Academic All-American and team co-captain. He was named to the All-Big Eight team. Following KU, he earned his master’s degree from Case Western Reserve University and began a long career with General Electric in Cleveland, Ohio. He worked for the Ford Motor Co. before returning to GE and working until his retirement in 1998. Since then he has become a certified financial planner and columnist for African-American newspapers.
For KU, Shinn has served on the School of Engineering Advisory Board and has established scholarships for minority students at KU. He has served on the Alumni Association’s national Board of Directors and as a co-founder, leader and donor to the Black Alumni Chapter. In 2004, he received the Fred Ellsworth Medallion for his service to KU.
Charles M. Stokes, l’31, Law (Deceased 11/25/96)
A native of Fredonia, Stokes began his law practice in Kansas and was the first black vice chairman of the Young Republican National Federation. He also was assistant attorney in the State of Kansas Commission of Revenue and Taxation. He moved to Seattle to practice law in 1943. He ran for a legislative seat in 1950 and won, serving three terms as the first African-American elected to the state legislature. He co-sponsored the Civil Rights Omnibus Bill of 1959—which helped place Washington in the forefront of civil-rights legislation.
In 1952, he spoke from the platform of the Republican National Convention on behalf of Dwight Eisenhower’s candidacy. He was appointed Seattle’s first African-American district judge in 1968. As a judge, he spoke at civil-rights gatherings throughout the Northwest. He retired in 1978, continuing to serve occasionally as a judge pro tem in King County District Court.
Jesse Milan, d’53, Education; g’54, Education
As the first African-American teacher in the Lawrence school district, Milan began teaching following the Brown v. Topeka Board of Education school desegregation decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1970, he joined the faculty of Baker University in Ottawa as the first African-American professor. There he created Project Reachback, which enabled fifth-graders from Kansas City, Kansas, where he had grown up, to spend a day on a college campus. Baker awarded him an honorary doctorate in education in 2001.
He also has worked for several U.S. agencies, including the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He has volunteered for the Mother-to-Mother ministry and the Wyandotte County Jail and has state branches of the NAACP and Optimist International. In 1996 and 2002, he was chosen to carry the Olympic Torch as it passed through Kansas City.