The American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity Awards for 2021


Every year, during the AAAED National Conference and Annual Meeting, AAAED confers awards named for historic figures in the civil rights, affirmative action, equal opportunity and diversity fields. The following individuals received the AAAED honors during the 47th National Conference and Awards Ceremony – Virtual because of their outstanding leadership, commitment and contributions to the cause of access, equity and diversity.

 

The Drum Major for Justice Award - Honorable Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, U.S. House of Representatives 

The Drum Major for Justice is the highest award AAAED confers. This award is a special acknowledgement of the extraordinary contributions that an organization or individual has made to the cause of access, equity and diversity. Previous recipients include Rev. Dr. CT Vivian (2018), Dr. Shirley A Jackson (2017) Rep. G. K. Butterfield (2016), and Representatives August F. Hawkins and Parren Mitchell (deceased) (2008).

Rep. Johnson is serving her 15th term representing the 30th Congressional District of Texas. Congresswoman Johnson is the highest-ranking Texan on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. She was the first nurse to be elected to the U.S. Congress in 1972, achieving that same distinction upon her election to the Texas Senate in 1986. Congresswoman Johnson was also the first African American and woman to chair the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology from 2011 to 2018. She is the Dean of the Texas Congressional delegation in addition to serving in the New Mexico and Arizona Democratic Congressional Delegation. Congresswoman Johnson is the founder of the Diversity & Innovation Caucus, the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Homelessness Caucus, co-chair of the Congressional Lupus Caucus, and co-chair of the Congressional Caucus of Bosnia. She also had the honor to serve as Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus during the 107th Congress. Her acclaimed initiative, A World of Women for World Peace, has gained national and international recognition. 

 

The Arthur A. Fletcher Lifetime Achievement Award - Dr. Ansley Abraham, Southern Regional Education Board State Doctoral Scholars Program

Named for the “Father of Affirmative Action,” former Assistant Secretary of Labor Arthur A. Fletcher, who established the Revised Philadelphia Plan requiring goals and timetables in the construction industry - the precursor for what became “Affirmative Action,” the Arthur A. Fletcher Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes a career devoted to promoting and advocating for affirmative action, EEO and diversity.

Dr. Ansley Abraham joined the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) in 1985 as a research associate and became the founding director of the State Doctoral Scholars Program in 1993. Under Ansley’s direction, the Doctoral Scholars Program has developed into a nationally recognized vehicle for producing minority Ph.Ds. who seek faculty careers. L. Jerry Knighton, Jr., AAAED Conference Chair and Assistant Vice President for Access and Equity, Clemson University says, “Dr. Abraham, or ‘Dr. A’ as we know him, is so deserving of this prestigious award from AAAED because his focus over the years in establishing a pipeline for students of color pursuing careers in academia is one of the most significant contributions to the availability of qualified diverse candidates for faculty positions in higher education nationwide.”


The Rosa Parks Award - Dr. Ruth J. Simmons, President, Prairie View A&M University 

Named after the civil rights icon who refused to surrender her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus and sparked not only the Montgomery Bus Boycott but the ultimate end of racial segregation of public facilities, the Rosa Parks Award recognizes an individual who serves as a role model and leader for others through his or her personal achievements, excellence in a chosen field; commitment to human, civil rights and social issues and contributions to the betterment of society. 

Dr. Ruth J. Simmons serves as President of Prairie View A&M University. She was President of Brown University from 2001-2012. Under her leadership, Brown made significant strides in improving its standing as one of the world’s finest research universities. A French professor before entering university administration, President Simmons held an appointment as a Professor of Comparative Literature and Africana Studies at Brown. After completing her Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard, she served in various faculty and administrative roles at the University of Southern California, Princeton University, and Spelman College before becoming president of Smith College, the largest women’s college in the United States. At Smith, she launched a number of important academic initiatives, including an engineering program, the first at an American women’s college. Simmons is the recipient of many honors, including a Fulbright Fellowship to France, the 2001 President’s Award from the United Negro College Fund, the 2002 Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, the 2004 Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal, the Foreign Policy Association Medal, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and the Centennial Medal from Harvard University. Simmons is a member of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Council on Foreign Relations, and serves on the boards of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Holdsworth Center. She also serves on the Board of Directors of Square. Awarded numerous honorary degrees, she received the Brown Faculty’s highest honor: the Susan Colver Rosenberger Medal in 2011. In 2012, she was named a ‘chevalier’ of the French Legion of Honor.

 

 

The Cesar Estrada Chavez Award - Dr. Ricardo R. Fernandez 

The award is named for Cesar Estrada Chavez, an American labor leader and civil rights activist who, along with Dolores Huerta, co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (later the United Farm Workers union, UFW) in 1962. The Cesar Estrada Chavez Award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated leadership in support of workers' rights and humanitarian issues.

Ricardo R. Fernández was president of Lehman College of the City University of New York (CUNY) from 1990 to 2016, gaining degrees from Marquette University (BA and MA) and Princeton University (MA and Ph. D). Previously, he held academic and administrative appointments at Marquette University (1968-1970) and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (1970-1990), where he served as Assistant Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Professor of Educational Policy Studies. Dr. Fernández was a Fellow in Academic Administration of the American Council on Education (1981-1982). In 1992 he attended the Harvard Institute for Educational Management. He chaired the board of directors of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) in 1998-99, and the American Council of Education (ACE) in 2007-08. Under his leadership, the CUNY Board of Trustees established the Jaime Lucero Institute of Mexican Studies at Lehman College, a capstone of his years of dedicated work with the Mexican community. In addition, Hispanic Business magazine named him to the “100 Most Influential Hispanics” and Crain's named him one of New York City's "100 Most Powerful Minority Business Leaders.”

The Edward M. Kennedy Community Service Award - Frist Center for Autism and Innovation, Vanderbilt University School of Engineering

Named after the former Senator from the State of Massachusetts who was a lifetime champion of civil rights, disability rights and other issues on behalf of disadvantaged persons, the award is presented to an individual or organization demonstrating outstanding community service.


The Frist Center for Autism and Innovation, engineering technologies and transforming the workplace – inspired by neurodiversity, at the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering brings engineers, business scholars, and disabilities researchers together with experts in neuroscience and education to understand, maximize, and promote neurodiverse talent. From a strengths-based – as opposed to deficit-based – understanding of autism and neurodiversity, the Center sees opportunities for innovation in technology and in workplace practices. Primary areas of focus for the Frist Center’s work include: inventing and commercializing new technologies that enable autistic and other neurodiverse people to gain employment, succeed at work, and achieve their full potential; studying and understanding neurodiverse capabilities, and inventing and commercializing algorithms and systems that are inspired by those capabilities; developing policies, tools, trainings, and workplace practices that recognize and enlist neurodiverse people and talents in the workforce; demonstrating, documenting, and disseminating a community-based approach—including employers, self-advocates, researchers, policy makers, agencies, and organizations—to simultaneously enhance the bottom line for business and the quality of life for autistic individuals. The Frist Center for Autism and Innovation contributes to the school’s Inclusion EngineeringSM mission through research in neurodiversity, workplace practices, and related areas. 

The Roosevelt Thomas Champion of Diversity Award - Hilton

This award was named after the late R. Roosevelt Thomas Jr., known for developing and implementing innovative concepts and strategies for maximizing organizational and individual potential through Diversity Management. The award is therefore given to an organization or corporation for outstanding achievements in promoting diversity in the workforce.

 

Hilton has been recognized as DiversityInc.com’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity in 2021, marking the company’s seventh consecutive year on the list, which highlights the nation’s top companies that hire, develop, retain and promote a broadly diverse workforce. Hilton advocates to understand and integrate their Team Members’ unique perspective and voices - along with those of their guests, owners, suppliers and partners, saying it’s essential to cultivate a diverse and inclusive environment for all. Hilton was also rated Top Company on record 12 Specialty lists, including: Latino Executives (#2), Mentoring (#3), Philanthropy (#3),Native/American/Pacific Islander Executives (#3), Executive Diversity Councils (#5), People with Disabilities (#6), Employee Resource Groups (#8), Veterans (#10), and Asian American Executives (#12).

 

The Emerging Leader Award - Maya Valcourt, Jerome High School, Dublin, Ohio

This award is given to an individual who is becoming a leader on the national stage and who has demonstrated excellence in his/her workplace and/or community. This is the first year that the award will be conferred.

Maya Valcourt is a senior at Jerome High School, located in Dublin, Ohio. She is enrolled in a program called the International Baccalaureate Diploma, where she took IB Global Politics and was inspired to start a project about Affirmative Action. As a Haitian-American, diversity in schools and workplaces has always been important to her. While writing her essay about affirmative action, Maya realized she wanted to be an advocate in addition to just learning about it. She then conducted a survey at her school and found that only about half of high schoolers know what Affirmative Action is. This made her aware that more emphasis needs to be put on increasing diversity and the programs in place to do that. She then decided to conduct several Zoom interviews with admissions and diversity directors at universities around Ohio, and using the information she gathered, she created a newscast about Affirmative Action, which was shown to the entire school district.

 

 

The AAAED President’s Awards

The President’s Awards are given to AAAED members who have made outstanding contributions to the Association.

Sharron G. Gatling, CAAP, College of William and Mary, Conference Co-Chair and Board Member

Sandra K. Hueneman, Sr. CAAP, Manchester Consultants, AAAED Treasurer and Webinar Administrator

Jerry Knighton, M.P.A., Clemson University, AAAED Conference Planning Committee

Marilynn Schuyler, Esq., Schuyler Affirmative Action Practice, AAAED Sponsorship Chair and Board Member

Tonisha Thorpe, University of Arkansas, AAAED Conference Committee                                                                 

Shirley J. Wilcher, MA, JD, CAAP, AAAED Executive Director and Conference Committee Member


The AAAED Founders Award

This award is given to individuals who were leaders in the establishment and growth of the American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity (AAAED). 

Ida "Beth" Wilson, J.D., served as AAAA President 1998 - 2000

Wilson earned bachelor’s and master's degrees from the University of Oklahoma and graduated fourth in her class with a J.D. degree from the Oklahoma City University School of Law. While a student there, she received American Jurisprudence Awards in labor law and constitutional law. She served as Associate Vice President for Access and Equity and Executive Assistant to the President at Southern Methodist University in 2003 where her responsibilities included developing and implementing policies and programs that ensure both equal access and equitable treatment for the diverse populations of students, faculty and staff at SMU. In addition to addressing access and equity issues, she was responsible for identifying challenges and problems in these areas and making recommendations for their solutions. Beth has received numerous service awards and was twice named an Outstanding Young Woman of America, appearing on various public service television programs in Oklahoma being a panelist featured as speaker for affirmative action issues on several national television broadcasts.



Dr. Freddie Groomes-McLendon served as AAAA President 1978 - 1980

Dr. Goomes-McLendon served as president of AAAA from 1978 to 1980.  Dr. Freddie Groomes McLendon is a native of Jacksonville, but has been a resident of Tallahassee most of her adult life. After receiving her B.S. degree in Home Economics, a M.S. in Counseling and Guidance from Florida A &M University, and a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Florida State University, she began a distinguished career in education as a teacher and administrator. During her career, she was in demand as an international lecturer and consultant requiring travel to Yugoslavia, South Korea, Russia, Peru, Tokyo, Japan, Italy, and England. She retired from her position as Executive Assistant to the President of Florida State University in 2003, after 40 years of professional service. At the international level, she represented the U.S. at the IV International Conference on Science and Society in Yugoslavia and visited Nigeria as a Rockefeller Fellow to analyze higher education administrative styles. As chairman of the Florida Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women was a delegate to the International Women’s Conference in Kenya. Her national service includes member of the U.S. Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service, national advisor for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Leadership Fellows Program, and President of the American Association for Affirmative Action.

 

 

 

 



 


 

 

 

Dr. Ansley Abraham joined the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) in 1985 as a research associate and became the founding director of the State Doctoral Scholars Program in 1993. Under Ansley’s direction, the Doctoral Scholars Program has developed into a nationally recognized vehicle for producing minority Ph.Ds. who seek faculty careers. L. Jerry Knighton, Jr., AAAED Conference Chair and Assistant Vice President for Access and Equity, Clemson University says, “Dr. Abraham, or ‘Dr. A’ as we know him, is so deserving of this prestigious award from AAAED because his focus over the years in establishing a pipeline for students of color pursuing careers in academia is one of the most significant contributions to the availability of qualified diverse candidates for faculty positions in higher education nationwide.”

Dr. Ansley Abraham joined the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) in 1985 as a research associate and became the founding director of the State Doctoral Scholars Program in 1993. Under Ansley’s direction, the Doctoral Scholars Program has developed into a nationally recognized vehicle for producing minority Ph.Ds. who seek faculty careers. L. Jerry Knighton, Jr., AAAED Conference Chair and Assistant Vice President for Access and Equity, Clemson University says, “Dr. Abraham, or ‘Dr. A’ as we know him, is so deserving of this prestigious award from AAAED because his focus over the years in establishing a pipeline for students of color pursuing careers in academia is one of the most significant contributions to the availability of qualified diverse candidates for faculty positions in higher education nationwide.”

Dr. Ansley Abraham joined the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) in 1985 as a research associate and became the founding director of the State Doctoral Scholars Program in 1993. Under Ansley’s direction, the Doctoral Scholars Program has developed into a nationally recognized vehicle for producing minority Ph.Ds. who seek faculty careers. L. Jerry Knighton, Jr., AAAED Conference Chair and Assistant Vice President for Access and Equity, Clemson University says, “Dr. Abraham, or ‘Dr. A’ as we know him, is so deserving of this prestigious award from AAAED because his focus over the years in establishing a pipeline for students of color pursuing careers in academia is one of the most significant contributions to the availability of qualified diverse candidates for faculty positions in higher education nationwide.”