KU’s Black Alumni Network to honor 18 innovators and emerging leaders during homecoming week

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The KU Alumni Association’s Black Alumni Network will soon honor 11 leaders and innovators as well as seven young alumni as emerging leaders.

The Mike and Joyce Shinn Leaders and Innovators Awards are given for recipients’ contributions to the University of Kansas, their profession and their communities, according to an Alumni Association news release.

The award is named for the late Mike Shinn, a 1966 School of Engineering alum who helped found the Black Alumni Network and the Leaders and Innovators Project, and his wife, Joyce, according to the release. Since 2006, the Black Alumni Network has chosen 94 people for the honor, according to the release.

The network is holding its biennial weekend reunion with events beginning Thursday, Oct. 26. Registration for network members was still open at this link as of Friday afternoon.

These 11 recipients will be honored to kick off the reunion. Information about honorees is from the news release.

Mike and Joyce Shinn Leaders and Innovators Award recipients:

• Maj. Gen. Kevin Admiral, of Fort Cavazos, Texas, who earned his bachelor’s degree in cellular biology in 1994.

“Admiral commands the U.S. Army’s largest and most modern armored division, the historic 1st Cavalry Division, with over 21,000 soldiers stationed at Fort Cavazos, Texas. He previously served in the Pentagon as the Army’s director of force management. He has earned numerous military honors, including the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, four Bronze Star medals, the Purple Heart, seven Meritorious Service medals, an Army Commendation Medal and four Army Achievement medals.

“Admiral commissioned from the KU Army ROTC program as an active-duty armor officer. He holds a master’s degree from the National Defense University’s Joint Advanced Warfighting School, and he is a graduate of the Royal College of Defence Studies in London.”

• Val Brown Jr., of Wichita, who completed his bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1975 and graduated from the KU School of Medicine in 1979.

“Brown, a third-generation Wichita physician, was one of the first two African American students to graduate from the KU School of Medicine’s Wichita campus. Although he retired from his private internal medicine practice in 2016, he continued to work in emergency rooms. He also served for 18 years as volunteer medical director for the EC Tyree Health and Dental Clinic at St. Mark United Methodist Church.

“He has served on the boards of Big Brothers and Big Sisters, the Urban League, and the city and county health departments. He also mentored numerous students. For his community service, he received the Golden Eagle Award from Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, the NAACP Community Service Award, and the Urban News Best Doctor and Best Health Care Provider awards.”

• J. Erik Dickinson, of Kansas City, Missouri, who earned his bachelor’s degree in personnel administration in 1991.

“Dickinson is president of the Urban Ranger Corps, a youth development agency founded in 2003. He previously served as director of the Boy Scouts of America: Heart of America Council and executive director of the Cleaver Family/Linwood Centers YMCA of Greater Kansas City.

“His community involvement includes the Kansas City-Plaza Rotary Club, which he led as president in 2020. He was appointed to the Public Improvements advisory committee and the Housing Trust Fund advisory board of Kansas City, Missouri. He is currently president of the Kansas City, Missouri, alumni chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.”

• Jarius Jones, Kansas City, Kansas, who earned his mathematics education degree in 1999 and his doctorate in education in 2019.

“Jones directs classified human resources for the Shawnee Mission School District. He previously served as principal of Center Middle School and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Kansas City, Missouri, where he also was vice principal of Northeast High School. In 2001, he was among the first Kansas City Teaching Fellows, which led to his seven-year tenure as a teacher at Wyandotte High School in his native Kansas City, Kansas. A graduate of Schlagle High School, he was inducted into the school district’s Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll.

“Jones is a board member of the Start a Smile Foundation, the Pentecostal Church of God in Christ and The Good Work. He previously served on the Kansas National Education Association board and on several Kansas Department of Education committees. In 2017, the Friends of Yates named him a Black Man of Distinction.”

• Ngondi Kamatuka, of Lawrence, who earned his master’s degree in higher education in 1983 and in 1987 completed his doctor of philosophy degree in educational evaluation.

“Kamatuka is the assistant dean for diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging in the KU School of Education & Human Sciences, where he has taught for 15 years. He also directs KU’s Achievement & Assessment Institute’s Center for Educational Opportunity Programs. He earned his bachelor’s degree in education from Tabor College in Hillsboro. 

“He served as president of the Mid-America Association of Educational Opportunity Program Personnel and chair of the Council for Opportunity in Education. Through the University of Liverpool, he advised the European Commission’s Science in Society Catalyst project at universities in Austria, Germany and Slovakia. His KU honors include Unclassified Employee of the Year, the School of Education & Human Sciences Achievement Award for Professional Staff and the Phi Delta Kappa chapter’s Outstanding Educator Award. He also received the Council for Opportunity in Education’s Walter O. Mason Award.”

• Jerrihlyn Miller McGee, of Kansas City, Kansas, who completed her bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2002, her master’s in nursing and organizational leadership in 2005 and her doctorate in nursing practice in 2015.

“McGee is a nurse and clinical associate professor in the KU School of Nursing. She also is the inaugural vice chancellor for diversity, equity & inclusion and the chief diversity officer for KU Medical Center’s three campuses in Kansas City, Salina and Wichita. Before earning her three KU degrees, she earned a bachelor’s degree from Xavier University in New Orleans.

Her scholarly work has focused on civility, healthy work environment, cultural intelligence, emotional intelligence, underrepresented students’ perceptions of nursing as a career, perceptions of health in urban settings, health and educational equity, and professional development. She facilitates seminars, webinars and workshops in Kansas City as well as nationally and internationally. She co-wrote the 2019 State of Black Kansas City report and has published numerous other peer-reviewed journal articles.”

• Col. Robin Montgomery, of Valrico, Florida, who earned his master’s in public administration in 2010.

“Montgomery is chief of strategic plans and policy for the U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. He also has served the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon and the Allied joint headquarters of NATO in Naples, Italy. He has played a pivotal role in shaping contemporary military force dynamics and foreign policy frameworks.

“He earned his bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of Washington before completing his KU master’s degree. He also graduated from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth and the U.S. Army War College, where he served as a national security fellow at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts.”

• Milt Newton, of Minnetonka, Minnesota, who earned his education degree in 1989 and his master’s degree in education in 1993.

“Newton is assistant general manager of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks and previously served as an executive for the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Washington Wizards. He also helped establish the NBA Developmental League and was assistant director for the USA Basketball Men’s National Team. As a Jayhawk, he was a starter on KU’s 1988 NCAA national championship team and captain of the 1989 team. 

“He was a member of the NBA’s “Basketball Without Borders” delegation that held clinics in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Dakar, Senegal. In Washington, D.C., he volunteered as a mentor for adolescents through the National Center for Children and Families, and he serves on a committee that provides college scholarships for students at his alma mater, Calvin Coolidge Sr. High School. Newton grew up in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where he helped create the Emerald Gems Foundation Inc. to benefit teenagers. The government renamed the playground of his youth as the Milton M. Newton Recreational Park.”

• Loleta Robinson, of Wilmington, North Carolina, who completed her microbiology degree in 1993 and graduated from the KU School of Medicine in 1999.

“Robinson is president and CEO of Fortis Industries, providing investment insights and strategic guidance to venture capital firms. She formerly held leadership positions at Thermo Electron Corp and MedImmune Vaccines, and she served as an entrepreneur in residence at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska and the National Institutes of Health. While at the NIH, she supported the development of rapid COVID tests. As a co-founder and chief medical officer at Syan Biosciences, she helped develop a new point-of-care diagnostic test for underserved populations.

“In addition to her KU degrees, she holds a master’s in business and health administration from the University of Colorado Denver and a certificate in venture capital finance from the University of California-Berkeley School of Law. She has served on advisory boards for the KU School of Medicine, the University of North Carolina department of digital health, the Springboard Enterprises Life Sciences Council and several startup companies.”

• Reuben Shelton, of Chesterfield, Missouri, a 1978 journalism graduate.

“Shelton earned a law degree from St. Louis University and a master’s in business administration from Washington University in St. Louis. He retired as lead litigation counsel for Monsanto Co. Before Monsanto, he was special chief counsel in the Office for the Missouri Attorney General, where he co-led the state’s lawsuit against the tobacco industry, which resulted in a $6.7 billion settlement for Missouri, the largest in state history.

“Shelton recently concluded his term as the international president of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. after serving on the board for 16 years. He also has served on the boards of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, the NAACP and the Fathers & Families Support Center, as well as the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Development Board and the St. Louis University Board of Regents. His numerous awards include St. Louis University Law School’s Order of the Fleur de Lis Hall of Fame, the highest honor the school bestows.”

• Brenda Marzett Vann, of Kansas City, Kansas, who earned her speech pathology education degree in 1971 and her master’s in speech pathology in 1972.

“Vann is a retired speech-language pathologist and educator. She began her career at KU as assistant director of Supportive Educational Services and director of Urban Affairs, now known as the Office of Multicultural Affairs. As SES director, she helped obtain the first federal grant for the program. She later became coordinator of speech, occupational and physical therapy for the Kansas City Public Schools in Missouri and a faculty member at Rockhurst University and the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

“She received the American Cancer Society’s Outstanding Volunteer Award and the Terese Lasser Award, the highest honor for service to the Reach for Recovery Program. As a longtime volunteer for the KU Black Alumni Network and the KU Alumni Association, she served on the association’s national board of directors from 2010 to 2015. She received the association’s Mildred Clodfelter Alumni Award in 2009 and the Black Alumni Network’s Distinguished Service Award in 2015. She continues to advocate for KU as a member of the association’s Jayhawks for Higher Education, and she co-chairs KU Endowment’s Women Philanthropists for KU.”

Emerging Leaders

The Emerging Leaders award is aimed at highlighting recent graduates who are poised to make an impact in their profession and their community.

These seven young Jayhawks will receive the 2023 awards for their professional achievements and community service:

• Steven Johnson Jr., of Lawrence, who earned his doctorate in educational leadership and policy in 2022.

“Johnson currently serves as the interim director of KU’s Student Involvement & Leadership Center and the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life, roles he has added to his responsibilities in the School of Business, where he is assistant dean of diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging. He’s also involved in the American College Personnel Association as past chair of the Pan African Network. He earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial and manufacturing systems engineering at Iowa State University and his master’s in student affairs administration at Michigan State University before completing his KU doctorate.”

• Olivia Jones, of Lawrence, a 2022 psychology and applied behavioral science graduate who is now a second-year doctoral student in counseling psychology.

“Jones works as a graduate research assistant for the Juniper Gardens Children’s Project in Kansas City. As an undergraduate, she was a Ronald F. McNair Scholar, and she received an Undergraduate Research Award for her work titled “Cross-Cultural Code-Switching: Its Relationship to Black Americans’ Adaptability and Identity.” As a member of the Applied Masculinities and Positive Psychology lab, she hopes to pursue research that uses positive psychology principles to create a more inclusive and accessible therapy culture for marginalized people, specifically for Black men.”

• Chanté Martin, of Phoenix, who earned her master’s in public administration in 2018.

“Martin directs strategic partnerships for Polco, a company focused on elevating the voice of community members in government decision-making. She grew up in Topeka and rural Arizona and now lives in Phoenix. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from Washburn University before completing her KU master’s in public administration. She is the incoming president of the Kansas University City Managers and Trainees Alumni Organization, and she previously worked in local governments in Minnesota and Texas.”

• Whitney Morgan, of Kansas City, Missouri, a 2011 architecture graduate who earned his master’s in urban planning in 2013.

“Morgan works for the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, where he is the civil rights program manager and the liaison to the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program. He previously served as a transportation planner at the Mid-America Regional Council. He is the immediate past president of the Kansas City chapter of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials, and he received the 2020 Rev. Jerry Moore President’s Leadership Award.”

• Stanton Parker II, of Kansas City, Missouri, a 2012 graduate in accounting.

“Parker is a certified information systems auditor and director of internal audit for MacroSource. In addition to his full-time role, he provides accounting services to entrepreneurs and other business owners. A Kansas City, Kansas, native, he is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. and served in leadership roles for the organization as a student and an alumnus, including undergraduate grand board member and undergraduate chapter adviser.”

• Keon Stowers, of Lawrence, who earned his sociology degree in 2015.

“Stowers is an associate development director for KU Endowment, where he assists the KU Alumni Association in cultivating major gifts, including the commitments that funded the $29.5 million Jayhawk Welcome Center and Adams Alumni Center renovation. He previously worked for the association as assistant director of student programs, helping the Student Alumni Network become the largest organization of its kind in the Big 12. He began his career with KU Admissions, recruiting first-generation students and those from underrepresented groups. As a student-athlete, he led the Kansas football team as captain during the 2013 and ’14 seasons. He serves on the board for K-Club and is the finance and fundraising chair for the Black Alumni Network. In addition, he is a board member of Special Olympics Kansas and the American Red Cross Lawrence chapter.”

• Derrick Williams, of New Orleans, a 2017 business graduate.

“Williams is a wealth manager and financial planner for Creative Planning in New Orleans. He recently obtained his certified financial planner designation; only 1.9% of these professionals are Black. As a KU student, he was a Multicultural Scholar, and he tutored student-athletes. He began his career at Renaissance Financial before moving to Morgan Stanley and U.S. Bank. He now offers guidance on various financial topics through a monthly broadcast segment on WWL-TV in New Orleans, and he is involved in Pathway Education, providing financial education for underrepresented communities. He is treasurer of the Black Sports Professionals New Orleans chapter.”

The first class of Emerging Leaders was recognized in 2021. The seven new 2023 honorees bring the grand total to 14.

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