FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The University of Arkansas announces four outstanding recipients of the Silas Hunt Legacy Award, which recognizes African Americans for their significant contributions to the community, state and nation. Throughout the 2009-10 academic year, the recipients will visit with students and the community on the University of Arkansas campus. The year of celebration will conclude at a black-tie event in April — the second of its kind.
The four recipients are:
· Dr. Johnetta Cross Brazzell of McDonough, Ga.
· Mr. Ronnie Brewer of Farmington, Ark., and Salt Lake City, Utah
· Mr. Gerald Jordan (B.A. 1970) of Fayetteville, Ark.
· Dr. Lonnie Williams (B.S.B.A. 1978, M.Ed. 1984, Ed.S. 1991, Ed.D. 2001) of Jonesboro, Ark.
The Silas Hunt Legacy Award was created by the university in 2005 and first awarded in 2006. This year’s recipients were nominated by the public and selected by a volunteer selection committee of University of Arkansas alumni, friends, faculty, students and staff.
“In 2006, the university recognized 10 exceptional individuals for their influence and commitment to bettering the world around them,” said Chancellor G. David Gearhart. “This year, we are pleased to add four impeccably worthy names to the list of Silas Hunt Legacy Award honorees. Silas Hunt was a trailblazer, and the individuals we honor this year are no different. They have each brought something unique to the University of Arkansas, and they have changed and inspired many lives. Better still, they continue to do so.”
On Feb. 2, 1948, Silas Hunt became the first black student in modern times to attend a major Southern public university when he was admitted without litigation into the University of Arkansas School of Law. Hunt, who grew up in Texarkana, Ark., was a veteran of World War II and earned his undergraduate degree at Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College, now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Hunt died of tuberculosis in the spring of 1949 before finishing his law degree.
About the honorees:
Johnetta Cross Brazzell of McDonough, Ga., served as the vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of Arkansas from 1999 until 2009 when she retired. During her tenure, the African American freshman retention rate increased as did the graduation rate for African American students. She also was instrumental in the creation of the Silas Hunt Scholars mentoring program. Her leadership resulted in a more diverse staff in the Division of Student Affairs, and she made achieving diversity throughout the programs of the division a high priority. Brazzell served on the Northwest Arkansas Diversity Council, the Northwest Arkansas Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Planning Committee and the Walton Arts Center Board of Directors. She has been recognized by Power Play Magazine, based out of Little Rock, as one the 25 most influential African Americans in Arkansas.
Ronnie Brewer of Farmington, Ark., and Salt Lake City, Utah, is a Fayetteville native who played basketball at Fayetteville High School and also for three years with the Arkansas Razorback basketball team. In 2006, the Utah Jazz made him the 14th pick in the NBA draft, and today he is a starting guard for the team. During the off-season, Brewer comes back to Fayetteville to train and mentor current basketball players. In addition, in September 2008, he donated $50,000 for a scholarship to support students from Arkansas who are interested in journalism and are part of the African American Studies Program. During the press conference to announce the gift, Brewer talked about the diversity of our state and the need to reflect that on the University of Arkansas campus.
Gerald Jordan is an associate professor in the department of journalism at the University of Arkansas. He works closely with the chancellor to recruit, retain and support talented African American and other minority students, staff and faculty for the campus. He is the first African American chairman of the Arkansas Alumni Association Board of Directors, and he is the founding leader of two alumni societies for black graduates of the university. Jordan was the first and only faculty member at the University of Arkansas to be named as the University of Arkansas Volunteer of the Year. He spearheaded an effort to bring more minority students interested in journalism to the university by launching the Lemke High School Journalism Project, in which Hispanic students from the region spend time on campus learning about journalism and putting together a newspaper.
Lonnie Williams is the associate vice chancellor for student affairs at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. Prior to this position, he served as the assistant vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of Arkansas from 1991 until 2003. His service to the university during those years included board of directors’ positions for the Arkansas Alumni Association and the Black Alumni Society. He served on the chancellor’s diversity task force, the multicultural center creation committee, the Silas Hunt Hall dedication committee and many other advising and governing bodies that sought to improve the college experience for minority students. Last year, Williams was presented with the Thomas E. “Pat” Patterson Education Award, presented by the Arkansas Democratic Black Caucus to an individual who fights for equality of educational opportunity for students and education of employees of color and those who are poor.