“I Honor Him Every Day of My Life”

During Black Legacy Month, Alumni Recognize Those Who Inspire Them

February 1, 2021

“In celebration of Black Legacy Month, whom do you honor?”

That is the question posed last month to Tufts alumni in anticipation of Black Legacy Month. Black Legacy Month is the term used by the Africana Center at Tufts beginning this year for what may be referred to in other contexts as Black History Month. A Q&A with the Africana Center staff about Black Legacy Month is available here.

Black alumni of all schools across Tufts were invited to share a personal reflection on a person whom they honor, using video, text, or photography. Those recognized by our alumni ranged from historical figures, academic mentors, family members, and entire communities. Tufts is honored to share their contributions below:

Honoring a Beloved Matriarch

Healthcare researcher and statistician Dr. Jaime Smith, A02, offers a remembrance of her grandmother Virtrel Lenoir, the “matriarch of [her] family... who loved Tufts.”

A Legacy of Impact

Casey Carpenter, J80, CEO and Founder of Speak & Own It Communications (and a recent Tufts Alumni presenter) chose to honor her parents, Dr. Edward F. Carpenter and Dr. Ann M. Carpenter. In 1967, they founded the Harlem Preparatory School in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood. Established as part of the era’s alternative school movement, the school (also known as Harlem Prep) "sought to provide high school ‘dropouts’ a second chance at completing their education and pursue a college degree,” notes Carpenter. During its seven-year tenure, Harlem Prep graduated almost 800 students—a legacy of her parents’ impact that Carpenter honored with her contribution.

Five students walking by Harlem Preparatory School in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood.

Located in a former supermarket with an open floor plan, Harlem Prep attracted a dynamic and diverse group of teachers with one common goal: to assist students in realizing their full potential. (Image courtesy of the Carpenter family)

"A Fulfilled Dream"

In a brief personal statement titled “A Fulfilled Dream,” Ann Randall, J69, recalled “both joys and sorrows in [her] years at Tufts, as [she] dealt with the discrimination that [she] faced" as the first African American to graduate from the Tufts University-Boston School of Occupational Therapy. The person whom she honored? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Randall recollects: “As I struggled with racial issues that I faced then, listening to Dr. King’s sermons or his media interviews, I found hope for my future. Looking back on my life now, I can say that I achieved professionally and personally because I never lost my belief in Dr. King’s dream and my own.” 

A Great-Grandfather's Footsteps

Associate Professor of Political Science at Fordham University Christina Greer, J00, Ph.D., chose to honor her great-grandfather, William Dixon Greer. Born in 1866 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Greer obtained a degree in theology from Roger Williams University in 1885 and was a committed educator throughout his life. In the words of his great-granddaughter, William Dixon Greer’s footsteps are “footsteps I follow in today and am so grateful for my Tufts education.” (Christina Greer has been featured previously on the university’s podcast Tell Me More, as part of a resharing of the university’s 2019 event in honor of Dr. King.)

William Dixon Greer

William Dixon Greer.

Honoring a Gifted Educator

Erica Walker, lecturer in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning (UEP), is recognized by nonprofit consultant Hakim Cunningham, AG20, as his instructor of UEP 254, Quantitative Reasoning for Policy and Planning. Dr. Walker is an exposure assessment scientist and environmental epidemiologist, the developer of the Greater Boston Neighborhood Noise survey, and the pioneer of the nation's first Neighborhood Noise Report Cards.

"And I Honor Him Every Day of My Life"

Dr. Donald Wilson, M62, H08, paid tribute to his parents and, in particular, his father: “The people I honor are my dad, Rivers Wilson, and my mom, Licine Wilson. Born in South Carolina, Dad fled the oppression of our nation’s post-Civil War time to move to Massachusetts. He received no formal education beyond the third grade. However, like so many of his hard-working colleagues... he was able through grit and integrity to raise and support a family in a manner that allowed me to attend Harvard College and Tufts Medical School. He asked for and received no special recognition but, similar to his counterparts, he set an example that served to stimulate Black achievement, growth, and integrity. He asked nothing of me except that I succeed and take care of my family. I have done so. And I honor him every day of my life.” 

Dr. Wilson is himself recognized at the University of Maryland School of Medicine by the Donald E. Wilson, Dean Emeritus Scholarship, which honors him as the first African American dean at the university and the nation’s first dean of any non-minority medical school. Dr. Wilson is the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and dean emeritus at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and executive director of the Association for Academic Minority Physicians.

Rivers Wilson with his son Donald.

Rivers Wilson with his son Donald.

A Legacy of Encouraging Education

Vivian Stephens-Hicks, MG06, program manager for the master’s in biomedical sciences at Tufts University School of Medicine, honored her father, Robert L. Stephens. Stephens-Hicks recalls her father’s having brought their family to Boston in 1969 from Georgia in search of a better life and education for his children. Working as a custodian at a Roxbury, Mass., public school (now the Dearborn STEM Academy), Stephens “went to work each day with joy and pride as he worked hard to provide for his wife and three children,” his daughter recalls. Her father’s determination that his children receive a better education than his own inspired Stephens-Hicks to see “attending college… as not just a dream but a reality,” despite the odds their family faced. Her father's efforts ultimately ensured better educational opportunities not only for Stephens-Hicks and her siblings but for their children as well. After her father died in 2019, their family memorialized him with a scholarship for graduates of the Dearborn STEM Academy, extending to students at the school where Stephens’ once worked his legacy of encouraging education.

Robert L. Stephens

Robert L. Stephens.

A Leader in Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Lisa Greenhill, senior director of institutional research and diversity at the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, is recognized by Dr. India Napier, V20, veterinarian and postdoctoral associate in the MIT’s Division of Comparative Medicine.

A Shout Out to All Black Jumbos

Dom Johnson, A10, AG20, assistant dean and associate director at the Black Community Service Center at Stanford University, offers recognition to the entire community of Black Jumbos across the university.

This effort to recognize those whom our alumni honor during Black Legacy Month has been sponsored by the Africana Center, the Office of Alumni Relations, and the alumni teams at all of the schools across the university. Questions? Please contact celebratingblacklegacymonth@tufts.edu.