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The story of Tulane University would not be complete without the contributions of the many important people from diverse backgrounds who have made a substantial and lasting impact on our campus.

In April 2019, President Mike Fitts announced an exciting new initiative to honor these Tulanians who led the way to the university becoming a more inclusive, diverse and welcoming community.

 

Lilian Maldonado-Garcia

Recent School of Professional Advancement graduate Lilian Maldonado-Garcia is the first recipient of the Dr. Gisela Spieker Prize, presented to an outstanding first-generation college graduate.
 
The Dr. Gisela Spieker Prize, a $500 award presented to an outstanding first-generation college graduate, is named after the late Gisela Spieker, PhD (UC ’61), whose family immigrated to the United States from Germany via the Dominican Republic in the aftermath of World War II. Spieker, who spoke German, Spanish and English, attended University College at night while working full-time for a local insurance agency. She went on to earn a PhD in social work from Washington University in St. Louis in 1971 and served as dean of the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Arkansas–Little Rock. Her research and publications focused on alcohol abuse, child abuse and intra-family violence. She was also instrumental in creating the first battered women’s shelter in Little Rock. Spieker passed away in 2016, leaving a bequest to the School of Professional Advancement.

Lisa Jackson

Lisa Jackson (E ’83) is vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives for Apple, one of the world’s most admired and innovative companies. Previously she served as Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President Barack Obama. This year, the Tulane Alumni Association recognized Jackson by naming its highest award for professional achievement in her honor.

The Lisa Jackson Professional Achievement Award will be given annually to alumni who have distinguished themselves through their professional accomplishments, and whose contributions honor the legacy of excellence at Tulane University.

Wayne Lee

For his lifetime commitment to diversity in the law profession and to his peers, Tulane Law will honor alumnus Wayne Lee (L ’74) with a commissioned portrait to hang in the John Giffen Weinmann Hall this coming spring. The law school has named a scholarship in honor of Lee, who became the first African American president of the Louisiana State Bar Association.

Janice Martin Foster

Janice Foster (L ’70), the first African American woman to graduate with a law degree from Tulane, will be inducted into Tulane Law Hall of Fame this spring. Foster graduated in 1970, two years after Michael Starks became the first black student to earn his Juris Doctor. She was only the second black law graduate. A full 50 years later, with a career that has been spent at Jones Walker practicing estate planning, estate administration and tax law, Foster’s legacy will include membership in the 2020 Class of the Tulane Law School Hall of Fame.

Michael Starks

Michael Starks (L ’68), who broke barriers in 1968 to become Tulane Law’s first black graduate, lived a remarkable life full of firsts, including becoming the first black lawyer in the New Orleans City Attorney’s Office. To honor his life and contributions to the legal community in New Orleans, Tulane Law honored Starks with a portrait that hangs in the law school and launched the inaugural Black Law Alumni Reunion to celebrate the 50 years of black law achievement since his graduation.

Gloria Bryant Banks (MSW ’64), Pearlie Hardin Elloie (MSW ’65), and Marilyn Piper (MSW ’64)

Gloria Bryant Banks (MSW ’64), Pearlie Hardin Elloie (MSW ’65) and Marilyn Piper (MSW ’64) were the first black graduate students to earn degrees from the Tulane School of Social Work and among the first African-American students to graduate from Tulane. The school has commissioned bold New Orleans artist Terrance Osborne to paint a large-scale piece of artwork that will tell the women’s story in three stages. It will be displayed alongside a screen that will run a short documentary film about the three trailblazers. The installation will be unveiled this spring on the third floor of the School of Social Work at 127 Elk Place downtown.

Stephen Martin Sr.

Stephen Martin Sr. (A&S ’68, B ’73) became the first African American to play a varsity sport in the Southeastern Conference when he took the field for the Tulane baseball team in 1966. Tulane Athletics established the Stephen Martin Scholars to honor his legacy. The annual award recognizes two Green Wave student-athletes who represent the highest level of character and leadership skills while being academically driven and civic-minded.

In 2019, the Board of Tulane approved naming Willow Residences, currently designated for the street on which they sit, in honor of the first African American undergraduates to earn degrees from Newcomb and Tulane, respectively: Deidre Dumas Labat (NC ’66, G ’69) and Reynold T. Décou (A&S ’67, ’79). In addition, The Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Office of Gender and Sexual Diversity, as well as their new space in the Richardson Building, was named the Carolyn Barber-Pierre Center for Intercultural Life in honor of the campus pioneer whose decades of dedication to the Tulane community have been instrumental in its movement toward greater inclusion.

 

The university celebrated these new designations with special ceremonies and celebrations while recognizing many other great Tulanians, including Bobby Yan (TC ’95), a six-time Emmy Award winner and the founder of Tulane’s Asian American Student Union, for whom the Bobby Yan Lecture in Media and Social Change was named; and Luis Guillermo Solís (G ’81), for whom a professorship was named.

Dr. Deidre Dumas Labat

Dr. Deidre Dumas Labat (NC ’66, G ’69)

Reynold T. Décou, Sr.

Reynold T. Décou, Sr. (A&S ’67, A&S ’79)

Luis Guillermo Solís

Tulane graduate and former President of Costa Rica Luis Guillermo Solís (G ’81) had a professorship named in his honor.

Carolyn Barber-Pierre

Carolyn Barber-Pierre was honored as a campus pioneer and for her three decades of dedication to the Tulane community. She has been instrumental in our movement toward greater inclusion. The Office of Multicultural Affairs and The Office of Gender and Sexual Diversity, which she founded, as well as its new space in the Richardson Building, was named the Carolyn Barber-Pierre Center for Intercultural Life in 2019.

A lectureship will be named for six-time Emmy Award winner and founder of Tulane’s Asian American Student Union, Bobby Yan (TC ’95).

A lectureship was named for six-time Emmy Award winner and founder of Tulane’s Asian American Student Union, Bobby Yan (TC ’95).

President Michael A. Fitts News