Leaders & Innovators

Nine alumni to receive honors from Black Alumni Network

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Always Jayhawks | BAN Leaders and Innovators

The KU Black Alumni Network on Oct. 14 will honor nine alumni as Mike and Joyce Shinn Leaders and Innovators. The celebration will highlight the first evening of the network’s biennial reunion, Oct. 14-17, during KU’s Homecoming weekend.

The nine recipients are:

  • Luke Bobo, Shawnee
  • Phyllis Stevens Chase, Kansas City, Missouri
  • Patricia Weems Gaston, Lawrence
  • Denise White Gilmore, Hoover, Alabama
  • Darren James, Lewisville, Texas
  • Mark E. McCormick, Leawood
  • Clantha Carrigan McCurdy, Natick, Massachusetts
  • Aaron Thomas, Overland Park
  • Irvetta J. Williams, St. Louis

Since 2007, the network has recognized outstanding alumni who have made significant contributions to their professions and their communities through their careers. In 2015, the Leaders and Innovators were renamed to honor the late Mike Shinn, e’60, one of the founding members of the Black Alumni Network, and his wife, Joyce.

Always Jayhawks | 2021 BAN Leaders and Innovators

Bobo, e’82, is a nationally recognized speaker and writer on apologetics and public theology. He serves as vice president of strategic partnerships for Made to Flourish, an organization that provides resources and engagement opportunities to a national network of pastors. He is also a visiting professor at the Institute of Biblical Studies and a visiting instructor at Covenant Theological Seminary.

For his community, he serves on the boards for Carver Baptist Bible College, the Center for Public Justice and HustleUSA. For KU, he has served on the School of Engineering’s Diversity & Women’s Advisory Board and is a trustee for the Department of Religious Studies. He also served on the Alumni Association’s national Board of Directors, and he led the KU Black Alumni Network as president.

In addition to his KU electrical engineering degree, he earned a master’s degree in engineering, a master’s of divinity and a doctorate in education leadership.

Chase, d’71, EdD’87, is a professor and the PK-12 EdD Program coordinator for Baker University. During her career she has served in numerous leadership roles, including superintendent for the public-school districts in Topeka and the cities of Kansas City, Springfield, Columbia and North Kansas City, Missouri.

She also has volunteered as a board member for many organizations, including Mercantile Bank, the United Way of the Ozarks and the Topeka Symphony.

Gaston, j’81, returned to KU in 2018 to become the Lacy C. Haynes Professor of Journalism after her career as an award-winning journalist. She served in many editorial roles for The Washington Post, where she helped produce the national, foreign, features, editorial and opinion sections. Before the Post, she was assistant international editor for the Dallas Morning News and part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team that reported on violence against women.

Gaston advises the staff of the University Daily Kansan, mentors students through the Rising Scholars Program and serves on the KU Faculty Senate executive committee.

Gilmore, b’77, is an advocate and leader on issues of social and racial justice and equitable community development. She is the senior director for the Division of Social Justice & Racial Equity in the Office of Mayor Randall L. Woodfin of Birmingham. She leads multidisciplinary efforts to serve marginalized communities, and helps preserve, rehabilitate and share areas of cultural significance. Currently, she leads the city’s efforts to continue the development of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, which was created by former President Barack Obama in 2017..

She also serves on the strategic planning committee for the Alabama African American Civil Rights Sites Heritage Consortium and has served on the board for the Kansas City Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Gilmore is also an active and proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

James, a’92, is president of KAI Enterprises, a design and construction services firm with eight offices across six states. Prior to KAI, James served as the architect and assistant director for construction at Texas Woman’s University.

In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, he serves as the president of Fair Park First, a nonprofit group that oversees equitable growth and development of a historic neighborhood in South Dallas. He also chairs the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce, one of the oldest black chambers in the United States. He has served on the boards of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dallas and the Dallas Citizen’s Council and the advisory board of the KU School of Architecture & Design. He was recently was named to D CEO Magazine’s “500 Most Influential Business Leaders in North Texas.”

McCormick, j’90, serves as the director of strategic communications for the ACLU of Kansas. He also serves on Gov. Laura Kelly’s Racial Equity & Justice Commission, on the board for the Association of African American Museums and as a trustee of the William Allen White Foundation at the KU journalism school. He has worked as a reporter for The Wichita Eagle, The Louisville Courier-Journal and the Springfield News-Leader. He is the author of Barry Sanders: Now You See Him … His Story in His Own Words. McCormick holds five gold medals from the Kansas City Press Club and was recognized as the club’s “Best Columnist” in 2009. He also served as the executive director of the Kansas African American History Museum.

McCurdy, EdD’95, is the senior deputy commissioner for access and student financial assistance with the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, where she manages the legislative budget for scholarships, grants, tuition waivers and student loans for current and prospective students.

She also serves as president of the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs and on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee of the KU School of Education and Human Sciences. Her honors include the Massachusetts Performance Recognition Award and the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators Service Award. The Eos Foundation recently named her one of the “50 Most Influential People of Color in Higher Education.”

Thomas, c’00, is executive producer and CEO of Wyandotte Entertainment Inc. and an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. He is also the executive producer of the popular TV show “S.W.A.T.,” airing on CBS. He has written for numerous other shows including “Soul Food: The Series,” “Friday Night Lights” and “CSI: New York.”

He mentors the next generation of writers and is a frequent guest speaker for the CBS Writers’ Program. He also helped create a mentoring program for television writers of color in the Los Angeles area.

Williams is the founder and lead consultant for iJay Enterprises, a firm that helps developers and municipalities navigate pre-construction and building code processes. She also is an expert in leveraging Tax Increment Financing and Community Development Block Grants to develop residential and commercial projects across the Greater St. Louis area.

She has been involved with several professional organizations, including the Missouri Workforce Housing Association, the National Association of Minority Architects, the Missouri Association of Code Enforcement and the National Association of Housing & Redevelopment Officials.

She is an adviser to the KU School of Architecture & Design, and she served on the board of the St. Louis Community Builders Network and the Foreclosure Intervention Taskforce of the Urban League of Metro St. Louis.

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