Skip to content

KU Black Alumni Network 2023 Leaders and Innovators

Eleven Jayhawk trailblazers honored.

by Kansas Alumni staff
Leaders and Innovators were honored by the KU Black Alumni Network on Oct. 26 at the Jayhawk Welcome Center.

Alumni who have excelled in their careers and service shared the spotlight Oct. 26-28 during the KU Black Alumni Network’s biennial Homecoming reunion.

Eleven Jayhawks were recognized as Mike and Joyce Shinn Leaders and Innovators during a dinner Oct. 26 at the Jayhawk Welcome Center. The network began the tradition in 2007, and in 2015 the Leaders and Innovators were renamed to honor one of the Black Alumni Network’s founding members, the late Mike Shinn, e’66, and his wife, Joyce. She returned to Lawrence to attend the Oct. 26 celebration.

The 2023 honorees are:

  • Maj. Gen. Kevin Admiral
  • Val Brown Jr.
  • J. Erik Dickinson
  • Jarius Jones
  • Ngondi Kamatuka
  • Jerrihlyn Miller McGee
  • Col. Robin Montgomery
  • Milt Newton
  • Loleta Robinson
  • Reuben Shelton
  • Brenda Marzett Vann

Maj. Gen. Kevin Admiral

Admiral, c’94, 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 many 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 earned his KU degree in cellular biology and commissioned from the 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.

Brown, c’75, m’79, 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 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

Dickinson, c’91, 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. He attended Kansas City, Kansas, public schools and earned his KU degree in personnel administration.

Jarius Jones

Jones, d’99, EdD’19, 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 State Department of Education committees. In 2017, the Friends of Yates named him a Black Man of Distinction.

Ngondi Kamatuka

Kamatuka, g’83, PhD’87, is the assistant dean for diversity, equity, inclusion and 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, Kansas, before completing his KU graduate degrees in higher education administration.

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

McGee, n’02, g’05, DNP’14, is a nurse and clinical associate professor in the KU School of Nursing. She also is the inaugural vice chancellor for diversity, equity and 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-authored the 2019 State of Black Kansas City report and has published numerous other peer-reviewed journal articles.

Col. Robin Montgomery

Montgomery, g’10, 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 in public administration. He 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

Newton, d’89, g’93, 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

Robinson, c’93, m’99, 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

Shelton, j’78, 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 and 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

Vann, d’71, g’72, is a retired speech-language pathologist and educator. She began her career at KU as assistant director of Supportive Educational Services (SES) 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.

Top photo by Dan Storey

Issue 4, 2023


Alumni honors, Black Alumni Network, KU Alumni Association
You may also like: