East Austin Activists and Organizations Receive Community Leadership Awards

Six inspiring individuals and three organizations dedicated to achieving social justice and equality in Austin have received the Community Leadership Award from The University of Texas at Austin.

This year's Community Leadership Award honorees were:

  • The African American Men and Boys Conference
  • Dr. June Brewer, professor emeritus at Huston-Tillotson College
  • Sheryl Cole, Austin City Council member
  • Ebenezer Baptist Church
  • Machree G. Gibson, attorney with the Graydon Group, LLC
  • Dr. James L. Hill, senior vice president, special assistant to the president at The University of Texas at Austin
  • The Rev. A.W. Anthony Mayes, senior pastor of Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church
  • The Rev. Joseph C. Parker, senior pastor of the David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church
  • Prairie View Interscholastic League

The award recognizes exceptional leadership and commitment to university-community partnerships that seek to level the educational playing field for underserved populations. William Powers Jr., university president, and Dr. Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement and the W. K. Kellogg Professor of Community College Leadership, hosted a Dec. 2 reception for the honorees at the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center.

"It is an honor to recognize these individuals and institutions--all pillars of the East Austin community--for their leadership and their contributions to the city of Austin and The University of Texas at Austin," Powers said. "They have made Austin a stronger and better community."

The African American Men and Boys Conference (AAMBC), hosted by the African American Men and Boys Harvest Foundation, works with local school districts and institutions of higher education to identify barriers preventing academic achievement and to eliminate academic gaps for historically underrepresented students.

Brewer attended Huston-Tillotson College and received her master's degree from Howard University. In 1950, Dr. Brewer was among the first five African Americans admitted to The University of Texas at Austin before the landmark Sweatt vs. Painter case opened the university to admitting African American students. Dr. Brewer earned her Ph.D. at The University of Texas at Austin and has dedicated her life to education She is a professor emeritus at Huston-Tillotson.

Cole, a member of Austin City Council, earned her bachelor's degree at The University of Texas at Austin and became a certified public accountant in 1986, working with Ernst and Young. In 1989, she returned to the university, earning her juris doctor degree in 1991. In 1995, Cole became staff counsel at the Texas Municipal League, where she served until 2001. She practices law with Cole and Powell and is a former Board member of Leadership Austin, the Austin Area Urban League and Communities in Schools.

Ebenezer Baptist Church has served the Austin community since 1875 and is led by the Rev. Marvin C. Griffin since 1969. Under the Rev. Griffin, the church has been a national leader in Christian service. This fall, the Ebenezer Baptist Church provided the opportunity for The University of Texas at Austin to open a community engagement center connecting the university's resources to the East Austin community.

Gibson earned her degrees at The University of Texas at Austin and is an attorney with The Graydon Group, LLC where she provides legal services that offer in-depth insight into the workings of Texas government. Gibson previously worked in the Texas House and Senate, was assistant secretary of state and a project director for a Texas governor. She was recently honored as an Outstanding Young Texas Ex by The University of Texas at Austin.

Hill received a bachelor's degree from Huston-Tillotson College and master's and doctor's degrees from The University of Texas at Austin. He was deputy commissioner with the Texas Education Agency and director of the southwest field office for Educational Testing Services before becoming an associate vice president for administration and public affairs at The University of Texas at Austin in 1993. While at the university, he also was vice president for community and school relations and is now senior vice president and special assistant to university President Powers.

The Rev. Mays became the pastor of Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in 1986. He attended the public schools of Round Rock Independent School District and became the first African American to attend the newly integrated Round Rock High School. He earned a bachelor's degree in English at The University of Texas at Austin and continued his education at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

Parker has been with the David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church since 1984. The Rev. Parker received a bachelor's degree from Morehouse College, a master's degree from the University of Georgia and a juris doctor degree from The University of Texas at Austin, a master's degree in divinity from Baylor University and a doctorate in divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston. He has been inducted into the Martin Luther King, Jr. International Chapel Board of Preachers at Morehouse College.

The Prairie View Interscholastic League (PVIL) was the governing body for extra-curricular activities and played a major role in developing African American students in Texas in the arts, literature, athletics and music from the 1920s through 1967, when it merged with the University Interscholastic League. The contributions made by PVIL established a legacy that continues to enhance athletic, academic and music competition in Texas.

"These individuals, through their exceptional service, and organizations, through their tireless dedication to their missions, provide the kind of leadership on equality issues that the Austin community needs," Vincent said. "We're proud to honor their contributions."

The reception was preceded by an open house at the new Thematic Initiatives and Community Engagement (TICE) Center in the Marvin C. Griffin Building on East 11th Street. TICE, a strategic area of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (DDCE) at the university, serves both people and organizations historically underserved by the university by providing access to information, training and resources.