CHARLOTTE, N.C. – As part of the 2023 Fall Unity Week, the Atlantic Coast Conference has announced the recipients of the 2023 ACC UNITE Award, which was created to honor individuals affiliated with the league’s member institutions who have made an impact in the areas of racial and social justice. The UNITE Award is an initiative of the ACC’s Committee for Racial and Social Justice (CORE – Champions of Racial Equity) and was developed and approved by its 15 member institutions.
The UNITE Award is presented annually to individuals who:
Best exemplify ACC CORE’s mission to promote and encourage racial equity and social justice through education, partnerships, engagement and advocacy.
Have helped create meaningful, lasting change by improving systems, organizational structures, policies, practices and attitudes.
Have been a pioneer and/or helped pave the way for minorities either at the institution or in the community.
Each school selects two recipients based on the above criteria and determines how best to celebrate their respective selections at campus events throughout the academic year.
We are humbled to once again honor an amazing and inspirational collection of ACC UNITE Award recipients,” said ACC Commissioner Jim Phillips, Ph.D. “This year’s class of honorees deserve to be recognized for their incredible contributions in affecting change by promoting racial equity and social justice. Each of these pioneers are tremendous examples of what can be accomplished when you remain committed to steadfast prioritization of diversity, equity and inclusion. We are proud of CORE’s steadfast efforts with what will remain a prominent conference priority.”
The UNITE Award recipients were recognized as part of a one-hour show on SiriusXM ACC Radio, Channel 371 hosted by Roddy Jones and Dalen Cuff.
2023 UNITE Award Recipients
Boston College: John Austin & Joana Maynard
Clemson: Dr. James E. (Jim) Bostic Jr. & Dr. Rhondda Thomas
Duke: Dr. Kevin White & Marissa Young
Florida State: Angel Gray & Corey Simon
Georgia Tech: Charles Easley & Carla Gilson
Louisville: Wade Houston & Alyssa Murphy
Miami: Dr. Laura Kohn-Wood & Dr. Donald Spivey
North Carolina: Ricky Lanier & Karen Stevenson
NC State: Chavonda Jacobs-Young & Cullen Jones
Notre Dame: JP Abercrumbie & Justin Morrow
Pitt: Ron Idoko & Sheila I. Velez Martinez
Syracuse: Clothilde Ewing & Noah Singlemann
Virginia: Milla Ciprian & Craig Littlepage
Virginia Tech: Kahlil Dover & Jacelyn Lazore
Wake Forest: Dr. Larry Hopkins & Professor Muriel “Beth” Hopkins
Clothilde Ewing is a dedicated and accomplished professional who has demonstrated exceptional leadership and commitment to promoting unity and inclusivity within the areas of racial equity and social justice. With a strong background in social advocacy and community development, Ewing has consistently worked to bring people together and foster a sense of belonging among diverse groups. As an editor and producer at CBS News, a producer at The Oprah Winfrey Show, and a member of the press team for President Obama’s 2012 re-election, Ewing has made strides in many different industries.
Born and raised in a multicultural environment, Ewing’s early life experiences instilled in her a deep appreciation for the value of diversity and the power of unity. She pursued her education in sociology, specializing in intercultural relations, to gain a deeper understanding of how to bridge gaps and promote harmony amongst people from various backgrounds.
Ewing has actively engaged in initiatives that aim to break down barriers and promote dialogue among different communities. Her book series including Stella and the Mystery of the Mission Tooth and Stella Keeps the Sun Up, are a reflection of her work. Her tireless efforts have contributed to a more inclusive and harmonious society where people from all walks of life can come together to collaborate.
She has been involved in campaigns addressing issues such as racial inequality, gender discrimination, and economic disparity. Her passion for social change and her ability to mobilize individuals toward a common goal have had a lasting impact on the communities she serves.
Noah Singlemann is a three-time captain for the Syracuse men’s soccer team and the defending National Champions. Only the third player in program history to hold the captaincy title in three seasons at Syracuse, Singlemann has displayed an unwavering commitment to excellence in athletics and a deep
dedication to making a positive impact within our community.
Beyond his athletic achievements, Singlemann has consistently demonstrated a strong commitment to community service. He has been actively participating in numerous volunteer initiatives, including the
Boys and Girls Club, Team Impact, and other team-related community activities. he has shown a
remarkable ability to balance the demands of being a student-athlete while making a positive difference in the lives of the youth surrounding Syracuse.
His impact has not only excelled in his sport and community but also on the campus of Syracuse
University. He has been an advocate for inclusivity and sportsmanship, fostering a sense of unity and
camaraderie among students.
John Austin holds the distinction of being Boston College’s first African-American basketball player. Austin starred as a point guard for the Eagles from 1963 to 1966, while playing for the legendary coach Bob Cousy. During Austin’s three varsity seasons on the Heights, he scored a school-record 1,845 career points and averaged 27.1 points per game. His scoring average remains the highest in program history.
Widely considered the greatest Boston College men’s basketball player of all time, Austin was a two-time All-American and the program’s first-ever All-American. After graduating from Boston College, Austin was drafted by the Boston Celtics. Before retiring from playing, he had a successful professional career with the Celtics and the New Jersey Americans of the American Basketball Association.
In addition to breaking barriers in Chestnut Hill, Austin was the first African-American player at the famed DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Maryland. Austin was a trailblazer and program changer at DeMatha Catholic High School, where he led the Staggs to back-to-back conference championships in 1961 and 1962.
Inducted into the Boston College Athletics Hall of Fame in 1972, Austin was a pioneer who helped pave the way for African-American student-athletes at Boston College and DeMatha Catholic, many of whom have utilized the game of basketball to make enduring impacts in their communities and the world around them.
Joana Maynard has been a mainstay on the Boston College campus for the past 38 years. She is currently serving as the senior assistant director for the Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center (BAIC) after working as the former program director of the Options Through Education Transitional Summer Program (OTE). Maynard exemplifies the values of the ACC Unite Award as someone whose efforts encouraged racial equality through education, partnership, engagement, and advocacy.
Arriving at Boston College in 1985, Maynard served as the OTE program director for 20 years, significantly impacting the lives of incoming first-year students of color, including many student-athletes. Through OTE, a six-week summer bridge program that prepares first-year students of color in their transition from high school to college, Maynard and the BAIC team prepared countless student-athletes of color for the academic rigors and social acclimation of Boston College by fostering academic, social, cultural, and spiritual development.
Due to Maynard’s leadership and collaboration with the Athletics department, Boston College developed a foundation as one of the nation’s leaders in student-athlete retention and graduation rates. Countless former student-athletes and non-student-athletes credit Maynard for preparing them for success at Boston College and in life beyond the Heights.
To that effect, Maynard continues to be instrumental in the lives of students of color by fostering formative educational experiences such as service-learning trips to the Dominican Republic, leading the Bowman Scholars program, and numerous academic advising, spiritual engagement, community building, and outreach initiatives. Boston College is welcoming and supportive of students of color who graduate and set the world aflame for other men and women due to the work of Maynard and the BAIC team.
Dr. James E. (Jim) Bostic Jr. and his legacy has included success in education and business, as well as philanthropic support for efforts to provide a more diverse campus at Clemson. His service and contributions to Clemson University are lengthy – from becoming the first African American to earn a doctorate at Clemson in 1972, to the leadership of IPTAY, Dr. Bostic has consistently served Clemson and created incredible opportunities for those who have come after him. In addition to earning Clemson’s Highest Honor – The Clemson Medallion – in 2016, he partnered with Dr. Thomas to help support the Call My Name program, which has been a key part of historical storytelling at Clemson.
Dr. Bostic’s desire to pay it forward goes well beyond what’s listed on a resume. He and his wife helped fund the Edith H. and James E. Bostic Presidential Scholarship as part of the Harvey B. Gantt Scholars program for diversity scholarships. His name is also on the Dr. James E. Bostic Presidential Scholarship in the College of Engineering and Science and the James E. Bostic Endowed Leadership Program for Resident Assistants.
Dr. Rhondda Thomas has dedicated her career to the research and storytelling of African-American history at Clemson. Her book and ongoing research project, Call My Name, Clemson, tells the stories of seven generations of Black South Carolinians and led to the recovery of more than 500 unmarked graves on campus. Her research transformed discourse at Clemson and served as a model nationally for uncovering and explaining history. Dr. Thomas has specifically dedicated significant time to the athletic department, where she has led several lectures and programs on Clemson’s history, as well as designed heritage walks and runs to important sites on campus, making the stories more accessible to all involved. She is the author of Claiming Exodus: A Cultural History of Afro-Atlantic Identity, 1774-1903, and co-editor of The South Carolina Roots of African American Thought, A Reader.
Currently, Dr. Thomas is the Calhoun Lemon Professor of Literature in Clemson’s Department of English. She is the leader of a $3.4 million Black Heritage Trails project on campus and in the cities of Clemson and Seneca. She is also working to adapt Call My Name, Clemson for the stage in collaboration with the Tectonic Theater Project.
Dr. Kevin White embodies the ACC’s CORE mission – to promote and encourage racial equity and social justice through education, partnerships, engagement, and advocacy. Dr. White was synonymous with equity and inclusion within Duke Athletics. In the time he spent at Duke University as Vice President and Director of Athletics, Duke successfully earned eight NCAA championships demonstrating the strength of Duke Athletics.
Dr. White’s Contributions to Duke, however, extend far beyond athletics themselves. In 2016, Dr. White was recognized by the NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee as a champion of Diversity and Inclusion. Dr. White was a champion of the people. During his time at Duke, he went above and beyond to place individuals from marginalized groups in positions of power in the hope of enhancing the administrative talent pipeline and diversifying a largely homogenous field.
Perhaps the most notable of Dr. White’s achievements in the field of racial and social justice is the number of young associates of all races and backgrounds that have come to find success because of White’s mentorship. As of 2016, 24 of his former aids have advanced to an athletics director position in colleges across the country. Dr. White’s dedication to equitable hiring is unlike anything existing within college athletics currently. Upon his arrival at Duke, the senior and executive staff included only one female. Today, it features 10 women and five ethnic minorities. While Dr. White has retired from his role as Vice President and Director of Athletics at Duke, his legacy is felt everywhere. Duke’s current policies and practices are a direct result of the foundation he laid.
Marissa Young came to Duke as its first African-American female head coach. She was not only the first Black woman in this role, but also the first person in the role period. In this role, Young has spread diversity amongst her team through different education and engagement initiatives. As of 2020, Young was one of two Black Power Five head softball coaches.
Following the events of the summer of 2020, Young took it upon herself to address racial and societal inequality with her team. For Young, it was important her athletes were equipped to deal with what was going on in the world, not just in the world of Duke University. She made sure to give space to the five Black athletes on the team at the time to address their teammates and share life experiences.
Since the summer of 2020, Young continues to remain passionate about racial justice and equality for all. Young is one of the key contributors in the promotion of the MLK Partnership Day at Duke and the first person to bring the anti-racism program “Real Talk” to campus. Many other teams and programs then learned about “Real Talk” and incorporated this training into their programs.
A current member of ACC CORE, Young seeks to be an example for young minority women and open the door to the world of college athletics.
Angel Gray is currently a College Hoops Analyst with ESPN and formerly served as a sideline reporter with the Cleveland Cavaliers, announcing games on FOX Sports Ohio, and the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, providing play-by-play announcing in addition to analysis for several networks (ESPN, CBS, and NBA TV). Named “one of the most versatile hoop broadcasters in the country” by Pure Hoops Media, Gray received the opportunity to interview late NBA legend Kobe Bryant during her time with the Cavaliers.
A four-year letterwinner as a guard on the Florida State women’s basketball team, Gray has used her platform to vocalize her advocation for social and racial justice throughout her career.
In 2020, Gray moderated “A Time for Action,” a panel centered on contemporary race relations and how to take action within the community that featured Geno Auriemma, Muffet McGraw, Carolyn Peck, and Dawn Staley. Gray added tremendous value to the panel hosted by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) and has continued to be a voice and representative for racial and social justice.
In 2021, Gray was elected to serve as one of the four Black females on an All-Black Female broadcast team for the Atlanta Dream’s season and shared her perspective on athletes and social justice as a panelist for “Beyond the Spear” in 2022 alongside prominent FSU alums Charlie Ward, Adrian Crawford, and Cassandra Jenkins.
Gray continues to share her experiences and impact individuals on a local and national level.
Corey Jermaine Simon is an FSU Hall of Famer and is one of the best defensive linemen ever to play at Florida State University. A consensus first-team All-American as a senior in 1999, Simon was a finalist for both the Lombardi and Outland trophies. He led the ACC that same season in tackles-for-loss with 21. He was a captain and defensive leader of FSU’s 1999 National Championship team, which was the first in college football history to go wire-to-wire at No. 1 in the Associated Press Poll.
Simon was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles with the sixth overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. Over his eight-year NFL career, Simon played for the Eagles, Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans earning Pro Bowl honors in 2004.
After serving as the CEO of Volunteer Florida, Simon was elected the Florida Senate in 2002 becoming the first African American Republican member since the Reconstruction era. He developed “Corey’s Kids,” which is an organization focused on mentoring children in North Florida’s foster care system and has been a community influencer as the President of Big Bend Pop Warner Little Scholars, which serves diverse populations and marginalized communities. Simon is an advocate for quality education who tirelessly empowers future generations to provide access to a quality education and create opportunities to live a meaningful life.
Charles Easley was a former Rhodes Scholar State Finalist, a two-time Academic All-ACC honoree, and a three-time football letterman at Georgia Tech. Easley has been named a Top 10 Outstanding Young Atlantans and has been recognized for his service with awards like the Camp Fire Ember Award, Georgia Tech Outstanding Young Alumni, and Georgia Tech Total Person-Former Student-Athlete of the Year.
Easley serves as a Professor of Practice in the Scheller College of Business and is affiliated with the Institute for Leadership and Social Impact (ILSI). He advises ILSI’s strategy for co-curricular programming addressing racism and inequity, as it relates to business, society, organizational and public policies, and procedures.
A proud Georgia Tech alum and former student-athlete, Easley holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Management and a minor in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Georgia Tech, graduating cum laude. He divides his free time between service to his community and his alma mater. Easley has extensive experience in strategy execution of supply chain optimization and design, business transformation, operations improvement, process improvement, and executive coaching. He has served on the boards of many civic and non-profit groups including The Westminster Schools, The Georgia Alumni Association, The Georgia Tech Athletic Association, Johnson C. Smith University College of Economics and Business, etc.
Carla Gilson has been a member of Georgia Tech athletics staff for nearly 25 years, including as the Yellow Jackets’ director of sports medicine for the past four years after serving as the associate athletics director for sports medicine. In her expanded role, Glison oversees the day-to-day functions of Georgia Tech’s sports medicine operations and staff, with a focus on the support and care of student-athletes’ physical, mental, and overall health needs. She also serves as the primary athletic trainer for the Yellow Jackets’ nationally-ranked volleyball program.
During her time on The Flats, Gilson co-founded Tech’s “Life Now, Life Later” mentor program for female African-American student-athletes. Gilson has served on the athletics department’s equity and compliance committee and as a member of the Yellow Jackets’ Fellowship of Christian Athletes mentor team. Additionally, she served as a panelist for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s (MEAC) Women in Leadership workshop and as a featured presenter at the National Athletic Trainers Association’s Ethnic Diversity Advisory Committee meeting.
Wade Houston became the first African American to sign a basketball scholarship at the University of Louisville in 1962 and was one of the first three African American men’s basketball student-athletes at the school in 1963. A native of Alcoa, Tennessee, a small town outside of Knoxville, Houston became the first African American assistant coach of a revenue sport at Louisville in 1976, working as an assistant coach under Denny Crumm for 13 years, where he contributed to two of Louisville’s three national championships. In 1989, he was named the head coach of the University of Tennessee, when he became the first African-American men’s basketball head coach in the SEC.
Houston has always been active in the community. He is the founder of the Black Coaches and co-founder of the African American Business Alliance. He serves or has served on the following boards – Old National Bank, The Rawlings Group, the University of Louisville Athletic Board, and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Along with Junior Bridgeman, he founded the Houston-Bridgeman scholarship program at the University of Louisville.
Houston also serves on the board of the Allan Houston Legacy Foundation, which was founded to foster healthy and productive relationships between fathers and sons, and mentors and mentees. He also served as co-chair of Governor Steve Beshear’s inauguration committee and holds an honorary Doctorate from Spalding University.
Alyssa Murphy is a long-time employee of the University of Louisville and the Director of Student-Athlete Leadership and Development. As the first woman of color to assume the role of assistant athletics director or higher in the history of the Louisville athletics program, Murphy has continued to create spaces for minority student-athletes during her tenure.
Murphy plays a role within programs such as Free Space, a group to support LGBT student-athletes. Murphy is also involved with WAVE and Sister’s Circle at the University of Louisville. The programs are empowerment groups structured around the support of women and women of color.
Through her involvement with the student-athletes, Murphy continues to promote and instill racial justice, social justice, and equity for all. Murphy is synonymous with the advancements of the University of Louisville athletics.
Dr. Laura Kohn-Wood is currently a Professor and Dean of the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Miami, becoming the first Black female dean in the school’s history in 2018. Dr. Kohn-Wood previously served as chair of the Department of Educational and Psychological Studies, was the founding program director of the Master’s in Community and Social Change program, and, with her colleagues, developed the Ph.D. Program in Community Well-Being at Miami. She also previously held the title of Associate Vice Provost for the Office of Institutional Culture, served as the Senior Resident Faculty of Pearson Residential College, and was the inaugural Co-Chair of the University’s Standing Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Dr. Kohn-Wood earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Howard University and a Master of Arts degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of Virginia. She received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, with a specialization in Community Psychology, from Virginia in 1996 and completed an internship at the University of California, San Francisco Medical School, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at Georgetown University School of Medicine.
Dr. Kohn-Wood’s research program Race, Ethnicity, Culture and Promotion of Strengths (RECAPS) focuses on race, ethnicity, and culture in relation to the experience of psychological phenomena among diverse populations, with an emphasis on race-based protective factors and the promotion of positive coping and mental health among African Americans.
Dr. Donald Spivey is a Distinguished Professor and Cooper Fellow of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Miami, where he has served on the faculty since 1993. He currently serves as Special Advisor on Racial Justice to University of Miami President Julio Frenk.
He has lectured throughout the country and has been a frequent commentator on radio, television, and print. His lectures include “Satchel Paige and Negro Leagues Baseball in the Civil Rights Movement” broadcasted on C-SPAN; and “The Historical Richness of Black Baseball in the New Negro Movement, 1919-1941,” at the National Endowment for the Humanities, Washington University Humanities Center Summer Institute.
Dr. Spivey has written nine books, most recently publishing Racism, Activism, and Integrity in College Football: The Bates Must Play Movement in 2021. He has received numerous recognitions including the Faculty Senate Award for Outstanding Teaching; Provost’s Award for Scholarly Activity; selection as a “Top Black Educator of South Florida” by Legacy Magazine; the Robert Peterson Recognition Award for his book, If You Were Only White: The Life of Leroy “Satchel” Paige; Cooper Fellow of the College of Arts and Sciences; the Ronald McDonald House “Twelve Good Men Award” for Distinguished Community Service in Miami; and appointment to the Search Committee for Historian of the United States House of Representatives.
Dr. Spivey has also taught at the University of California at Davis, Wright State University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Connecticut, where he was a founding director of the Institute for African American Studies. He earned his BA and MA from the University of Illinois and his Ph.D. from the University of California at Davis.
Ricky Lanier, who was recognized as one of the first four Tar Heel Trailblazers in February 2014, was the first African-American scholarship football player in North Carolina history in the fall of 1967. In 1969, he set a record for most yards rushing from the quarterback position in a 61-11 win over VMI.
Lanier was a standout for Coach Herman Boone (of Remember the Titans fame) at Williamston’s E.J. Hayes High School, once scoring 13 touchdowns in a single game, a state record. As a National Merit Scholar finalist, had had several scholarship offers. When Carolina came calling, Lanier’s parents, both educators, encouraged him to visit Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Upon entering North Carolina, Lanier was a suitemate with former Carolina great Don McCauley and past ACC Commissioner John Swofford.
After his playing days and graduating from North Carolina, Lanier joined the coaching staff at North Carolina Central University. From there, he worked for IBM for several years, then left to become a teacher. Teaching allowed Lanier the opportunity to give back and do something his parents would be proud of. Teaching is in his blood and Carolina is still in his blood.
Karen Stevenson was the first black woman to be granted a Morehead Scholarship in 1975. She also won a Rhodes Scholarship in 1979, making her the first woman from the University of North Carolina and the first black woman in the nation to receive the honor.
The Washington, D.C. native broke gender barriers in high school by attending The Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut, and joining the almost all-white prep school’s first co-ed class in history. As a high school senior, she became the first African-American woman to receive the Morehead-Cain Scholarship.
During her four years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the track team captain etched her name in the record books no fewer than 14 times, including one mark that also broke the state record for the 400-meter dash. Her best events were the 200 and 400-meter sprints and the 4×400-meter relay. She won the Jim Tatum Award for athletic and academic leadership twice.
After receiving her M.A. in European History at Oxford and spending some time in the working world, Stevenson earned a J.D. from Stanford. For several years, she was a civil litigator in Los Angeles, working on complex business cases and advising clients on insurance matters. Since 2015, Stevenson has served as a magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Chavonda Jacobs-Young was a member of the Wolfpack women’s track & field team from 1985-89. During her collegiate career, she was a three-time ACC champion in the high jump event. Jacobs-Young earned her undergraduate degree from NC State and went on to complete a Ph.D. degree in Paper Science at the university, becoming the first African American woman in the nation to do so.
After serving on the faculty at the University of Washington from 1995-2002, Jacobs-Young was approached about joining the federal government and eventually became a senior policy analyst for agriculture in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. She has held multiple administration roles in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), most notably serving as the first woman and person of color to lead the Agriculture Research Service.
Passionate about representing and promoting women and people of color in the STEM field (science, technology, engineering, math), she was included in the #IfThenSheCan exhibit that was stationed around the National Mall in March of 2022. Jacobs-Young also served as an ambassador for the American Association of the Advancement of Science’s IF/THEN program and was actively engaged in outreach to attract middle school girls to the STEM profession.
Cullen Jones was a member of the NC State men’s swimming & diving team from 2003-06. He represented the Pack and the ACC on the highest collegiate stage by winning the 2006 NCAA Championship in the 50-yard freestyle. A multi-time ACC title winner and the 2006 ACC Swimmer of the Year, Jones went on to win multiple Olympic Gold Medals with Team USA, most notably becoming the first African American swimmer in history to hold a world record with his legendary win as part of the 4×100-meter freestyle relay.
Jones is passionate about inspiring other swimmers of color and took that passion into action by founding “Make A Splash” alongside USA Swimming. The program aims to teach children in disadvantaged communities how to swim and promotes water safety on a national level through clinics and other opportunities for children. Jones began his involvement with “Make A Splash” nearly 15 years ago. Since then, Jones has played a valuable role in education about low to no-cost swim lessons in communities across the country and promoting an online giving program to help fund swim lessons for kids in need.
JP Abercrumbie serves as the Executive Associate Athletics Director, Culture and Engagement in the athletics department at the University of Notre Dame. In this role, Abercrumbie is responsible for the stewardship of a culture of inclusive excellence throughout Notre Dame Athletics, including but not limited to oversight of organizational culture and diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Leading various functions of the Athletic Director’s office, Abercrumbie’s role involves facilitating active engagement and relationship building with student-athletes, staff, coaches, campus and industry colleagues, philanthropic and corporate partners, the local community, and alumni. Prior to the start of the 2022-23 academic year, Abercrumbie launched Together Irish (a continuation of the department’s StaND Together campaign) a redefinition of the department’s commitment to social change via education, engagement, and enrichment across various dimensions of humanity.
Recognized as not only an athletics leader but a respected campus and community liaison, Abercrumbie spearheaded the events around the highly successful TSUND weekend when Notre Dame football hosted a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) for the first time, welcoming Tennessee State University to South Bend. Through TSUND, more than 15 featured events were held on campus exploring the significance of the moment through and beyond the game. Ranging from academic exhibits to student career exploration activities, to cultural exchanges and social gatherings, special in-game elements, and the launch of a ticket initiative for community partners working to address critical needs for vulnerable populations throughout South Bend, TSUND weekend was a collaboration of dozens of campus and community partners guided by Abercrumbie’s vision.
Abercrumbie’s influence in the areas of racial and social justice also includes the advancement of athletics, campus, community, and industry initiatives related to Hispanic and Latino heritage, Indigenous culture, Asian-American/Pacific Islander backgrounds, the international student-athlete experience, gender, sexuality, spirituality, citizenship, and civic engagement. Abercrumbie also spearheads ND recruitment and retention strategies for the advancement of women, people of color, and individuals with diverse abilities.
In 2022, Abercrumbie was recognized by the Black Student-Athlete Summit as an Innovator and Administrator of the Year. Abercrumbie is a serving member of Notre Dame, ACC, NCAA, NFL, Women Leaders in Sports, and MOAA committees.
Justin Morrow is a 2009 Notre Dame alum and former Fighting Irish men’s soccer standout. A team captain and four-time Monogram recipient, Morrow garnered several all-conference honors throughout his collegiate career before being selected as the 28th pick in the 2010 Major League Soccer SuperDraft.
In 2021, Morrow received the MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year Award after being a game-changer on the field and in the community during his 12-year MLS career. He was a driving force in launching Black Players for Change, an organization of more than 170 MLS players, coaches, and staff working to bridge the racial equality gap, serving as their Executive Director.
Morrow, for his work with Black Players for Change, was also a featured speaker at the 2023 Black Student-Athlete Summit discussing athlete advocacy, activism, and the fight for social justice.
After retirement from his playing career, Morrow seamlessly transitioned to a management role in Toronto Football Club’s front office. His responsibilities quickly expanded to include leadership for the organization’s DEI activities.
In July of 2023, Morrow joined the USC Race and Equity Center as Head of Sports Programs and Partnerships. In this new role, Morrow leads DEI-focused strategy consultation, leadership coaching, workplace culture and climate assessments, coalition building, and high-quality professional learning experiences for intercollegiate and professional sports organizations. He is also a member of the More Than a Vote coalition and has led efforts to encourage civic engagement and remove barriers to vote as part of non-partisan initiatives to drive voter registration and engagement.
Ron ldoko was a four-year member of Pitt’s Football team. His dedication to advancing racial equity and social justice is evident throughout his impressive career, as he has served in numerous roles on campus following his graduation.
Idoko currently serves as the Associate Director of the Center on Race and Social Problems at the University of Pittsburgh. In this role, Idoko has played a pivotal role in fostering applied race research, coordinating innovative learning experiences, and cultivating public knowledge and understanding of race and social issues. His work has not only advanced the mission of ACC CORE but has also contributed significantly to creating meaningful and lasting change within our institution and the broader community.
One of Idoko’s outstanding contributions is the development of the “Racial Equity Consciousness Framework” and the accompanying “Racial Equity Consciousness Institute.” These critical systems thinking frameworks have empowered countless individuals to analyze the complexity of racism and reflect on actionable steps to advance racial equity personally and collectively. Additionally, Idoko’s coordination of the “Diversity Forum,” a multi-day virtual social justice conference, has provided a platform for over 20,000 participants from around the world to engage in dialogue about social inequities and systems thinking approaches.
Idoko has consistently demonstrated his ability to establish and nurture vibrant institutional partnerships, efficiently coordinate large-scale initiatives, and engage with diverse populations. His commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion has resulted in numerous accolades, including the 2022 Chancellor’s Award for Staff Excellence and the 2023 Heroes of the Black Resistance Award.
Furthermore, Idoko has utilized his educational background, including a Doctor of Education degree from the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh, to expand his impact on racial and social justice education. His work extends beyond the university campus, as evidenced by his media highlights and engagement with local and national communities. His work has paved the way for meaningful change in both institutional structures and community attitudes, and his contributions will continue to inspire others to champion racial and social justice.
Sheila I. Velez Martinez currently serves as the Jack and Lovell Olender Professor of Asylum, Refugee, and Immigration Law, as well as the Director of Clinical Programs at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. She also serves as the University of Pittsburgh Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR) where she is an advocate for the student-athlete population through her mentorship and a consultant for the Advisory Committee for Admission for Student-Athletes (ACASA), and an influential voice highlighting the unique needs of student-athletes to fellow faculty and staff on the Senate Athletics and Recreation Committee (SARC).
At the conference level, Sheila has been highly active in revamping the ACC Postgraduate Scholarship process, reviewing challenges with practice times and class schedules, recommending frameworks to enhance student-athlete academic success, and supporting the ACC Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) in the creation of their conference mental health and wellbeing proposal. As such, it is no surprise that Velez Martinez was selected to Chair the ACC Faculty Athletic Representatives in the 2023-24 academic year. Velez Martinez has dedicated her career to advancing the cause of racial and social justice through education, advocacy, and tangible change where her profound influence spans across various spheres, making her a true embodiment of the ACC CORE’s mission.
As a legal scholar and practitioner, she has not only imparted her wisdom to students but has also played a pivotal role in creating meaningful, lasting change. Her groundbreaking work in addressing issues such as domestic violence, immigration, and discrimination has left an indelible mark on systems, policies, and practices both locally and internationally. She has not shied away from taking on complex challenges, including advocating for immigrant women survivors of violence and representing marginalized communities.
Moreover, Velez Martinez’s dedication extends beyond the classroom and courtroom. Her involvement in community organizations, consultations with immigrant services, and her ongoing commitment to promoting diversity and inclusivity within the legal field demonstrate her tireless efforts to pave the way for minorities in our society.
One of her most notable contributions is her pioneering work on issues related to immigrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees. Her research, publications, and advocacy have shed light on the plight of these vulnerable populations, contributing to a broader understanding of their challenges and rights.
Milla Ciprian, a 2022 graduate of the University of Virginia and former volleyball student-athlete, created a lasting change during her time at UVA. Ciprian was instrumental in the creation of Black Student-Athletes Offering Service and Support (B.O.S.S.), an affinity group that supports and provides community to black student-athletes at Virginia. As President, she organized events such as game nights, alumni panels, and crucial conversations following George Floyd’s death.
Ciprian was also a leader in SAAC, as she pushed for the addition of a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice subcommittee and later became vice president. In her role, Ciprian coordinated the first Pride Game at UVA, a Hoo’s Hoo Fair to highlight student affinity groups within the department and a Unity Walk. The purpose of the walk was to educate peers and staff on the historical and lingering effects of structural racism in Charlottesville.
Ciprian was a constant volunteer in the local community. A winner of the ACC Top XI for Service Award, she volunteered in lower-income neighborhoods in Charlottesville, at the local Boys and Girls Club, and at the Blue Ridge Juvenile Detention Center. Ciprian left her mark at UVA and in the Charlottesville community, pushing for racial equity and social justice for all of those around her.
Craig Littlepage was named the University of Virginia athletics director in 2001, becoming the first African American athletics director in both the ACC and school history. Through his leadership, student-athletes saw success in their sport, in the classroom, and the community. Virginia teams won 13 national championships and 76 ACC titles during his tenure.
As a pioneer in college athletics, Littlepage was named the Black Coaches Association’s “Athletics Administrator of the Year” in both 2003 and 2006. He then made Sports Illustrated’s list of the 101 most influential minorities in sports in 2003 and 2004. He was also named one of Black Enterprise magazine’s “Most Powerful African Americans in Sports.” Littlepage has presented and mentored at the NCAA’s Ethnic Minority Male Institute and the Black Coaches Administrator Association and has led NCAA leadership development programs which were designed to help aspiring football and basketball head coach and athletics administrator candidates.
Littlepage retired from his position in 2017 after 35 combined years of service at UVA – 16 years as athletic director, 11 years in other administrative capacities, and eight years across two stints as an assistant men’s basketball coach – before transitioning to a position in the university president’s office. His leadership was praised by staff, coaches, and students.
Kahlil Dover used his student-athlete platform at Virginia Tech to speak about service, unity, compassion, and the importance of “starting the conversation” through the #LOVE video campaign in 2020.
In his role as the SAAC President at VT, Dover was instrumental in spearheading the first-ever SAAC Unity Walk in October 2021. This event united close to 100 student-athletes, coaches, and staff for the opportunity to discuss how the events of 2020 impacted their experience and how to move from awareness to action in promoting social and racial justice.
In January 2021, Dover attended the virtual Black Student-Athlete Summit. The event brought together leaders and professionals to lead discussions around the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, health inequities exposed through COVID-19, and student-athlete responses to social injustices that were highlighted in 2020.
In Dover’s senior year, his success in the classroom, on the field, and within the community earned him the Skeleton Award for Academic Excellence. The award is the highest designation handed out by Tech’s Athletics Department.
Jacelyn Lazore used her platform as a lacrosse student-athlete at Virginia Tech to highlight the impact Native Americans have on the sport of lacrosse. In 2016, she was a part of a documentary called “Keepers of the Game” which detailed the parallels between the mental aspect of playing lacrosse as a Native American female.
During Lazore’s time at Tech, she was heavily involved with Native at VT, a student group dedicated to advancing the visibility of American Indians and other indigenous peoples on campus, by raising awareness of the issues that confront these diverse populations.
Lazore has coached rising middle school and high school players within the Akwesasne Ride Lacrosse Program during summer breaks. She wanted to help young players develop leadership skills, good sportsmanship, and the importance of being on a team.
During the summer of 2023, Lazore served as a resident advisor for the Akwesasne Research Center for Health (ARCH) at Roswell Park in Hogansburg, New York. She assisted with the after-school program, and high school and college summer research internship programs.
Dr. Larry Hopkins played two seasons in Winston-Salem, where he was a two-time all-conference selection and led the Deacons to their first back-to-back winning seasons since joining the ACC. Dr. Hopkins still holds the single-season program rushing record with 1,228 yards during the 1971 campaign. He also set a then-school record of 111.6 yards rushing per game.
A 1989 inductee into the Wake Forest Sports Hall of Fame and Wake Forest’s 2010 ACC Football Legend, Dr. Hopkins was not only a trailblazer on the field, but off the field as well. In 1972, he became the first African American to graduate from Wake Forest with a degree in chemistry. After declining a contract from the New England Patriots, Dr. Hopkins enrolled in the Wake Forest School of Medicine where he earned his degree in 1977.
Prior to beginning his obstetrics and gynecology practice in Winston-Salem in 1983, Dr. Hopkins completed his residency at Virginia Commonwealth University and served our country as an officer in the United States Air Force for two years. During that period, he rose through the military ranks to Major in the Medical Corps.
Dr. Hopkins’s legacy of service included co-directing the Women’s Health Center in Winston-Salem. The Center focused on improving prenatal care and reducing infant mortality and dramatically raised the level of healthcare for African-American women in Winston-Salem. Dr. Hopkins delivered thousands of babies in Winston-Salem, including Wake Forest and NBA legend Chris Paul who told Hopkins that he was one of the children Dr. Hopkins delivered during his 30-plus-year career in medicine.
Dr. Hopkins was the recipient of Wake Forest’s 2020 Medallion of Merit citation for his compassionate, expert care as a beloved physician, valued role model, and teacher for hundreds of students in our Medical School.
He joined Wake Forest’s School of Medicine as an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology in 1996. In addition to volunteer work with many community and professional organizations, Dr. Hopkins served on Wake Forest’s Alumni Council, Board of Visitors, and since 1986, on the Board of Trustees. In 1987, Dr. Hopkins received the Distinguished Alumni Award for his service to the University, the field of medicine, and the Winston-Salem community.
Professor Muriel “Beth” Hopkins was recently honored as one of 17 USTA Champions of Equality at the US Open. Hopkins was selected by USTA Southern, the largest of the USTA sections.
She received a major award from the Wake Forest School of Law in 2016 with the naming of the pro bono summer stipend in her honor, and she received the William & Mary Law School Association’s 2018 Citizen Lawyer Award, its highest recognition, given annually to a law graduate who has made a lifetime commitment to citizenship and leadership.
Hopkins, who was the school’s first Black homecoming queen and among the first Black females living in the campus residence halls, earned her bachelor’s degree in East Asian History in 1973 from Wake Forest and a jurisprudence degree from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law in 1978.
At Wake Forest, Hopkins served in the legal department including counsel. She also worked in positions in the Department of History, American Ethnic Studies and Professor of Practice in the Department of History and in the School of Law. During this period, she also took on the role of Director of Outreach in the School of Law. Hopkins was instrumental in developing courses and initiating and overseeing the Pro Bono and Public Initiative Programs within the School of Law.