Helen Cooks, nominated and
introduced by David Young, director of UT’s Toledo EXCEL and
Special Projects, was the founder of EXCEL 33 years ago.
Young spoke of Cooks extensive accomplishments at UT and the
community at large. A professor in the College of Education,
Cooks also started the Conference for Aspiring Minority
Youth at the university.
“She was an easy person to
nominate,” said Young. “She had a passion for introducing
EXCEL Students to global experiences.”
Cooks is currently ill and
was unable to accept the honor herself. Her daughter, Hope
Bland, PhD, TPS, Diversity and Inclusion Department,
administrator on Special Assignment, accepted on behalf of
her mother. “She is the quintessence of grace, fortitude,
brilliance … and badass,” said Bland calling EXCEL “a
program designed for students to succeed.”
Margarita De Leon was
nominated by, among others, Aleiah Jones, manager of the
Office of Multicultural Student Success at UT. De Leon, said
Jones, is the founder of Bravo Magazine, Image of Northwest
Ohio, the Diamante Awards and co-founder of Latino Fest.
She earned her
undergraduate degree from UT and her master’s of business
administration there also.
The Diamante Awards, which
started in 1989, honors local citizens and also raises money
for local colleges and organizations. Over one million
dollars for scholarships have been donated to UT, Bowling
Green State University, Lourdes University and Owens
Community College over the years.
“She has been a mentor and
friend to numerous Latinos in the area and has affected the
lives of many,” said Jones of De Leon.
“We are better together,”
said De Leon in acknowledging the honor. “We need to join
hands and partner with other communities.”
Deb Flores, who earned her
bachelors and master’s degrees from UT, is the executive
director of the Zepf Center. She was nominated and
introduced by Michelle Soliz, PhD, the assistant vice
president for UT Student Success and Inclusiveness,
Multicultural Student Success Team.
“She is a trailblazer,
mentor, community leader – she is truly an outstanding
alumna,” said Soliz of the inductee.
Flores, who became an
administrator at UT after earning her degrees there,
eventually went on to lead Lucas County Job and Family
Services. She left her executive director position there to
move to the Zepf Center to manage 400 employees and a $45
Benjamin Davis, JD, a
longtime law professor at UT until his retirement this year,
nominated his friend and colleague Anthony Quinn for the
Inclusive Wall of Honor.
Quinn, a research
immunologist and a UT associate professor, died in 2018.
“He was soft spoken,
humane and insistent,” said Davis of his friend. “His time
on earth was cruelly cut short.”
Quinn’s field of study was
microbiology and immunology exploring connections between
immunity and diabetes. He was also an assistant dean for
diversity and inclusion and was known for encouraging
minority students to pursue their studies in the sciences.
When Quinn died the
university announced that a program he created in 2015 would
be called the “Tony Quinn We Are STEMM Initiative.”
Belinda Quinn, Anthony’s
widow, accepted the honor in his stead.
“He would be proud and
humbled,” said Belinda. “UT was not only a job but his
passion. He was truly an amazing, gifted man.”
Susan Telljohann was
nominated and introduced by Amy Thompson, PhD, senior vice
president for Academic Affairs. Telljohann earned her
doctorate from Indiana University with an emphasis on school
and health education and joined the UT faculty in 1987.
During the course of her 25-year career with UT, Telljohann
won the 1993 UT Outstanding Teacher Award, said Thompson.
Telljohann, said Thompson,
had “an immense impact on those in the LGBTQA community.
“She was ‘out’ during a time when others thought it might be
unsafe to be so.”
When Tellhohann joined UT,
she was, as she said in accepting the honor, ‘closeted.’
However, over time, she found her colleagues to be
supportive which led her to become more outspoken over time
enabling her to offer support to LGBTQA students, faculty
While this year’s
induction event was held virtually, McKether assured the
audience that next year, and in the future, the honorees
will be celebrated with live festivities.