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UToledo’s Inclusive Wall of Honor Inaugural Inductees

Sojourner’s Truth Staff

The University of Toledo’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion recognized its inaugural class of honorees in the Inclusive Wall of Honor ceremony on Thursday, April 8. The Inclusive Wall of Honor is intended to acknowledge individuals who have made significant contributions as employees or are exceptional alumni, said Willie McKether, PhD, vice president for Diversity and Inclusion and vice provost, as he opened the ceremony.

Five individuals were honored for their accomplishments and their plaques were placed on an Inclusive Wall of Honor both in University Hall and the Student Union. The installation in University Hall is located outside the Office of Diversity and Inclusion on the third floor.

“This wall ensures that students see representation on the campus of people similar to them and serves as a reminder of hope and encouragement during their time at The University of Toledo,” said Kyndra Gaines, a public health graduate student for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Gaines is the individual who conceived of the idea of the Inclusive Wall of Honor and shepherded the concept to conclusion as part of the organizing committee.

Honored this year were Helen Cooks, PhD; Margarita De Leon, M.A, MBA; Deb Flores; Anthony Quinn, PhD and Susan Telljohann, PhD.

Helen Cooks, PhD

Anthony Quinn, PhD

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 million budget.

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 and staff.

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.




Copyright © 2021 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 04/15/21 10:38:10 -0400.

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