Grambling State University will induct 16 new members into its Hall of Fame on Oct. 17. The annual award recognizes alumni who have made significant contributions to the university.The 2009 Hall of Fame inductees are Patricia Cage-Bibbs, Sen. Bettye J. Davis, Lee Fobbs Jr., Thomas L. Harvey, Dr. Willie L. Hill Jr., Fred Irby III, Aaron James, Michael A. Lyons, Fred Marsh, Wayne McConnell, Betty Jean Smith-White, Willie Spears, Dr. Neari Francois Warner, Dr. Leon Whittaker, Allen Williams, and Benjamin Williams.
Biographies of the inductees follow. (Sports-related inductees are profiled on Page 6.)
Sen. Bettye Davis, who graduated from Grambling State University with a B.S. degree in social work, has served Alaska’s communities for many years. She served on the Anchorage School Board for two terms and was president of the Alaska Federation of Business & Professional Women Club. She was elected to State House for three consecutive terms in the 1990s. Sen. Davis served on the Alaska Board of Education from 1998 to 2000.
She is chair for the Alaska State Senate Health, Education & Social Services Committee and the 25th Alaska State Legislature Senate Pro Tempore.
Sen. Davis raised more than $75,000 to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina, hosted a Youth Summit in 2006 to address rising teen violence in Anchorage, and hosted the 2007 Statewide African American Summit bringing more than 2,500 African American and community members together to strengthen communication and support for Alaska’s Black communities.
On a national scale, Sen. Davis serves a treasurer for the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative (NOBEL) Women; she was appointed Presiding Officer to serve on the NCSL Health Committee for 2007-2008. She has served a member of the National Alliance of Black School Educator, and Chair of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, to name a few.
Sen. Davis effectively uses her influence and resources to promote healthy living and proper education for all.
Thomas L. Harvey has a bachelor’s degree in education from Grambling State. In 1972, Harvey received a master’s in educational administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
During the past four decades, he has been a coach, teacher, counselor, and principal, and is presently assistant superintendent of Student and Community Services and the Office of Accountability in the Omaha Public Schools.
Harvey was a member of the first Desegregation Task Force for the Omaha Public Schools. He also established the Office of School Safety. He was instrumental in establishing and monitoring of the African American Achievement Plan that addresses narrowing the achievement gap for children of color. He led a district-wide initiative titled Safe, Secure, and Disciplined Schools to introduce positive behavior supports.
He has worked within the local community and received various awards, including the “Key to the City” presented by Mayor Mike Boyle, the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce Award, the Charles Drew Health Center Community Service Award, the Western Heritage Outstanding African American Award, and the Union Pacific Railroad Black Employees Network Salutes to Black Men Award.
He holds offices in Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and The Benedict Club. He is a board member on local, state and national organizations, including United Way, YMCA and Mid-America Boy Scouts Council.
Dr. Willie Hill is director of the Fine Arts Center at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst and a professor in music education. He received his B.S. degree from GSU and earned M.M. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Colorado-Boulder. Dr. Hill was a professor and assistant dean at the College of Music at the University of Colorado-Boulder for 11 years. He was instrumental music supervisor for four years in the Denver Public Schools.
He has been a freelance performer with numerous music greats. He is past president of the International Association for Jazz Education; a member of the national board of directors for Young Audiences Inc.; and past president of the Colorado Music Educators Association and Pi Kappa Lambda National Music Honor Society. Dr. Hill is listed in the first edition of Who’s Who among Black Americans and Who’s Who among International Musicians.
Fred Irby III is a graduate of Grambling State University and Southern Illinois University (Edwardsville). At Howard University, Irby is the coordinator of instrumental music, trumpet instructor and director of the internationally acclaimed Howard University Jazz Ensemble. He is also principal trumpet of the Kennedy Center Opera House Musical Theater Orchestra and has recorded several films for the History Channel. He can be heard playing principal trumpet on the cast recording of Stephen Sondheim’s BOUNCE.
He is a member of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, the International Association for Jazz Education, the National Association for Music Education, and the American Federation of Musicians. Irby is on the board of directors of the International Women’s Brass Conference and the Washington Jazz Arts Institute.
Fred Marsh graduated with honors from Grambling in 1975 with a B.S. degree in economics. He received his Casualty Claims Law Associate (CCLA) in 1981 and Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) designation in 1983.
He began working for State Farm Insurance in 1978 and has never taken a sick day in his 30 years with the company.
Marsh was named Who’s Who among American Colleges in 1974, was inducted into Pi Gamma Mu National Honor Society for Social Science in 1974, and served as president of the Economics and German clubs at GSU. He has served on the American Heart Association, State Farm County Mutual Insurance of Texas and Southwest Insurance Information Service Boards.
The biography of Wayne McConnell was unavailable at presstime.
Bettye Jean Smith-White graduated from Grambling in 1959. Her education includes a B.S. degree in English and library science, a master’s degree in education from the University of Southern California, and life credentials in elementary/secondary education, pupil services sersonnel and administration.
Her career in education was with the Los Angeles Unified School District, where she worked as an English teacher, special education teacher, gifted coordinator, department chair, secondary school counselor, assistant principal and director of counseling and guidance. Presently she is an instruction supervisor at Loyola Marymount University.
She is a member of many professional organizations, including the Council of Black Administrations and the National Alliance of Black School Educators. She now supports GSU through student scholarships.
Willie Spears is presently senior vice president for Red River Bank. He started his banking career at Hibernia Bank in June of 1972 in Alexandria. He worked his way up through the organization from management trainee to his current executive level management position.
Under his leadership Hibernia received a number of awards and recognition for its community development initiatives that focused on low- and moderate-income individuals, families and disadvantaged businesses.
He holds a B. S.degree in business administration from Grambling and is a graduate of the LSU School of Banking. He is treasurer of the board of directors for the New Orleans Neighborhood Development Collaborative and vice chairman of the board of the Local Initiative Support Corporation,. He is also president of the board of directors of the New Orleans Community Development Fund, a local affordable housing financial intermediary.
Dr. Neari Francois Warner served as acting president of Grambling State University from January 2001 to June 2004, making her the first female to head the institution. During her tenure, she successfully led the university through a much-publicized crisis that had threatened the school’s loss of accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
She also served GSU as provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, acting vice president for Academic Affairs, vice president for Development and University Relations, interim vice president for Student Affairs, and assistant vice president for Academic Affairs. Prior to GSU, she served at Southern University at New Orleans as dean of the Junior Division, director of the Upward Bound Program, coordinator of TRIO Programs, and as associate professor of English.
She graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. in Education. She earned the M.A. degree from Atlanta University and the Ph.D. from Louisiana State University. Listed in several Who’s Who editions, she is a published author and the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, honors and appointments. She is officially retired but serves as visiting professor in the Executive Ph.D. program at Jackson State University.
Dr. Leon Whittaker was a member of the last freshman class that entered Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institute, at Grambling. The name of the college was changed in the spring of 1946. He graduated from Grambling College in 1949 with a major in elementary education. Dr. Whittaker was employed as a teacher in Bossier Parish before being drafted.
He later earned a master’s degree in guidance and counseling from Michigan State University in 1956. He worked at Grambling until 1963, when he left to pursue doctoral studies at Washington State University, where he earned the doctor of education degree in 1966. After returning to GSU, Dr. Whittaker served as director of Career Counseling and Placement, dean of students, vice president of Student Affairs, interim dean of Education, and dean of Graduate Studies. He received a postgraduate certificate in 1973 from Harvard University in educational management. In the summer of 1984, he retired from Grambling State University after 28 years of service. In 1985, he was named Dean of Graduate Studies Emeritus.
He has been published in national and state professional journals. He has been a business owner and consultant. He has also served in many community-based organizations and was on the Grambling Board of Aldermen for four years.
The biography of Allen Williams was unavailable at presstime.