Black Alumni Honor Those Who Inspire
“In celebration of Black Legacy Month, whom do you honor?”
That is the question posed last month to Tufts alumni in anticipation of Black Legacy Month. Black Legacy Month is the term used by the Africana Center at Tufts beginning this year for what may be referred to in other contexts as Black History Month. A Q&A with the Africana Center staff about Black Legacy Month is available here.
Black alumni of all schools across Tufts were invited to share a personal reflection on a person whom they honor, using video, text, or photography. Those recognized by our alumni ranged from historical figures, academic mentors, family members, and entire communities. Tufts is honored to share their contributions below:
"And I Honor Him Every Day of My Life"
Dr. Donald Wilson, M62, H08, paid tribute to his parents and, in particular, his father: “The people I honor are my dad, Rivers Wilson, and my mom, Licine Wilson. Born in South Carolina, Dad fled the oppression of our nation’s post-Civil War time to move to Massachusetts. He received no formal education beyond the third grade. However, like so many of his hard-working colleagues... he was able through grit and integrity to raise and support a family in a manner that allowed me to attend Harvard College and Tufts Medical School. He asked for and received no special recognition but, similar to his counterparts, he set an example that served to stimulate Black achievement, growth, and integrity. He asked nothing of me except that I succeed and take care of my family. I have done so. And I honor him every day of my life.”
Dr. Wilson is himself recognized at the University of Maryland School of Medicine by the Donald E. Wilson, Dean Emeritus Scholarship, which honors him as the first African American dean at the university and the nation’s first dean of any non-minority medical school. Dr. Wilson is the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and dean emeritus at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and executive director of the Association for Academic Minority Physicians.
A Legacy of Encouraging Education
Vivian Stephens-Hicks, MG06, program manager for the master’s in biomedical sciences at Tufts University School of Medicine, honored her father, Robert L. Stephens. Stephens-Hicks recalls her father’s having brought their family to Boston in 1969 from Georgia in search of a better life and education for his children. Working as a custodian at a Roxbury, Mass., public school (now the Dearborn STEM Academy), Stephens “went to work each day with joy and pride as he worked hard to provide for his wife and three children,” his daughter recalls. Her father’s determination that his children receive a better education than his own inspired Stephens-Hicks to see “attending college… as not just a dream but a reality,” despite the odds their family faced. Her father's efforts ultimately ensured better educational opportunities not only for Stephens-Hicks and her siblings but for their children as well. After her father died in 2019, their family memorialized him with a scholarship for graduates of the Dearborn STEM Academy, extending to students at the school where Stephens’ once worked his legacy of encouraging education.