During the holiday season, it’s important to give thanks to the local heroes who are making a positive impact on the Austin community. Earlier this week, the DDCE and the President’s Office shined a spotlight on an iconic group of trailblazers who paved the way for past, present and future African American Longhorns: The Precursors, the first group of Black undergraduates to integrate the Forty Acres.
They were honored at the Community Leadership Awards celebration at the Carver Museum, an annual event that salutes the men and women who are making Central Texas a better place.
With festive drinks in hand—the most popular being a signature cocktail aptly named “The Precursor”—gatherers applauded this year’s awardees, which included three organizations and four beloved members of The Precursors.
“Throughout the history of the Carver Community Leadership Awards, our awardees—more than 50 in all—represent the best in public service and generosity,” said Dr. Gregory J. Vincent, vice president of diversity and community engagement.
The Carver event tops off a year-round celebration of The Precursors’ 60-year milestone. A big highlight was the university-wide 60th anniversary event, hosted by the DDCE and the President’s Office last September.
“I’ve said it before and it’s just as true now,” Vincent said. “In my opinion, that event was one of the top five events of the history of The University of Texas at Austin. That celebration continues tonight as we praise the impact of The Precursors on the fabric of the university.”
UT President Gregory L. Fenves praised The Precursors for bringing progress to UT and for reminding university leaders to continue their momentum.
“When the Precursors crossed the campus boundaries, their challenges were arduous,” Fenves said. “But they remained undeterred. They broke down barriers to pursue their dreams and laid the groundwork for many of you, and the many generations that will follow in their footsteps.”
Precursors Inc. President Cloteal Haynes gave a heartfelt speech, thanking Vincent, Fenves, Texas Athletics and Chancellor William H. McRaven for their exuberance in honoring The Precursors and making 2016 a momentous year.
Though the university has progressed by leaps and bounds since the early days of integration, she gave the crowd a sobering reminder.
“We have important work to do,” she said. “It doesn’t end tonight. It’s important to work together to improve diversity and keep it going. We’ve got a great president, a great diversity department and director. We will be here as long as we can to partner with you to continue to make good things happen.”
And of course, no UT event would be complete without a chorus of “The Eyes of Texas.” Led by the Texas Blazers, the crowd raised their horns in tribute to the remarkable group of Black alumni who left an indelible mark on their alma mater.