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2016 Evening of Honors Celebrates ‘The First Class: Sixty Years Later’

image of speaker

image of awardsOn Thursday, May 19, the DDCE hosted its annual Evening of Honors, celebrating two remarkable graduating seniors and outstanding alumni who embody the life and legacy of Heman Marion Sweatt, the first African American admitted into the UT Law School.

Themed “The First Class: Sixty Years Later,” this year’s event marked two important milestones, the 30th anniversary of the Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights, and the 60th anniversary of the Precursors—the first group of African Americans to integrate UT Austin. Dressed in black ties and sequined gowns, a large gathering of friends and colleagues came together to pay tribute to the past and present students who have paved the way for future trailblazers.

Here are a few highlights from the event. All photos can be found on our Flickr site.

image of speakerShelton Green, retired KVUE reporter, moderated the program, giving a warm welcome to the presenters and honorees.

image of speakerPastor Jennifer Cumberbatch, of Agape Christian Ministries, delivered the invocation and the closing benediction.

image of speakerUT Austin alumna Joanna Daniels Coatney (B.A. Social Work ’09) began the festivities with the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

image of speakersUT Austin President Gregory L. Fenves and Dr. Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for Diversity and Community Engagement, provided opening remarks, commemorating the legacy of the Precursors, and all those who have followed in their footsteps.

image of speakersLast year’s Student Legacy Award winner Chelsea Jones (far left) introduced the 2016 Student Legacy Awardees: David McDonald (B.S. Applied Learning & Development/B.A African and African Diaspora Studies, ’16) and Christle Nwora (B.A. Humanities ’16).


This year’s Legacy Award was given to The Precursors. Several members participated in a candid panel discussion, reflecting on their experiences at UT Austin during a challenging time of transition more than 40 years ago.

image of speakerUT Austin alumna LaShawn Washington (B.A. Government/UTeach Liberal Arts ’16), paid tribute to the Precursors with a spoken word performance.

image of speakersMembers of the Precursors Board accepted the Legacy Award on behalf of all Precursors.

image of performersThe evening concluded with fellowship and musical entertainment by Soul Tree Collective.

Photography by Thomas Meredith and Shelton Lewis