‘A Love Story in the Key of G’

Georgetown's African-American Community Celebrates the Annual Healy Dinner

By Chelsea Burwell

More than 200 alumni, students, faculty, and friends of the university came together to honor and celebrate the achievements of Georgetown's African-American community at the 2018 Patrick Healy Dinner.

Hosted by the Georgetown University African-American Advisory Board (GUAAAB), the annual event highlights the service and accomplishments of the university's students, alumni, and for the first time this year, faculty.

Attendees celebrate honorees at the Patrick Healy Dinner
Attendees celebrate honorees at the Patrick Healy Dinner. This year's award recipients included Taurjhai Purdie (C'20), Terri Carmichael Jackson (C'89, L'92), and Gwendolyn Mikell, Ph.D.

Mannone Butler (B'94,L'99), vice chair of the GUAAAB and chair of the Patrick Healy Dinner, described the excitement and importance of the annual event.

"I always enjoy celebrating the brilliance and excellence of the honorees. It's been a privilege to work with our board and the university."

2018 Patrick Healy Scholarship Awarded to Taurjhai Purdie (C'20)

Though a sophomore, Patrick Healy Scholarship recipient Taurjhai Purdie has achieved much during her time on the Hilltop, including studying abroad in an experiential learning trip to Jakarta, Indonesia, visiting Georgia as a Congressional campaign volunteer, and speaking to survivors of Bloody Sunday during a trip to Selma, Alabama. The Baltimore native, who is double majoring in government and African-American studies with a minor in Spanish, recounted the moment when she learned that she had received the Healy Scholarship.

"When I learned that I had received the scholarship, I immediately shared the news with my mother," Purdie recalled. "My accomplishments and successes are not simply a reflection of my knowledge, my work ethic or my dedication; they're a reflection of the sacrifices that my mother has made and continues to make for me."

2018 Patrick Healy Scholarship recipient Taurjhai Purdie
2018 Patrick Healy Scholarship recipient Taurjhai Purdie (C'20) delivers her acceptance speech at the 2018 Patrick Healy Dinner.

The Patrick Healy Scholarship, which gained endowment in 2004, promotes diversity at Georgetown by providing financial assistance to minority undergraduates based on need. The fund is supported by individual gifts and funds raised during the annual Patrick Healy Dinner.

"To be uplifted and celebrated by a community of individuals who take pride in my success is empowering," Purdie shared. "Community ensures that in a world and in a society that refuses to recognize the worth of African-Americans and continues to question our accomplishments, we remember that we are more than capable of realizing our potential."

Social justice, civil rights, and juvenile justice sit at the heart of Purdie's personal and academic interests. She is active on campus and throughout the larger community as a mentor in the Prisons and Justice Initiative Program, secretary for the Minority Pre-Law Association, outreach chair for Georgetown University Women of Color, and chair of the Know Your Rights Committee for the Georgetown University American Civil Liberties Union.

In the spirit of service for others, Purdie has plans to help the Georgetown community and community-at-large. She hopes to create a program like the Prisons and Justice Initiative Program in her home city of Baltimore. Following graduation, Purdie has set her sights on attending law school to become a civil rights attorney serving low-income communities and people of color.

Inaugural Distinguished Leader Award Presented to Gwendolyn Mikell, Ph.D.

Gwendolyn Mikell receives the inaugural Distinguished Leader Award
Professor of anthropology and foreign service Gwendolyn Mikell receives the inaugural Distinguished Leader Award at the 2018 Patrick Healy Dinner. Having taught at the university for more than 40 years, Mikell said, "I consider myself fortunate to have grown up professionally here on Georgetown's campus."

This year, the GUAAAB recognized Gwendolyn Mikell, longtime professor of anthropology and foreign service, to receive the inaugural Distinguished Leader Award. The newly established award honors the achievements of a university administrator, faculty, or staff member; and highlights his/her commitment to the experiences of Georgetown University's African-American community.

With more than 40 years of scholarship here at Georgetown, Mikell has undoubtedly watched the Hilltop evolve. As one of the most esteemed professors on the Hilltop, she led in the transformation of several departments, including the Department of Anthropology, the School of Foreign Service, the African Studies program, and the creation of the new Department of African-American Studies.

With many of her former students in the crowd, Mikell continued, "I consider myself fortunate to have been able to teach you about race relations, Africa, African-American culture, anthropology, foreign affairs; it was an absolute delight to have those conversations with you."

Mikell has served as an instrumental beacon of scholarship and leadership for the African-American community at Georgetown since her arrival in 1976. In 1985, she became the first African-American professor to receive tenure at Georgetown.

"Yes, it was a lonely existence when I first came," Mikell admitted. "But, look at where we are now."

In 1982, her dedication to improving academia and commitment to students who were advocates for racial justice—including former student and current University President John J. DeGioia—made her the perfect choice to be one of the leading developers of the African Studies program in the School of Foreign Service. In 2016, Mikell was appointed to serve as co-chair of the Racial Justice Working Group, a product of Georgetown's commitment to resolving racial injustice through scholarship, research, and community engagement.

In her efforts to promote a broad, inclusive experience for African-Americans at Georgetown, Mikell said she is ever inspired by the students, alumni, administrators, and faculty she has met along the way.

"Your actions have always been on the side of justice—whether it was pushing the university to divest from apartheid South Africa in 1986, rallying for a living wage for Georgetown's workers, coordinating with the university to provide support for the Dreamers and the undocumented among us, or digging out those historical facts that led to the Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation projects and these ancestors coming forward to be celebrated."

Terri Carmichael Jackson (C'89, L'92) receives the Samuel A. Halsey Jr. Award

"When I think of Georgetown, what comes to mind is a saying that we had, and that is 'we bleed blue and gray.' To me, that means honoring the words 'commitment' and 'service to others,'" expressed Terri Carmichael Jackson, 2018 recipient of the Samuel A. Halsey Jr. award and director of operations for the Women's National Basketball Players Association.

The Samuel A. Halsey Jr. Award, which is named after the Hilltop's first African-American undergraduate alumnus, was established in 2002 and highlights the contributions of a member of the Georgetown University African-American alumni community.

Terri Carmichael Jackson stands with President John J. DeGioia as she receives the Samuel A. Halsey Jr. Award
Director of Operations for the Women's National Basketball Players Association Terri Carmichael Jackson (C'89, L'92) stands with President John J. DeGioia as she receives the Samuel A. Halsey Jr. Award at the 2018 Patrick Healy Dinner.

During Jackson's acceptance speech, she reminisced about her love for Georgetown as a high school student and retraced moments of Hilltop experience, such as spending late nights studying in Lauinger Library, covening with colleagues in The Black House, and meeting the love of her life and fellow alumnus, Jaren Jackson (B'89).

"My story is a love story in the key of G. It begins with a poster of the Hoyas of the '80s and a bumper sticker tacked to my bedroom door with college guides and rankings that convinced me that the only place to study government and be a lawyer in Washington, D.C. was this Hilltop," she described.

A double Hoya, Jackson, who graduated from the College in 1989 and Law Center in 1992, has exemplified her service to the larger community as an adjunct professor, former member and chair of the GUAAAB, practitioner of law, and operative leader for the first labor union for professional women athletes. She described the significance of receiving the Halsey Award.

"As a former member and chair of the board, I know what it feels like to think about people and review their accomplishments and consider them for these awards. To be on the other side and receive this honor is huge. I've received other awards, but this award is really something special."

Committed to being Hoyas through and through, Jackson emphasized both her and her husband's love for Georgetown in saying, "When students call on us, when faculty call on us—we will be there."