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ADA – Cheryl Brown Henderson, founder of the Brown Foundation and daughter of the man who led the fight for racial equality in the public school system, will deliver East Central University’s Louise Young Diversity Lecture at 6 p.m. Thursday, February 20, in the Ataloa Theatre of the Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center.

ECU’s Black Alumni Association is co-sponsoring the event with Louise Young. The event, scheduled to coincide with Black History Month, is free and open to the public.

Henderson is one of the three daughters of the late Rev. Oliver L. Brown, who in the fall of 1950 – along with 12 other parents in Topeka, Kansas, led by attorneys for the NAACP – filed suit on behalf of their children against the local Board of Education. Their case joined with cases from Delaware, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C. on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. On May 17, 1954, came the landmark decision known as Brown v. Board of Education.

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was a landmark case in which the U.S. Supreme Court Justices ruled unanimously that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional. The case became one of the cornerstones of the Civil Rights movement and helped establish the precedent that “separate-but-equal” education and other services were not, in fact, equal at all. Brown passed away in 1961 before he could see the impact of the decision.

Cheryl Brown Henderson is the founding president of the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research, and owner of Brown & Associates, an educational consulting firm. She has an extensive background in education, business and civic leadership, having served on and chaired various local, state and national boards. She has two decades of experience in political advocacy, public policy implementation and federal legislative development.

Her education includes a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education, minor in Mathematics from Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas; a Master’s Degree in Guidance and Counseling from Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas; an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Washburn University; and an Honorary Doctorate of Education from the University of South Florida.

In 1988, Henderson founded the Brown Foundation. Since its establishment, the Foundation has provided scholarships to more than 100 minority students, presented awards to local, state and national leaders, established libraries for children in low-income communities, developed curriculum on Brown for educators across the country, created traveling exhibits and a website on Brown, and sponsored programs on diversity and educational issues for thousands of people.

In 1990, under Henderson’s leadership, the Foundation successfully worked with Congress to establish the Brown v. Board of Education National Park in Topeka, which opened in May 2004. In 2001, under her leadership, the Foundation successfully worked with Congress again to establish the Brown v. Board of Education 50th Anniversary Presidential Commission, which served to provide a federal presence in the 2004 anniversary of the Brown decision. She has been invited to the White House on seven occasions and her writings have been published in many prestigious publications.

The Diversity Lecture is sponsored by Louise Young, a graduate of Ada High School and East Central University (B.A. in Geography, 1969). Young earned her master’s degree and doctorate from the University of Colorado. From 1971 to 1974, Young was an instructor of Geography at ECU. In 2008, she established an endowed lectureship within the ECU Foundation with the goal of presenting an annual free lecture for students, faculty and community members on various aspects of diversity.

Young retired as senior software engineer with Raytheon Company, where she worked for 34 years. In addition to her software engineering career, she has received numerous awards for her work in diversity, both inside and outside of corporate America, especially with regard to equal treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. In 2003, she received the prestigious Raytheon Diversity Heroes Award from Raytheon CEO Bill Swanson.

The ECU Black Alumni Association, which is co-sponsoring and organizing this year’s lecture, formed in 2018 to meet the needs of the increasing African American presence on campus and to give back to the University. Its mission is to aid and support ECU in its endeavors to provide a thriving network to connect, advocate and empower current and future black alumni, students, faculty, staff and community members.


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