Ten Leaders to be Honored At Willamette University

On Wednesday, Feb. 20, in the Mary Stuart Rogers Music Center at Willamette University, the Black Student Organization will celebrate Black History Month with the 2nd Annual "Honoring Our Oregon African-American Living Legends" Program. In addition to music, dance, poetry and dramatic readings, the highlight of the evening is the recognition of 10 African-Americans from Oregon who have made significant contributions to the community in the areas of leadership, service and professionalism.

This year's honorees are:

  • Darryl Thomas, Associate Professor of Dance and Choreography, Western Oregon University;
  • Kay Toran, CEO- Volunteers in Service to America, Portland; The Honorable Roosevelt Robinson, Circuit Court Judge, Multnomah County;
  • Lanita Duke, Radio Commentator/Community Activist, Portland; Tony Hobson, Founder-Self Enhancement Inc. and Willamette University Alumnus, Portland;
  • Bobby Green, Lane County Commissioner, Eugene; Mrs. Willie Richardson, Business Owner and Community Volunteer, Salem;
  • Baruti Artharee, Chair- Portland Urban League; Dr. Ethel Simmons-McWilliams, Retired NW Education Regional Administrator;
  • Dr. Larry Roper, Vice Provost, Oregon State University, Corvallis

This event is free and open to the public. For more information, please call 503-370-6294 or 503-370-5453.

Darryl Thomas is co-artistic director and choreographer for Rainbow Dance Theatre, founded in Hawaii in 1991. Blending West African dance, Haitian dance, hip-hop and American modern dance, the Rainbow Dance Theatre is described as "a high-powered, pull-out-the stops celebration of drumming and dance."

Thomas, an Emmy Award winner who has performed and choreographed all over the world, is a former dancer and artistic collaborator of the Pilobolus Dance Theatre. At Western Oregon University, he teaches West African dance.

Kay Dean Toran became president and CEO of Volunteers of America in Oregon after closing out a 30-year career in Oregon state government. For five years she served as director for the State Office for Services to Children and Families. She also served as assistant to Oregon Governor Victor Atiyeh.

Roosevelt Robinson was appointed to the District Court Bench in 1990 and was later elected to that position. In 1995 he was appointed to the Circuit Court Bench. He is a founding member of the Association of Oregon Black Lawyers and co-founder of the Minority Law Student's Association at Northwestern School of Law.

Lanita Duke has been a family service coordinator and case manager with the North Portland Youth and Family Center since 1991. She is widely recognized for her work with young women in the areas of continuing education, parenting and living skills, mediation and housing. From 1988-1995, she served Portland Public Schools as a youth gang intervention specialist.

Tony Hobson is recognized for his work as founder of Self Enhancement Inc., a program that offers educational, employment and diverse services to more than 1,200 students per year. Self Enhancement employs 94 people, most of whom live in Northeast Portland. Recognized for his outstanding record in community service, Hobson has been honored by numerous organizations including the State of Oregon, the Urban League of Portland and the Black United Fund.

Bobby Green, Lane County Commissioner, has been in public service since 1989. His community service record includes work with the Eugene-Springfield NAACP, Boys and Girls Club and Bethel Temple Faith Ministries. His committee work covers such broad topics as the Oregon Commission on Children and Families, Human Services Commission, Juvenile Crime Prevention and Fair Housing.

Mrs. Willie Richardson, a state employee for 14 years, was elected to the Salem-Keizer School Board in 1987, becoming the first African American to hold that position. She served on the board for four years. She has served on the Salem Human Rights Commission, Mid-Willamette Valley Senior Services Advisory Council, CCTV Board of Directors, Santiam Girl Scouts Board of Directors, the YWCA Board of Directors and six additional boards focused on education and community service.

Baruti Artharee, chair of the Portland Urban League, is deputy executive director for the Portland Development Commission. Before joining PDC, he served as director of the Oregon Housing and Community Services Department, appointed first by Governor Barbara Roberts and re-appointed by Governor John Kitzhaber. He has been recognized for his community service by Volunteers in Service to America, the National Association of Minority Contractors, World Arts Foundation and the Northwest Business Association.

Dr. Ethel Simon-McWilliams began her career with the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory in 1979 as director of the Alaska Telecommunications Program. In 2001, she retired as the Executive Director and CEO. Her volunteer service includes Linfield College, St. Vincent Medical Foundation, Oregon Community Foundation, The Catlin Gable School and Sisters of Providence, Seattle.

Since 1995 Larry Roper has served as vice provost for student affairs and professor of ethnic studies at Oregon State University. Among his achievements are the Beaver Champion Award for exemplary leadership at OSU, the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Maryland, Outstanding Service Award from the Benton County-Oregon United Way, the Chancellor's Minority Achievement Award from the University of Maryland, the OSU Ethics Achievement Award and the OSU Frances Dancy Hooks Diversity Coalition Builder Award.