By Michael Tullier, Tuskegee University
Met with cheers from dozens of Tuskegee University alumni clad in crimson and gold, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors declared Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019, as “Dr. Lily D. McNair and Tuskegee University Day.”
The Board of Supervisors presented McNair with a scroll commemorating her day of honor at its regularly scheduled meeting at the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration in Downtown Los Angeles. The document and specially proclaimed day celebrated the university’s impact on its students and the nation. It also marked McNair’s milestone as the first female president in the university’s 138-year history.
Supervisor Janice Hahn, who chairs of the five-person Board of Supervisors, commended McNair for her leadership and her focus on providing Tuskegee students — specifically those from California — with a quality education.
“Los Angeles is home to thousands of Tuskegee University alumni, and apparently the graduating class of 2019 was dominated by students from Los Angeles,” Hahn said.
Along an honorific scroll, Hahn presented McNair with a letter penned and signed by Tuskegee’s founding president, Booker T. Washington, on Oct. 17, 1910. Hahn’s father Kenneth, who served as a county supervisor for 40 years and is the namesake of the county’s governmental headquarters, acquired the letter, which he framed and hung in his office during his tenure with the county.
Fellow county supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas joined Hahn in touting the university’s noteworthy achievements — the nation’s only center for bioethics in health care and research of its kind included among those. He also mentioned the acclaimed Tuskegee Airmen of World War II and noted the Board of Supervisors recently celebrated some of the nation’s longest-living Tuskegee Airmen who resided in Los Angeles.
“Such an esteemed institution deserves an esteemed educator and leader at the helm. Thank you for that which you have done and that which you will do in the future for this great university and beyond,” Ridley-Thomas told McNair.
“I build on the legacy of Booker T. Washington, who said that ‘excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way.’ We can thank Dr. Washington and Dr. George Washington Carver for their efforts and vision,” McNair stated after accepting the Board of Supervisors’ commendations. “We are destined to become even better than Booker T. Washington imagined we could be more than 100 years ago.”
That vision, she noted, translates into excellence across many academic disciplines, including aerospace engineering and aviation education, veterinary medicine, architecture and agriculture — professional practice areas where the university is continually cited as being a top producer of minority graduates. She also highlighted areas such as food sustainability and bioenergy where the university seeks to expand its scope of influence.
The historically black university enjoys strong student representation from California. With 10% of its student body hailing from the “Golden State,” California ranks third behind Alabama and Georgia in terms of where its nearly 3,000 students reside. Likewise, 10% of the 642 graduates who comprised the class of 2019 had ties to the state.
California also is home to two chapters of its Tuskegee National Alumni Association Inc.: the Los Angeles Tuskegee Alumni Club and the Bay Area Tuskegee Alumni Club. Both are vital to the university’s alumni relations and student recruitment efforts in their local communities and throughout the state. In addition, some of these local club members serve the association in key district and national positions of responsibility.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is the governing body of the County of Los Angeles, which encompasses 88 incorporated cities and 4,084 square miles. Serving more than 10.1 million residents, the board, comprised of five members elected to serve their respective districts, is the largest local government in the nation.
This article originally appeared in The Los Angeles Sentinel.