On April 8, five influential employees or exceptional alumni of the University of Toledo were inducted into the Inclusive Wall of Honor, displayed in University Hall and the student union buildings. The quintet were the inaugural recipients of this honor, celebrated virtually with displays in two locations. University and public health graduate student Kyndra Gaines created the concept on behalf of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to provide more representation on campus, as well as give current students hope and encouragement.
The 2021 Inaugural Inductees include:
Helen Cooks, PhD founded the instrumental scholarship program called EXCEL (1983), striving to provide underrepresented students with tools for success in college through pre-college academic programs, cultural awareness of diversity and civic involvement. These programs are designed to positively influence each student’s self-esteem and also involve parents, retreat weekends, campus visits and giving students advice on everything from college admissions to financial aid. The scholarship requires recipients to maintain a “B” average in a curriculum including studies in Ethnic America, The Civil Rights Movement, Global Cities and the Aging Process, all with the Partnership for Educational Awareness and Cultural Exchange (the PEACE Project).
Cooks also started the Conference for Aspiring Minority Youth at University of Toledo where she continues teaching in the College of Education.
Margarita De Leon, M.A., MBA was nominated for her work as founder of the Latino Fest, Bravo Magazine, and IMAGE of Northwest Ohio— an organization for Latino advocacy in Toledo. De Leon also founded the Diamante Awards which raises money for local schools and organizations while honoring Latino citizens. The Awards have raised over $1 million since their inception in 1989. Among the schools benefiting from the Awards are Bowling Green State University, Lourdes University, UT, and Owens Community College.
De Leon is a graduate of the College of Business and also holds a master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Toledo.
Deb Flores is the executive director of Zepf Center located in downtown Toledo serving children and adults in services focused on behavioral health, mental health, substance abuse, gambling addiction, career development, and recovery housing. After graduating with her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Toledo, Flores took an administrative role at the University before becoming the executive director at Lucas County Jobs and Family Services.
As executive director of Zepf Center, Flores manages 400 employees and a $45 million budget.
Anthony Quinn, PhD was nominated posthumously for his tremendous impact on and active recruitment of students pursuing degrees in science, as well as for his own work as a research immunologist and associate professor. Quinn’s studies explored the connections between diabetes and immunization in the field of immunology and microbiology. He was nominated by his colleague Benjamin Davis, JD who said, “He was soft-spoken, humane, and insistent. His time on earth was cut cruelly short.”
Quinn left a legacy including a namesake program that the University created after his death in 2018. The Tony Quinn We Are STEMM Initiative— designed to bring underrepresented high-profile minority students to the university— is intended to inspire students of color to engage in the fields of science, technology, mathematics, engineering and medicine.The initiative also honors Quinn’s research and advancement in the Department of Biological Sciences.
Belinda Quinn, his widow, accepted the honor on his behalf. “UT wasn’t only his job, it was his passion. He was truly an amazing, gifted man,” she said.
Susan Telljohann was nominated for her impact and support of the LGBTQA community at University of Toledo. After graduating with a doctorate degree with a focus on school and health education from University of Indiana, she joined the faculty at UT in 1987 and was recipient of the Outstanding Teacher Award in 1993.
Telljohann has become more outspoken on issues of LGBTQA rights over the years, backed by her colleagues and peers at the university. This led her to become the role model she is today to LGBTQA students, faculty and staff at UT.
Due to the safety precautions, the inaugural UT Inclusive Wall of Honor event was held virtually. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion plans an in-person event for next year’s nominees.
The Wall of Honor can be found on the 3rd floor of University Hall, at 2925 Bancroft St., outside the office, or in the UT Student Union at 2965 W. Centennial Dr.