African American Alumni Council to Honor Five Noted Pitt Faculty, Administrators

Issue Date: 
October 20, 2008


The University of Pittsburgh African American Alumni Council (AAAC) will honor five Pitt faculty and administrators with the Sankofa Award during the University’s Homecoming 2008 AAAC Fellowship Brunch and Sankofa Awards Presentation, Until We Meet Again, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 26, in the Hilton Hotel’s Duquesne Room, 600 Commonwealth Place, Downtown. The event is part of the University’s Homecoming 2008, held Oct. 23-26.

The Sankofa Award honors members of the University community who have exhibited outstanding educational support and service to students of African descent. Honorees are Toi Derricotte, professor of English in Pitt’s Department of English in the School of Arts and Sciences; Laurence A. Glasco, a professor of history in Pitt’s Department of History in Arts and Sciences; Kathy W. Humphrey, vice provost and dean of students at the University; Sandra Murray, professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology in the University’s School of Medicine; and Betsy Porter, director of Pitt’s Office of Admissions and Financial Aid.

Among the AAAC Sankofa weekend activities is the Apple Seed Project, a community-service initiative in which alumni share their time and talents with students in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 24.

A highlight of the weekend is a by-invitation reception and program Oct. 24 followed by the opening of Free at Last? Slavery in Pittsburgh in the 18th and 19th Centuries, an exhibition at the Senator John Heinz History Center. Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg, Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Robert Hill, and AAAC are hosting the reception (see page 1).

Other AAAC homecoming events are the AAAC membership and board meeting at 9 a.m. Oct. 25 in the Hilton’s Fort Pitt Room and the Sankofa Fete, beginning at

9 p.m. Oct. 25 in the Hilton’s Bridges Room. An Oct. 26 worship service, Rejoice in the Miracle, from 10 to 11 a.m. in the Hilton’s Benedum Room, and the fellowship brunch bring AAAC’s festivities to a close.

The idea for an African American alumni association originated with a small group of Pitt graduates in the early 1980s. This group met in the intervening years and sponsored several events, generating the interest and participation of an increasing number of African American graduates. The increased interest and growth led to the group’s recognition as an affinity group of the Pitt Alumni Association.

The AAAC’s mission is to support African American alumni, students, faculty, staff, and administrators and to strengthen their connection to the University through its many programs and activities. For more details about the AAAC events, visit

Biographical information on the AAAC honorees follows.

Toi Derricotte is a professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh and cofounder of Cave Canem, a workshop/retreat for African American poets.

Derricotte is the author of the memoir The Black Notebooks (W.W. Norton & Company, 1997), which received the Annisfield-Wolf Book Award and the Black Caucus of the American Library Association Award in nonfiction and was nominated for the PEN Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir. It was also a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

Derricotte’s four books of poetry include Tender (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1997), winner of the 1998 Paterson Poetry Prize; Captivity (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989), which received the Columbia Book Award from the Poetry Committee of the Greater Washington, D.C., area; Natural Birth (Crossing Press, 1983, and Firebrand Books, 2000); and The Empress of the Death House (Lotus Press, 1978).

She has received numerous awards, including the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers, Inc.; the Distinguished Alumni/Alumnae Award from New York University Graduate School of Arts and Science; and the Elizabeth Kray Award for Service to Poetry from Poets House, all in 2008; a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation (2006) and the Guggenheim Foundation (2004) and two fellowships in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts (1985 and 1990); and two Pushcart Prizes (1989 and 1998). She is working on a new book of poetry, The Undertaker’s Daughter, and a book of essays, Beginning Dialogues.

Derricotte earned a BA degree in special education at Wayne State University and a master’s degree in English literature and creative writing at New York University.

Laurence A. Glasco, a professor of history, has taught at the University of Pittsburgh since 1969. Glasco has focused his research primarily on race and ethnicity. He has been publishing books and articles on Black Pittsburgh for almost two decades, including Legacy in Bricks and Mortar: African American Landmarks in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, 1995), The W.P.A. History of the Negro in Pittsburgh (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004), “Double Burden: A History of Blacks in Pittsburgh, Pa.” in City at the Point (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989), and “Taking Care of Business: The Black Entrepreneurial Elite in Turn-of-the-Century Pittsburgh” in Pittsburgh History (Winter 1995/96).

Glasco is cowriting a book tentatively titled August Wilson’s Pittsburgh and is writing a biography of the late K. Leroy Irvis (LAW ’54), speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1977 to 1988. In addition, Glasco is involved in an effort to document and annotate the recent acquisition of more than 80,000 photographic images of Black Pittsburgh taken by Teenie Harris, staff photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper.

His research on race, caste, and ethnicity in a world perspective has resulted in several articles, including a comparison of the social thought and racial identity of two Black intellectuals, W.E.B. Du Bois of the United States and Juan Gualberto Gómez of Cuba.

Glasco received his BA degree from Antioch College and his PhD degree from the State University of New York, Buffalo.

Kathy W. Humphrey, vice provost and dean of students at the University of Pittsburgh, plays a pivotal and supportive role in the achievement of the University’s broader educational goals. The University’s RISE: Reaching Inside Your Soul for Excellence mentoring program, which helps students perfect the skills necessary to finish their college degrees, is Humphrey’s brainchild.

Prior to joining the University, Humphrey, who holds a faculty appointment in Pitt’s School of Education, served as vice president for student development at Saint Louis University. To honor her, the school’s International Student Federation created The Kathy W. Humphrey Award for Diversity in 2001. She is a 2008 recipient of the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh’s A Tribute to Women Award.

For more than 20 years, Humphrey has held progressive leadership positions in higher education. She has traveled the country serving as keynote speaker or workshop facilitator for more than 60 universities and organizations for the past 15 years. Among Humphrey’s publications are “Considerations When Working With Under-Represented Students,” a chapter in Educational Programming and Student Learning in College and University Residence Halls (ACUHO-I Central Office, 1999) and Let Your Leadership Speak: How to Hear and Be Heard (Central Plains Books, 2002).

An active volunteer, Humphrey serves on the boards of Crisis Center North, Red Cross Leadership Pittsburgh, and Women’s Ministries at the Macedonia Church of Pittsburgh.

Humphrey earned a BS degree in education at Central Missouri State University, a master’s degree in higher education administration at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and a PhD degree in educational leadership at Saint Louis University.

Sandra Murray is professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine. At the University since 1983, Murray teaches Gross Anatomy for Medical Students and Molecular Mechanism of Endocrine Gland Growth and Differentiation. Numerous students—from the undergraduate through the postdoctoral levels—have participated in Murray’s research efforts. Her current research project, titled “Endocytic Machinery Involved in Gap Junction Plaque Internalization,” is funded by the National Science Foundation.

In addition to teaching at Pitt, Murray has been a visiting professor at the Scripps Research Institute, the Hospital Debrousse in Lyon, France, and the University Center for the Study of Germinal Cells in Siena, Italy. She was partially responsible for developing the first physician’s assistant program in sub-Sahara Africa (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia).

Among her numerous honors are the Howard University Distinguished Scientist Outstanding Achievement Award for Contributions to the Field of Cell Biology, City of Pittsburgh Trailblazer Award, and the American Society of Cell Biology E.E. Just Award.

Murray serves on committees and is a member of several professional and scientific societies, including the Society for In Vitro Biology, the American Physiological Society, the International Society for Preventive Oncology, the Endocrine Society, and the American Society for Cell Biology, where she is on the Minorities Affairs Committee.

Murray received her BS degree in biology from the University of Illinois, a master’s degree in biology from Texas Southern University, and the PhD degree in anatomy from the University of Iowa. She completed postdoctoral training in cellular and molecular endocrinology at the University of California-Riverside.

Betsy A. Porter, director of the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at the University of Pittsburgh, defined and successfully implemented a strategic recruitment and marketing plan titled “Fostering Distinction and Diversity,” which exceeded established enrollment goals.

At Pitt since 1978, Porter joined the University as the senior associate director of admissions and financial aid after having served as associate director of admissions at Duquesne University from 1970 to 1978. She has served on various committees at Pitt, including the Chancellor’s Diversity Task Force and the Chancellor’s Diversity Working Group.

Porter’s honors include a Gold Echo Award for Creativity from the Direct Marketing Association, an Outstanding Young Women of America Award, the National Association of College Admission Counselors (NACAC) Editor’s Award, a Pitt Provost Award for Service Excellence, as well as an NACAC research grant for research on “no-need merit scholarships.” Among her many presentations, Porter was a keynote speaker at an NACAC conference, delivering a talk titled “Ethics in Admissions,” and has published articles in several journals, including “How Do Academically Talented Students Choose a College?” in The Admissions Strategists and “No-Need Scholarships: Practices, Trends, and Attitudes” in The Journal of College Admissions.

Porter received a BA degree in elementary education from the University of Charleston, a Master of Education degree in guidance and counseling from Duquesne University, and a PhD degree in higher education administration from Pitt.