June 19, 2020
When the United States became free in 1776, Black people weren’t freed from slavery at that time. It wasn't until 1863 when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, that slavery was finally abolished. However, it wasn't until June 19, 1865 – Juneteenth – when the news finally reached the last enslaved people living in Galveston, Texas that truly marked the end of slavery in the US. As people across the country gather in observance of Juneteenth to commemorate African American freedom, we join by highlighting several African American alumnae who have made significant contributions to their communities.
Juanita Boozer Bay '52
Juanita Boozer Bay lives in Toronto, Canada, and is the retired acting director, policy section at the Ontario Women’s Directorate, an organization that promotes women’s economic independence and fights against gender-based violence. Bay is considered to be Saint Mary’s first African American alumna, graduating with a bachelor of arts degree. In 2007, Bay returned to campus to lead a roundtable discussion, “African-American Trailblazers in Post-War America,” examining diversity issues. Bay compared experiences with other panelists, and recalled that her experience on campus was difficult at times, “but the education I received here has stayed with me and instilled in me a love of learning. It also taught me about leadership and how one person can make a difference.”
Marguerite Edwards ’53
Marguerite Edwards came to Saint Mary’s from Raleigh, North Carolina. Her story is important not only because of her personal courage, but also because her presence was born of student initiative. Edwards, the second African American alumna of Saint Mary’s College, earned her bachelor of science degree in economics. Edwards was the first recipient of the Martin de Porres Scholarship which was organized at the suggestion of a student in 1949. She was active in the alumnae association and served on the alumnae advisory board from 1987–89. In her professional career, Edwards guided the next generation as a secondary school teacher at Gary Community Schools in Indiana.
Dr. Paula Dawning '71
Paula Dawning is the retired superintendent of Benton Harbor Schools in Benton Harbor, MI. The fifth of 13 children, Dawning said her Christian upbringing made Saint Mary's an easy choice. "My world grew exponentially, and I was changed," she has stated. "My world and my place in it were being formed and my fear of the unknown was being erased." After graduating from Saint Mary’s College, Dawning earned a master's degree from Boston University and an MBA from the University of Michigan. She spent the majority of her professional life with AT&T, working for 23 years in several departments including the international division, and retired as the sales vice president working with mergers and acquisitions. Dawning then became superintendent of schools in Benton Harbor, where she spent the final five years of her professional career. She served on the Saint Mary's Board of Trustees for nine years, three of which as an officer. Dawning was named both Michigan Regional and State Superintendent of the Year. She now lives in Round Rock, Texas.
Stacy Davis Gates '99
Stacy Davis Gates is the current vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union and the executive vice president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. Gates earned a political science degree from Saint Mary’s College, and was active in student government while on campus. A fighter for change in her role at the CTU, she recently helped lead a 15-day strike and to negotiate a contract that provides for smaller class sizes, ensures a nurse and social worker in every Chicago public school, secures sanctuary protections for immigrant families, and supports students and families experiencing homelessness. Gates also challenges policy makers to enact regulations that protect teacher rights. In 2017, Gates was elected Chair of United Working Families, an independent political organization by and for working-class people and their movements. She lives on the South Side of Chicago with her husband and three children.
Kimmi Martin Troy '00
Kimmi Troy was born and raised in the Midwest. A graduate of Saint Mary's College with a bachelor of arts degree in English writing, Troy is a successful entrepreneur, public speaker, and passionate supporter of people who are trying to live a more active life. A certified fitness instructor for over a decade, Troy also writes about wellness and working out on her blog, Always on the Flow. A true servant leader, Troy will always take the time to mentor students at Saint Mary’s; partnering with countless student groups to assist them with their club programs, awareness events or residence hall activities. A dynamic yoga teacher and fitness coach in the broader community, Troy co-owned her own studio for several years, and is always eager to guide new instructors. Her boundless energy and positive attitude are a blessing. Troy and her husband have a son and a daughter.
Kim Hodges Otchere '08
Kim Hodges Otchere is the Director of Inclusion and Talent Development at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A 2008 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in social work, Otchere was the first African American student body president at Saint Mary’s, and founder of the Diverse Students’ Leadership Conference. Otchere went on to earn her master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan, and currently working towards her PhD in human resource development from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. These opportunities led Otchere to a life of public service and to be a champion for social justice, both in her career and in her volunteer efforts. She was the 2017 recipient of the Central Illinois Business "Forty under 40". Those who know her describe her as a change agent — passionate about equity, driven, and a mentor to others so they can be the best version of themselves.
London Lamar' 13
State Representative London Lamar is a member of the Tennessee General Assembly. She was elected in 2018 and currently represents District 91. London Lamar has been interested in politics and people since she was little. She avidly followed her local government elections and in high school she ran for and achieved school government positions. In the 12th grade she decided on law and politics as a future career. As a political science major and sociology minor at Saint Mary’s, London felt at home. Today, she is currently the youngest Tennessee State Representative in office.
Angela McDonald-Fisher '91
Angela McDonald-Fisher is an experienced senior executive who has worked extensively in numerous industries including aerospace, electrical, energy, marine, and automotive. McDonald-Fisher is Aerospace Group Counsel for Eaton Aerospace Group, a $3B global business within Eaton Corporation, a $21.6B diversified power management company and global technology leader, where she currently uses her wealth of experience as a member of the senior leadership team, evaluating and determining corporate strategy, mergers, acquisitions, and joint venture opportunities and other business initiatives. Prior to joining Eaton Corporation, she has held a number of leadership positions at various corporations including assistant general counsel at Cummins Inc., legal counsel and director of contracts at Rolls-Royce North America, and positions of increasing responsibility with Honeywell Corporation and Ingersoll-Rand. She has expertise in international commercial transactions, supply chain management, regulatory compliance, and government contracts. McDonald-Fisher earned her bachelor of arts degree in communications from Saint Mary’s College and her Doctor of Jurisprudence from Indiana University School of Law in Bloomington. She has been a member of the Saint Mary’s College Board of Trustees since 2014, joining the Executive Committee in 2019. A resident of Solon, Ohio, McDonald-Fisher serves as a trustee of the Cleveland Leadership Center and is acting in the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.