This week I pulled all the bio files of those depicted on the Octagon mural. I created a document of their current employment, hometown, major at Amherst and some interesting facts about each person. Below is the information I have so far. I will continue this research in the upcoming week. I also plan to add their dorms and campus involvement.
Bonnie Jenkins ‘82
Major(s): Black Studies, Psychology
Current Employment: Coordinator of Threat Reduction Program, US Department of State: Bureau of International Security
Bonnie Jenkins was nominated by President Barack Obama to be the Department of State’s Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs in June 2009. She has focused on U.S. coordinated efforts on threat reduction in Africa, and works closely with the World Health Organization, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and the International Criminal Police Organization. She’s led a successful career in politics, serving as General Counsel to the U.S. Commission to Assess the Organization of the Federal Government, a legal advisor to the Office of General Council at the ACDA, and the chair of the IAEA NUclear Security Training and SUpport Center Network.
Lisa Evans ‘85
Major(s): Black Studies; Political Science
Evans worked as a paralegal for the Brooklyn office of the Legal Aid Society for four years before entering Columbia University of Law. During Evans’ time at Columbia, she was involved with various civil rights activities such as working for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. Evans was also named the Charles Evans Hughes Fellow and recipient of the C. Bainbridge Smith Fund. Evans worked as a Pro Se Law Clerk for a bit before getting selected by the Attorney General’s Honors Program of the United States Department of Justice to become a Trial Attorney in the Civil Rights Division. In 1996, Attorney General Reno presented her with a “Special Achievement award in appreciate and recognition of meritorious acts for service performed on behalf of the Department.”
Allison Moore-Lake ‘82
Current Employment: Deputy Director for Westchester Children
Upon graduating from Amherst, Moore-Lake pursued a myriad of public service opportunities both in the United States and abroad. For three years, she served for the Peace Corps in West Africa, working as a Community Development Analyst. Upon coming back to New York City, she worked for numerous nonprofit organizations such as “City Volunteer Corps” and the “National Civic League”, providing support to the urban youth and community development projects. She received her Master of Business Administration degree in Finance and International Business from New York University. After a stint in the finance sector working for Toronto Dominion Bank, Moore-Lake wanted to get back into the nonprofit sector and community-based programming. After doing some consultancy work for nonprofits in New York City, Moore-Lake is now working as a director for Westchester Children.
Margaret Vendryes ‘84
Major(s): Fine Arts
Current Employment: Distinguished Lecturer at CUNY: York College
Vendryes received her M.A. in Art History from Tulane University and her PhD from Princeton University. Her dissertation looked at expressions of race, religion and sexual orientation in the art of America’s most celebrated black sculptor Richmond Barte.
Edward Jones ‘26
Jones is the first acknowledged, “out-in-the-open” Negro to graduate from college in the United States. Jones entered Amherst in 1822, the second year of the college’s existence. He came from Charleston, South Carolina. where his father was a “respectable freedman of that city, and kept a first class hotel on Broad Street next to St. Michael’s Church”. After college, Jones attended Andover Theological Seminary and the African Mission School in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1830 he was ordained a priest of the Episcopal church. Edward Jones died in England in 1864.
William Hastie ‘26
Major(s): Political Science
William Hastie was born on November 17, 1904 in Knoxville, Tennessee. From 1937 until 1939, Hastie served as Federal Judge for the United States District Court for the Virgin Islands. This appointment marked the first time that a black held the position of federal judge: only 74 years after the Emancipation Proclamation and the 154th year of the Republic.
Mercer Cook ‘25
Mercer Book, born in Washington, D.C. in 1903, graduated from Dunbar High School in 1920 and from Amherst, Phi Beta Kappa in the class of 1925. He later became a United States Ambassador, scholar, leading authority on African and French literature, and a professor at Howard University for over forty years.
Cuthbert Tuffy Simpkins ‘69
Cuthbert Simpkins was born on August 20, 1947 in Chicago, Illinois. Simpkins was one of the original officers of the Amherst College Afro-American Society. He is a physician, biographer and inventor, best known for his work on shock and violence prevention and for his 1975 biography of the jazz musician John Coltrane.
Charles Drew ‘26
Charles Drew was born on June 3, 1904 in Washington, D.C. While at Amherst, Drew was captain of the Amherst varsity track team and narrowly missed a spot on the United States Olympic Team. He was an African-American physician who developed ways to process and store blood plasma in “blood banks.” He directed the blood plasma programs of the United States and Great Britain in World War II, but resigned after a ruling that the blood of African-Americans would be segregated. He died on April 1, 1950.
Tara (Fuller) Lamourt ‘80
Current Employment: Teacher/Tutor at St. Benedict’s Prep School through Catapult Learning
When she entered Amherst, she was very naive about the realities of elite college environments. However, she managed to meet challenges head on, in her sophomore year becoming the first black women to be elected to the student assembly. She was also the first black woman to write for The Amherst Student, reporting primarily on racism on campus. In her junior year, she was elected to be the first black woman to serve as an advisor to a dormitory. Although her major was psychology, she also studied acting, becoming the first black woman to have performed in the Weston Theater Playhouse. After graduation, she took up a position as an instructor for autistic children at the Teacher-Therapist Developmental Institute in Chicago. She later graduated with a Master of Arts degree from the University of Chicago in 1983. Finding a passion in education, Ms. Lamourt has taught at a Red Cross Shelter and the Saturday Art Program in New York City’s School of Visual Arts. Recently, she’s been an Art Teacher at the St. Benedict’s Preparatory School, Newark, New Jersey.
Denise Francois ‘80
Major(s): Political Science
After graduating in 1980, Denise deferred going to law school for a year and worked as an investigator tor for the Virgin Islands Department of Human Services. She graduated from the University of San Diego in May of 1984 with the J.D. degree. She is a member of both the State Bar of California and the Virgin Islands Bar Association, becoming president of the latter since January of 1996. As president, she also serves on the Judicial Council of the Virgin Islands. Francois is a member of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America and the American Bar Association.
Sonya Clark ‘89
Major(s): Psychology with concentration in African Studies
As an undergraduate she was interned in social psychology, specifically identity formation. After graduating from Amherst in the Spring of 1980, she found herself in West Africa, at Cote d’Ivorie, where she entered a program at The Parsons School of Design, and studied art, music, religion, and traditional textile designs. SHe enrolled with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and in May of 1993 obtained the B.A. degree in Fine Arts.
In addition this week the BSU E-Board and I cleaned the Octagon closet. We found a ton of old newspapers and images. We spent time just moving all of the documents so this upcoming week I plan to begin to look through all the material in the Octagon. Just from the few things I saw, there is definitely some interesting information in the Octagon files.