In a ceremony to celebrate the start of African American History Month, President Harry J. Elam, Jr. was honored alongside five other Black luminaries in the fields of arts and education.
The Feb. 2 ceremony was hosted by Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass; Board of Public Works Commissioner Mike Davis, who chairs the African American History Month Committee; and Our Authors Study Club of Los Angeles. President Elam was inducted into the city’s African American Hall of Fame and received the Outstanding Achievement in Higher Education Award in recognition of his work at Occidental College and Stanford University. Elam accepted these honors alongside his wife, Dr. Michele Elam; his daughter, Claire Patterson; and Occidental trustee emerita Alice Walker Duff ’69 H ’02 and her husband, Joseph Duff ’68, both of whom are members and supporters of Oxy’s Black Alumni Organization.
President Elam told council members that he was deeply honored to be included in the Hall of Fame and expressed his gratitude to the College’s alumni, faculty, students, staff, and trustees.
“Occidental, as you may know, has a long history of and ties to social justice,” he said, noting in particular the legacy of former President John Brooks Slaughter. “Our institution had more than 50% students of color at a time when many of our peers couldn’t or didn’t do so. I’m proud to have been able to continue that legacy by advancing an equity and justice agenda during my term at Occidental.”
Councilmember Monica Rodriguez ’96, who has represented the city’s seventh district since 2017, also lauded Occidental’s legacy of diversity.
“I’m a proud Occidental College alumna and I had the blessing of having the opportunity to attend Occidental under the leadership of John Brooks Slaughter,” Rodriguez said. “Dr. Elam, you were part of a very important time of helping to sustain and resurge diversity on that campus, and I want to thank you for that.”
Elam also addressed the importance of forging unique and mutually beneficial relationships with the city of Los Angeles, one of the pillars of the Occidental Promise.
“We are the only liberal arts college in the city of Los Angeles, so strengthening that relationship—working to find reciprocal, mutual bonds with the city—is what we will continue to do,” he said. “Higher education has always been a lightning rod for social and cultural change, and for challenges. It is so important that we honor Black history and that we have an event like this today.”
Photo, from left to right: Councilmember Heather Hutt, Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, President Elam, and Councilmember Curren D. Price, Jr.