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UWA welcomes Howard back to campus for Black History Month event

Liza Speaks Feb 15 at UWA


University's first Black student paved the way for others

Story: Phillip Tutor

As the University of West Alabama celebrates Black History Month with several events in February, it also will welcome home one of its most influential and historical figures.

Liza James Howard became the school’s first Black student in the fall of 1966 when she enrolled at then-Livingston State College. She earned two degrees in elementary education, a bachelor’s and a master’s, which led to a lengthy teaching career at Livingston Junior High School. 

On Feb. 15, Howard will return for what Dr. B.J. Kimbrough, UWA’s chief diversity officer and dean of the School of Graduate Studies, calls an “intimate” event in Bridges Auditorium at Wallace Hall during which Howard will discuss her legacy at the university.

The event, which is open to the public, begins at 6 p.m. Dr. Mary Hanks, chair of the Division of Nursing, will lead the conversation with Howard.

“I want her to talk about her experience at UWA, her connection to UWA now and why she's still engaged,” Kimbrough said. “I want to try to motivate future alumni to get engaged, as well.” 

UWA has previously honored Howard’s importance to its history in myriad ways. In 2004, she was inducted to UWA’s Society of the Golden Key, the highest award given to a graduate or faculty member. One of the UWA National Alumni Association chapters carries her name, as does that chapter’s scholarship award that’s open to all incoming freshmen from the West Alabama region. The university dedicated the Liza James Howard Courtyard on the east side of the Math and Science Building in 2011 in her honor.

Following her retirement from teaching, Howard worked as regional vice president of Primerica Financial Services. She also served on the Sumter County Head Start Policy Board, the York City Council and the Sumter County Industrial Development Board.

UWA has two other marquee events planned for Black History Month.

On Feb. 7, UWA’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Office of Student Activities are co-sponsoring a one-day bus excursion to Selma, where students will visit the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute and visit one of the civil rights movement’s iconic locations, the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The cost for students is $10.

On Feb. 21, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion will host "A Blast from the Past," a performance of acting, singing and poetry reading that Kimbrough describes as a “chronology of historical moments through the years.” That event’s guest speaker is Alabama State Sen. Robert Stewart, of Selma, who represents District 23. The event begins at 6 p.m.