Trailblazer Project

Stephanie Tubbs Jones Portrait

CWRU Alum the late Stephanie Tubbs Jones

Lou Stokes Portrait

CWRU Alum the late Congressman Louis Stokes

Trailblazer Project Showcases Contributions of Alumni of Color With Portraits Across Campus

A portraiture initiative aimed at showcasing the contributions of Case Western Reserve University alumni of color and women and diversifying the images that appear in campus common areas was initially unveiled October 7, 2017. The inaugural event honored six distinguished alumni of color who have made history at Case Western Reserve University, in the community and beyond.

The "Trailblazer Project" will bring to campus portraits of alumni of color and women who have made significant contributions in their professions, community and/or to the university.

The initiative will be an ongoing project and portraits commissioned for the project will include, but not be limited to, African Americans, Asian Americans, Latino Americans and American Indians. Portraits will be placed in the Kelvin Smith Library and may be placed in other locations in the future.

Nominations for the Trailblazer Project are solicited each year from the CWRU community. Nominees must be alumni or faculty of CWRU and must have made significant contributions to the university, city, state and/or nation.

Individuals included in phase one of the project included:

  • Judge Sara Harpe­r — She is the first African-American woman to graduate from the CWRU law school. She was also the first African-American woman appointed to the Ohio Supreme Court.
  • Attorney Fred Gray  —  He is a leading civil rights lawyer who represented Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and victims of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment.
  • Architect Robert P. Madison  — He is president of Robert P. Madison International, an architectural and engineering firm. The firm has been involved with major Cleveland projects, including The Convention Center, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Ahuja Medical Office. Madison is a CWRU Trustee Emeritus.
  • Former Surgeon General David Satcher  — He is a national leader in public health. He served as the 16th Surgeon General of the United States and former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones (posthumous)  —  She was the first African-American woman to become a Common Pleas court judge in Ohio and the first African-American women to serve as county prosecutor in the state. In 1998, she became the first African-American women elected to represent Ohio in the House of Representatives.
  • Congressman Louis Stokes (posthumous)  —  He was Ohio’s first African-American congressman. He served 15 terms and was a strong advocate for civil rights and those in need. The university’s biomedical research building was renamed in his honor. Stokes also served as a visiting professor at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Sciences.

Second Annual Trailblazer Project Unveiling Ceremony

Six distinguished Case Western Reserve University alumni of color and former faculty members who are “trailblazers” in their respective fields were honored at an unveiling ceremony of the 2018 Trailblazer Project portraits, during the CWRU Homecoming Weekend. Family members and friends of honorees as well as alumni and members of the CWRU campus community attended the ceremony, which was held on October 13, 2018 in the Thwing Atrium.

The 2018 honorees included:

  • The late Jefferson Jones, DMD — Ohio’s first African American endodontist and former chair of the CWRU Endodontics Department. Jones also founded the CWRU Black Faculty and Staff Organization.
  • Steven Minter, MSSA (SAS ’63, HON ’89) — the first African American to serve as executive director of the Cuyahoga County Welfare Department. He also served as president of The Cleveland Foundation and graduated from the CWRU Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.
  • The late Judge Jean Murrell Capers, JD (EDU ’32) — first African American female elected to the Cleveland City Council (in 1949). She also served as assistant state attorney general and a Cleveland Municipal Court Judge.
  • Sarah Short Austin, MSSA (SAS ’62) — highly regarded urban affairs veteran and nationally recognized public policy leader. She served in senior level positions at the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. Additionally, Austin served on the CWRU Board of Trustees for 33 years and is currently trustee emerita.
  • Joan Southgate, MSSA (SAS ’54) — former social worker and the founder of Restore Cleveland Hope. Southgate founded the educational Underground Railroad project, IN THEIR Path!, which honors all – known and unknown – heroic American enslaved and conductor families. Southgate walked 519 miles through Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and into Canada, retracing the path of escaping slaves.
  • May L. Wykle, PhD, RN, FAAN, FGSA (NRS ’62, MSN’69, GRS ’81) — alumni and former dean and emerita professor of nursing at the CWRU Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. Wykle is a nationally recognized educator and expert in the field of aging. In 2007, the May L. Wykle Professorship became the first endowed chair in the university’s history to be named for an Africa American.

The Trailblazer Project is being sponsored by the Office for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity (OIDEO), Kelvin Smith Library and Division of Student Affairs. In addition, the project is expected to be supported by alumni, donors and external partners.

For more information about the project, contact Regina M. Gonzalez, OIDEO director of diversity & strategic initiatives at