The University of Chicago is honoring six members of the UChicago community as recipients of this year’s Diversity Leadership Awards, which recognize University faculty, students, staff and alumni who have shown a commitment to fostering justice and equality.
The 2023 winners are Prof. Monica E. Peek, alumni Bea Young, AB’60, MAT’64, and Rick Palmore, JD’77, staff member Tracye A. Matthews, graduate student Lizeth Tamayo and College student Tyler Okeke. They will be recognized during UChicago’s Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Celebration on Jan. 23 at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. (Learn more about that event here.)
“Diversity is central to the University of Chicago’s mission of discovery and is a core value that we continuously seek to advance,” said Waldo E. Johnson Jr., vice provost of the University. “It is an honor to recognize these members of our academic community whose creativity has generated pathbreaking scholarship, fueled innovation, and promoted inclusive engagement within our campus community and beyond.”
Faculty recipient: Monica E. Peek
Monica E. Peek is the Ellen H. Block Professor of Health Justice, associate vice-chair for research faculty development in the Department of Medicine, executive medical director of community health innovations, associate director of the Chicago Center for Diabetes Translation Research, and director of research/associate director of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics. She is a renowned health services researcher, bioethicist and internist focused on health equity.
Her research concentrates on promoting equitable doctor-patient relationships among racial minorities, integrating medical and social needs and of patients, and addressing the impact of structural racism on health outcomes. She has published extensively on social determinants of health, health disparities and health care education.
Peek has served on the National Advisory Council of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, National Executive Council of the American Diabetes Association, National Council of the Society of General Internal Medicine, and International Board of Directors for Physicians for Human Rights. She was a planning committee member of the National Academies’ workshop series on Evolving Crisis Standards of Care and Lessons from COVID-19. Additionally, she helped develop COVID-19 Crisis Standards of Care for the state of Illinois and was a member of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Racial Equity Rapid Response team. She is a consultant to CME Outfitters, where she leads a nationwide initiative designed to provide health equity education to clinicians.
Peek received her MD from Johns Hopkins University, received her MPH from Johns Hopkins University and earned her MSc from the University of Chicago. In 2022, Peek was elected to National Academy of Medicine, which is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine.
Alumni recipients: Bea Young, AB’60, MAT’64, and Rick Palmore, JD’77
Bea Young’s career has spanned more than 60 years, addressing racial disparities in both educational and corporate organizations.
She began her career as a U.S. history high school teacher and co-founded, in 1960, The Amistad Society, an organization devoted to introducing Black History to teachers and community members. She later taught a Black History graduate course at the Center for Inner City Studies. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee invited Young to co-develop and implement part of the 1964 Mississippi Summer Freedom Schools curriculum. Young was asked to create the Illinois Commission on Human Relations’ first Educational Services Department, responsible for integrating Illinois Public Schools. She was later appointed as the Commission’s Executive Director. Young went on to join Harbridge House, Inc., an international management consulting firm, establishing the firm’s Managing Diversity Practice.
She became one of the earliest pioneers in the diversity and inclusion industry. Her organizational development approach to cultural change impacted scores of Fortune 500 companies. Twenty years later, Young formed the Kaleidoscope Group, an entrepreneurial firm that today continues as a leader in diversity and inclusion work. Most recently, she created Bea Young Associates, LLC: Collaboration for Educational Equity, which helps identify practices to address systemic racism and advance academic and opportunity achievement. Success in two Illinois school districts was highlighted in Restoring the Soul to Education, which Young co-authored.
Young earned her bachelor of arts and master of arts in teaching at the University of Chicago, where she also completed doctoral coursework in education and organizational development.
Rick Palmore is a nationally recognized advocate for diversity in the legal industry. With nearly 20 years of experience serving as general counsel and as a public company director, he advises public and private corporations on risk management and governance issues across practices and industry sectors.
Palmore currently serves as senior counsel in the Chicago office of Dentons US LLP, the successor firm to Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal. He is also the principal of Palmore Consulting, an executive coaching firm. Previous roles include leadership positions at General Mills, Inc. and Sara Lee Corporation. Palmore also worked as a trial lawyer and served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Illinois.
Palmore is the author of A Call to Action: Diversity in the Legal Profession, which urges general counsel to drive diversity through their own actions and departments and by holding law firms accountable. This initiative grew into the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, a collaboration between general counsel and managing partners that currently includes more than 400 chief legal officers and law firm managing partners. More than 10,000 lawyers have participated in LCLD’s talent development programs. As founding chair emeritus, Palmore serves on the LCLD board of directors and the executive committee. He has been recognized as one of the most influential general counsels in America by the National Law Journal, Inside Counsel magazine, and Corporate Board Member magazine.
Palmore received a bachelor of arts degree in economics from Yale University and a JD from the University of Chicago Law School.
Staff recipient: Tracye A. Matthews
Tracye A. Matthews is a historian, curator, and documentary filmmaker working within and between the realms of academia, public history, museums, and documentary film. Most recently, she produced the Academy Award-shortlisted documentary short ’63 Boycott with Kartemquin Films. She is currently executive director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, where she began her UChicago career as a Mellon Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow.
For the past 18 years, Matthews has played a pivotal leadership role in promoting engaged scholarship and advocacy around race and anti-racism at CSRPC and across the University. She has established and sustained numerous partnerships, positioning CSRPC as a key connector of University and South Side communities and worked tirelessly to offer innovative public programming and launch a wide variety of new initiatives. She co-created CSRPC’s decade old Artist-in-Residence Program with Arts + Public Life, was the lead organizer of the Timuel Black at 100 Symposium and was instrumental in developing the Mass Incarceration Working Group, Land Acknowledgement Working Group, Black Scholars Salon, and Nappy Hour, a social networking space for Black staff.
Matthews is co-founder of the Intersectional Black Panther Party History Project, a public programming collective, and a board member of Sisters in Cinema Media Arts Center. Prior to her arrival at UChicago, she was a public historian at the Chicago History Museum and an assistant professor in Africana studies at the University of Massachusetts-Boston.
Matthews received her Ph.D. in history and bachelor of arts degree in psychology from the University of Michigan.
Student recipients: Lizeth Tamayo and Tyler Okeke
Lizeth Tamayo is a Ph.D. candidate in genetic epidemiology. Her research broadly focuses on the interplay between genetic and environmental factors and their impact on complex disease risk in low-resource and understudied populations. More specifically, her dissertation project bridges multiple aspects of methodological training related to genome-wide association studies, gene-environment interactions, and the implementation of a public health intervention of returning genetic results.
Tamayo is a member of the Graduate Recruit Initiative Team, a student organization focused on sustainably improving the recruitment and retention of marginalized groups in STEM. Within GRIT, Tamayo helped create an advocacy team focused on international and immigrant students. She also co-authored a proposal to allow students in the Biological Sciences Division to satisfy one of their two Teaching Assistantship requirements through sustained involvement in diversity, equity, and inclusion work. These DEI Assistantships, or “DA-ships” were piloted last year. Tamayo serves on the BSD Diversity Committee and has dedicated significant time and energy to helping students and faculty better understand the experiences of underrepresented and international/immigrant students.
She is also co-founder of the National Association of LSAMP (Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation) Alumni. LSAMP is an NSF-funded program focused on increasing the representation of marginalized groups in science, and NALA allows trainees to remain connected and serve as resources for one another.
Tamayo completed her undergraduate studies in biochemistry and French at Augustana College and her Master of Public Health with a concentration in epidemiology from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Tyler Okeke is a fourth-year student in the College pursuing a joint BA/MA in international relations. He has demonstrated a deep commitment to diversity and inclusion through numerous leadership roles with Undergraduate Student Government and the African and Caribbean Student Association.
Last year, Okeke served as co-president of ACSA and expanded the board’s programming focus on the politics, economics, culture, and movements of the African continent and its diaspora. Through his involvement with USG, he has made lasting contributions to the campus community as a College Council representative, Vice Chair of College Council, Vice President of Advocacy, and most recently, Undergraduate Liaison to the University’s Board of Trustees, meeting regularly with trustees and senior administrators as part of the Student Perspectives Series. Okeke worked to establish the USG Committee on Marginalized Student Affairs, which advocates for the needs of students, maintains relationships with student groups to inform USG policy, and provides support and funding for a variety of student-driven initiatives and events. He also founded and directed the Maroon Match consulting program, connecting student consultants with South Side businesses and nonprofits that have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Okeke was a research intern with the Regional Office for Sub-Saharan Africa at the U.S. Trade & Development Agency and has written extensively about African political economy focused on trade issues, foreign investment, extractive industries and frameworks to equitably address climate change—publishing work in the Gate, the Chicago Journal of Foreign Policy, and Hampton Think.