Rep. Karen Bass, the first African-American woman elected speaker of a state assembly in the U.S., was awarded the African American Alumni Association’s Legacy Award on Feb. 11 at the 10 annual AAAA Scholarship Fundraiser and Distinguished Achievement Awards.
"[I respect] the values that are represented in this university and the alumni that have helped students over the years with the tradition of bringing up the next generation," Bass said at the event in Roski Dining Room at Loyola Marymount University. "Even though I didn’t graduate from LMU, I feel like I did."
Bass’ daughter, Emilia Lechuga-Bass, graduated from LMU. "This was exactly where I wanted her to go to college. With the help of the LMU village, it helped raise her into a wonderful adult," Bass said. "It’s very personal to me and it is with deep emotion that I accept this award."
Ralph Smith ’69, executive vice president of The Annie E. Casey Foundation, received the William L. Strickland ’71 Excellence Award. He spoke about how Loyola helped him to learn more about the history of race, the complexity of race and the potential for race. Smith also reflected on how much progress LMU’s African-American community has made.
"We could not have even conceived a room like this [forty years ago]," Smith said. "The notion of inclusive excellence is so powerfully present in this room. Let me congratulate this institution on how far it has come."
Most Rev. Gordon Bennett, S.J., D.D., M.Ed. ’79, was the recipient of the Honorable Irma Brown Dillon ’70, J.D. ’73 Community Service Award. He said one of the biggest transformational moments in his life was at Loyola University the day after Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated. One of his classics professors offered words of encouragement.
"In those few moments, he brought me a wisdom that was profound and he supplied them from his vast store of what it meant to know the eternal truth," Gordon said. "I have never forgotten what happened in this special place of Loyola Marymount University. A place that I believe leads every student of every race and class to the eternal."
Proceeds from the dinner will go to scholarships for deserving students. In the past 10 years, LMU’s AAAA has raised $600,000 in scholarship funds that have been awarded to 185 students.