African and African diaspora studies chair recognized with UT Presidential Citation award

Jeremy Thomas

Edmund T. Gordon, chair of the African and African diaspora studies department, said he hopes being recognized with a Presidential Citation will further legitimize his goal of expanding the presence and acknowledgement of people of African descent at the University.

Issued earlier this month, the honor recognizes the extraordinary contributions of individuals who personify the University’s commitment to the task of transforming lives, according to the Office of the President. The Presidential Citation is awarded in the place of honorary degrees, which the University does not give out.

“It means, to me, the kind of work I’ve attempted to do over the past 25 years at the University is valued,” Gordon said. “I think the major work that I have done that is being recognized is trying to help institutionalize racial and gender equality in the University.”

Gordon said his work helped create the African diaspora program in the anthropology department, lead a push for the Center for African and African American studies to be named after former professor John Warfield and helped to create the African and African diaspora studies department.

Gordon was one of five to receive the recognition. Others recipients include Charles Matthews, president of the Texas Exes and former vice president and general counsel at ExxonMobil; James Mulva, former president, chairman and CEO of Conoco Phillips; his wife Miriam Mulva, director of the Mulva Family Foundation, which donated approximately $75 million for the new Liberal Arts Building and to support a new engineering building and graduate school of business; and Shannon Ratliff, former member of the UT System Board of Regents and owner of Ratliff Law Firm.

The African and African diaspora studies department is housed under the College of Liberal Arts. Randy Diehl, College of Liberal Arts dean, said Gordon is extremely deserving of the Presidential Citation.

“Over the past several decades, no one has worked more diligently — and more successfully — to recruit and retain a diverse faculty and to build black studies on this campus,” Diehl said.

Cherise Smith, art and art history associate professor and center for African and African American studies director, said Gordon’s advocacy for social justice extends past UT.

“I think of him as a very strong voice of reason and of advocacy for black people on campus — faculty and students,” Smith said. “He has been a very good mentor to students and faculty on campus, and that’s hard to come by.”

Mitchell Faust, African and African diaspora studies graduate student, whom Gordon mentored in the past, said Gordon continues to impact his life. 

“He has given me great advice,” Faust said. “He is a man of a great deal of knowledge. He wants to engage in the betterment of students and faculty, especially of color, and how they are progressing.”