CECH Celebrates Black History Month
Seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” – President Gerald Ford
History is made through a collection of events with the intent of making change that will lead to a future of effective outcomes. Creating history is achieved through the work of a person or group of people with a single mission in hopes to change the trajectory of its path that will greatly impact future generations.
As we celebrate Black History Month, the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services proudly acknowledges influential African American alumni and community partners whose made history locally or beyond.
Dr. Jacqueline Bailey-Davis, CECH Class of 1992, is a Staff Inspector at the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD). Among her many accolades, she was recently in the running to become the first African-American female commissioner of the PPD.
Despite having a doctorate, for Bailey-Davis college was not always something in her vision. Having grown up in, what many consider, the largest, poorest, and most isolated housing projects in Philadelphia “Passyunk Homes”, AKA "Alcatraz", she witnessed many of her friends and family end up in prison or dead. Yet, Bailey-Davis didn’t waiver in her desire to want to help others around her. As her life progressed and as she matured, Bailey-Davis began to discover that education would be a key area of opportunity to give back to her community.
Bailey-Davis had several people who would lead her towards a path that she would later find herself on. One of those people was a high school teacher, who would give her bus fare so she was able to take her SAT test. The same SAT that she needed to gain entrance into the University of Cincinnati (U.C.). Bailey-Davis only decided to attend because her father, who she had no contact with for the first 18 years of her life, asked her to live in Cincinnati with him for a while. Bailey-Davis says she questioned him asking, “What do you suggest I do in Cincinnati.” He offered that she’d attend the University of Cincinnati. “Who’s paying for the University of Cincinnati?”, she asked. He adamantly told her that she would enroll and from there a deal was struck. After completing her first Criminal Justice course as an undergraduate student she fell in love with the Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program and decided that, “U.C. has pretty much been the other half of my home.”
As she made her way through school and continued to live in Cincinnati she describes that her eyes opened to the world around her. Hearing in a class that Philadelphia was one of the most “corrupt and brutal,” places in the U.S., surprised Bailey-Davis as that is not how she remembered her home. Therefore, she did a little digging and discovered it to be true. “When I came to Cincinnati and took some African American courses my eyes were opened to the world around me. When growing up in Philadelphia I didn’t realize what I had seen or what was around me. As I became more educated, I became more aware of the situation and the situation my community was in.”
Armed with new knowledge and a new passion, Bailey-Davis returned home to Philadelphia and joined the PPD in attempt to make changes from the inside out. “I thought of myself as superwoman coming from the University of Cincinnati.” She told herself “I’m going to change things, I’m going to become a Police Officer and I’m going to treat people well, and ensure that my fellow officers treat people well. I’m going to fly through the ranks to become Police Commissioner.” So, she set out on her work.
Throughout the years while she was working as an officer and climbing the ranks she was also working as an adjunct professor, an academic advisor, Criminal Justice coordinator, and field placement coordinator. All this work was paired with her desire to arm herself with more knowledge as she earned her graduate degree from Lincoln University near Oxford, Pennsylvania.
On top of the heavy workload, Bailey-Davis, “faced all the ‘isms’ throughout her career. Those “ism’s” being racism and misogynism.” Nevertheless, she was able to command respect through her hard work and dedication to her profession and made change. Even changes that seemed small but mattered greatly. One matter Bailey-Davis noticed was how civilians were being treated as they would come to the courthouse for their hearings and such. It was to her dismay that people were forced to remain outside of the building, even in harsh weather conditions. “Animals are kept outside, not peopled. We’re not going to treat people like animals and we won’t leave them outside when it’s extremely hot or cold.”
Alongside her hard work for change in the PPD, Bailey-Davis also does her part to help out her community and alma mater, University of Cincinnati. She takes pride in donating to the university that helped her get to where she is today. She’s also had opportunities to help create scholarships and donate to organizations that allow people from all walks of life able to succeed. She has even gone so far as to adopt her first cousin calling him her, “cou-son.”
Most recently Bailey-Davis was in the running for the position of Police Commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department. A position that had not yet been held by a woman of color. She was not chosen for the position; however, when Bailey-Davis discovered the news, she called one of her old professors, Dr. P Eric Abercrumbie, who is now a retired professor from the University of Cincinnati. When he asked her if she was sad she replied that she wasn’t, because of something that he said that stuck with her. She said, “Remember what you said to us? ‘I want you all to remember one thing. You can be the most educated, you can have the most experience, you could have done everything perfectly. There may be things in life that you don’t get an opportunity right away to do.’”
Bailey-Davis has continuously referenced the value of giving back to the community, pursuing an education, and the importance of her spirituality. Though, Bailey-Davis was not selected for Police Commissioner, she still has the aptitude of making a change and being a conduit of positivity between the very community she grew up to the law enforcement community she is now apart of. She understands the responsibility and weight of being in that position. “I understand my role as an African-American woman in law enforcement and the importance of being honest to the communities I serve. I don’t need any specific title for that work or responsibility. As a human being, I care about justice and the protection of everyone, on both sides. As long as I am placed in positions of influence, I will never stop bridging that gap.”
Dr. Reginald Wilkinson
Dr. Reginald Wilkinson, born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, is mostly known for his prison and education reform work that he began as the Director at the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections for the State of Ohio, a position which he held for more than 30 years. He has worked with policy makers, government officials, politicians, community leaders, and educators to push forward the agenda of providing education to inmates.
Wilkinson came from a fair middle-class family, attended public inner-city schools, and became one of the first members of his family that would attend The Ohio State University where he earned, both, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and a Master of Education in Higher Learning Education.
In the beginning of Wilkinson’s career, he primarily focused on prison administration where his responsibility was to oversee the day-to-day operations of the correctional facilities, management staff, and facility managers. Through his experience and exposure to the deficits in the prison system, Wilkinson determined there was a strong need for education reform and resources allocated to inmates.
Wilkinson’s effort of “trying to break the cycle of incarceration with the use of education and giving the kids and adults a way out”, did not come without resistance. “There was definitely push back. You have some people who didn’t think it was fair for people who committed a crime to be given free education. While others who did not commit a crime struggle to pay for their education.” Although Wilkinson understood the opposition in front of him he still pushed the notion that “education should be available to all, not just a chosen few.”
Now serving on the Ohio State Board of Education, Wilkinson is now focusing on how to increase the education system over all, while still being an advocate of education reform in the prison system, “especially in the juvenile detention centers”. In fact, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) published in 2016, it states, “Nearly half of all individuals released from federal prisons are rearrested within eight years of their release, and around half of those rearrested are sent back to jail. The same study found that individuals younger than 21 who are released from federal prison are rearrested at the highest rates of any age group. Individuals who did not complete high school were rearrested at the highest rate—60.4 percent—while those who had a college degree were rearrested at a rate of 19.1 percent. While incarcerated young adults and school-aged children are more likely to be rearrested, they also have a lot to gain from educational opportunities while in prison” (USSC, 2016). With palpable data and research such as this, demonstrates the need for the Wilkinson’s influence.
Because of his profound work, research, and a trusted advisor for many advisory boards, including the University of Cincinnati’s College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services and Information Technology’s Dean’s Advisory Board, Wilkinson has been recognized by multiple organizations and institutions. In fact, this year Wilkinson will be awarded the Outstanding Distinguished Alumni Award from CECH’s Dean Lawrence Johnson. The recipient of this award is voted by peers, faculty, and members of the community who recognize the great work and esteem of a specific candidate. Humbled by this acknowledgment, Wilkinson states, “I don’t seek out awards or accolades. I don’t do the work for the honor.” Wilkinson is consistent in his work of increasing the effectiveness of education. He attributes his passion to not forgetting where he came from. “It’s important for me, at least, to ‘not forget from whence I come’ and so when I have the opportunity to pay it forward, stay involved, and counsel persons who can benefit from my years of experience, then that’s what I’m going to do. I do think many others can be helpful by committing to something similar.”
Wilkinson graduated from CECH in 1989 with his Doctorate in Educational Foundation, now called Educational Leadership. He is the President and Founder of Connecting the Dots, LLC, a consulting company. He has gone on to publish many journals, articles, and his book Leadership Management and Connecting the Dots (2018).
Mary Wineberg, CECH Class of 2002, is most known for her Olympic gold win in the 2008 Bejing Olyimpics, running the first leg of a 4 X 400 relay race. She is just one of four other UC Olympic Gold medalist, and the first African American woman from UC to do so. She keeps good company with the likes of Oscar Robertson who was a member of the 1960 Olympic basketball team and led the Bearcats to the Final Four twice.
Before Mary Wineberg could even think of achieving such a historic title she was born in Brooklyn, and became a ward of New York when she was four. She was moved to Cincinnati by a woman who would later become her adoptive mother at the age of 12. Though Wineberg didn’t have trouble making friends with others as she moved to Cincinnati at an early age, she did struggle with the questions of “where my mother was, why was I being adopted, and where did I come from?”
Though she had the opportunity to make friends and had a really fun time while she attended Walnut Hills High School, she does recall that during the transition from elementary school and high school, like most kids, she felt different. Again, it wasn’t her adopted status that she was picked out for. It was the fact she was very tall and had very long and thin limbs. It took her some time to “come into my own skin and be able to realize, that I was beautiful and I could do anything that I could put my mind to.”
Wineberg, despite now being a gold medalist, didn’t start running competitively until high school. When her best friend tried to convince her to join, she was afraid that her mother, who was a very “education comes first,” woman, wouldn’t let her. So, she had her friend’s mom talk to her adoptive mother about the benefits of playing a sport and what good things it could do for her. It did the trick and she tried out and got the spot on the team. “I had a talent I didn’t know I had.” She worked hard to get better and better before making it to the state meet in 1998. She didn’t place in the finals and she thought that that was it for her, but coaches had been watching her and she was recruited to the University of Cincinnati.
Wineberg knew that coming into college would be “a different ballpark than high school.” She was coming in with a signed letter of intent and scholarship so she knew that it was something that needed to be taken seriously. “I knew I had to make my mom proud, I had to make my coaches proud, I had to make my teammates proud.” She needed to overcome a great deal of fear that she had about competing with other universities and disappointing her teammates.
Wineberg recalls going to a conference meet her senior year and going against a University of Huston athlete, that was her rival in the very sense of the word. Nearly having a panic attack because of her fear of not living up to the best of her abilities, her coaches and roommates attempted to calm her down, it was then when she, “almost had an epiphany.” Calming herself down, she gathered her thoughts and said to herself, “Look, the time is now. You can’t go back in time to change anything. You only have what you can work with now.”
Thus, she walked up to the line and ran. She ended up breaking the University of Cincinnati record at that meet. Even though she was overjoyed and surprised that she was able to come out on top, Wineberg couldn’t help but think, “Wow, imagine if I had done that a few times earlier. Instead of letting the fear overcome me.”
While Wineberg was busy beating records and overcoming fear she ended up studying Early Childhood Education. She started out in Athletic Training, then she moved into Health Promotion and Education. Finally landing on what she always wanted to do, which was to educate. “I always wanted to be a teacher. When I was little I used to play school and I always wanted to be just like my teachers when I grew up.” As she made her way through her studies she credits her teachers for always pushing her to her best and helping her become the woman she is today. Wineberg also became a member of the university’s chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, which is the oldest service sorority for African- American women in the nation.
In 2002, after she graduated, two years before the next Summer Olympics, Wineberg had a thought. “I want to try out for the Olympics.” This shocked her as it was never part of plan. Thus, in reflection Wineberg says, “I wasn’t prepared for it.” Not making the 2004 team only made Wineberg’s drive stronger as she made it her goal to be in the 2008 Beijing Games. With the help of her husband she worked harder than she ever did and even though she wasn’t considered amongst the top 100 athletes, she still became a member of the team.
After winning the gold, Wineberg came back to Cincinnati feeling on top of the world and, “taking things as they come.” She took a few years off and got back into teaching, which she still does, second grade at Hyde Park Elementary. As she did so she realized that she has a story to tell, and her friend reminded her how amazing and inspirational her story could be to others. Thus, she decided to tell her story through her book Unwavering Perseverance: An Olympic Gold Medalist Finds Peace. It’s in this book she admits that she wanted to find her birth mother and discover where she came from. She didn’t shy away from her past nor was she reprehensive towards the people who adopted her.
Mary now travels, not just around the nation, but around the world using her story to give inspiration and power to those who may have a similar background or just need a bit of help and inspiration to chase after their goals that they might be afraid of going after. Even though she goes out of her way to teach these people that they can also achieve great things through talks and seminars, she also participates in community volunteer work; and her first love, education.
“I love that I can put on different hats. I’m not just an Olympian. I’m an author, I’m a friend, and a sorority sister. I’m also a wife, I’m a mother and I’m a teacher. I can be different things to different people.”
W. Ricky Pleasant
The Upward Bound program has been a platform at U.C. for over 50 years and has redirected the pathways for many college students who are considered underserved, including U.C. alumni Ricky Pleasant.
Pleasant, was born and raised in Cincinnati, OH and grew up in Avondale. Being the youngest of two and raised by a single mother, Pleasant learned by demonstration the definition of resilience, hard work, and perseverance.
When Pleasant was a young kid, his mother signed him up to take piano lessons. Wanting to keep him active, his mom considered this activity as a way to enlighten her young son and to keep him occupied. Coincidentally, Pleasant took piano lessons alongside Dr. Cynthia Partridge, who is currently the Director of Upward Bound program at U.C. During this time, Dr. Partridge and Pleasant’s mother began to develop a rapport where they would regularly discuss Pleasant’s classroom performance and made small talk. It was during the development of this relationship where Pleasant’s mom was educated about Upward Bound, which is a federally funded college prep program offered in the United States to low-income and first-generation students. Dr. Partridge would discuss the programs benefits, thus making an impression on Pleasants mom that would transcend in years to come.
As a freshman at Walnut Hills High School, which is an academically highly ranked high school in Ohio and nationwide, Pleasant did not immediately rise to the academic standards set before him. Drowned in sadness by the loss of his grandmother, he had a difficult time staying motivated. When his mother saw how Pleasant wasn’t performing well, she remembered those conversations with Dr. Partridge during Pleasant’s piano lessons and decided to enroll her son into Upward Bound, at the University of Cincinnati, to help him get back on track and to excel academically.
Pleasant resisted Upward Bound, due to its participation requirements. For Upward Bound students, Saturday classes and, at times, weekly tutoring was required. However, unable to navigate from his mother’s tenacity, Pleasant began a journey that would impact his life significantly for years to come.
During his time in Upward Bound, Pleasant gained the experience of living on a college campus, increased his social skills, and became prepared for rigorous college curriculums. While he was predominately raised by his mother, Upward Bound also provided great male influences in his life. Among the many men he considered influential, Dr. Phillip Cathey, who was the previous Director of Upward Bound for more than 20 years, became a great mentor to Pleasant through his loving, yet stern “didn’t play” demeanor. Being around strong black men for Pleasant was eye opening into the man he could become.
Once graduating from high school, Pleasant traveled to Alabama to attend Alabama A&M, an HBCU located in Huntsville, Alabama where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Finance and graduated cum laude. He then returned to Cincinnati for a couple of years and unbeknownst to him as a high school kid in the Upward Bound program, he became a Teacher’s Assistant for the program as his first job out of college. It was in this position where Pleasant taught financial literacy courses while serving as a mentor to upcoming high school students while simultaneously, working on his Masters of Business Administration at U.C.’s College of Business.
After having the opportunity to return what he was given to the very program that prepared him for a lifetime of career success, the program that nurtured and encouraged him after losing his grandmother, it was then Pleasant decided to relocate to Los Angeles, California where he is now the Executive Assistant to the General Manager of the American Black Film Festival, which is the “nation’s largest gathering of black film and television enthusiasts”.
Because of Pleasant’s positive experience and proven outcomes with the Upward Bound program it is his belief that if it wasn’t for Upward Bound he would not be where he is today. “A lot of the success I had professionally, would not have happened without the structure, the social, and confidence building lessons that I was able to learn throughout the Upward Bound program. The program should be viewed as a treasure. A historical one because it has been at U.C. for over 50 years. Hopefully, people will realize how important it is and fight to make sure the funding is still available.” He continued to say, “If we lose the program, or Trio programs over all which includes Student Support Services, Veterans Upward Bound program for some, and other programs there will be a huge hole in the community that won’t be filled, which will put our Veterans and our students, specifically people of color, at a huge disadvantage that will disallow them to have the opportunity to have new life experiences.”