On Sunday, April 26, Congressman Danny K. Davis hosted a reception for Paula Allen-Mears, the new chancellor of the University of Illinois at Chicago and also the first African American woman to hold the position. The event was held at the Johnny L. Miller Community Center, 2622 W. Jackson.
The program began with the Sears Holding Associate Gospel Choir, under the direction of Mr. Jeff Lomax. The invocation was given by Pastor Sirchester Jackson, of Mandell United Methodist Church.
After the singing of the anthems “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and the “Star Spangled Banner,” remarks welcoming Mears were done by the following: Dr. Frances Carroll, Board of Trustees, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago, Will Davis, Chairman of the Joint Illinois Black Caucus, Cheryl Jackson, president Chicago Urban League, Walter Burnett, chair, City Council Black Caucus, Niranjan Shah, chairman of the Board of Trustees at U of I., Clayborne Wade, 18-year-old scholar interning at Larry Williams’s State Farm Insurance offices, Calvin Butler, ComEd, representing his boss Frank Clark, Corey Foster, representing Gov. Pat Quinn, Reginald Jones, executive director, Stearns Family Foundation, Ken Smith, member of the Board of Trustees at U of I, who said the nine-member board chose Mears because she was the best,” and Attorney James Montgomery, also a member of the Board of Trustees at U of I.
Lydia Williams recited a poem titled “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou and the Gospel group Wings of Heaven performed.
Congressman Davis, in his introduction of Mears, pointed out that UIC has over 25,000 students, 12,000 faculty members, a budget of almost $2 billion and ranked 47th in the nation.
“I am pleased that Dr. Mears took this assignment. I am pleased that she and her family, her husband are the kind of people that we can expect to display levels of sensitivity,” stated the congressman.
Mears thanked Davis for his support and inspiration.
Although Mears’ speech was short in stating her goals and expectations for the university, she did say, “these are challenges that provides us with an opportunity to reach our values … my issue is to work tirelessly for UIC to realize it’s full potential and serve this community and other communities throughout the state. We plan to become the premiere urban research university. We plan to increase our share of money, we plan to provide access to education, increase our research and our teaching portfolio.”
Mears served as dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work from February 1993 to August 2008 and became dean emerita in January 2009, when she was appointed chancellor of the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Mears grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., and credits her father with stressing the importance of education. Both parents were actively engaged in their families schooling and extracurricular activities.
Her husband Henry Mears is assistant dean for external relations at the University of Michigan School of Education.