Reynolds to Receive Alumni Council AwardBy Jill Anderson
Nanette Lee Reynolds, Ed.D.’78, will receive the 2012 Alumni Council Award for Outstanding Contribution to Education. A Civil Rights activist, Reynolds has spent her career creating a dialogue around issues of race and social justice. She will receive the award during HGSE’s 2012 convocation ceremony on Wednesday, May 23.
“There is no way I imagined the Alumni Council selecting me. I am humbled and honored,” Reynolds says. “I think being at Harvard gave me a sense that I was capable of doing what I put my mind to. I can remember feeling overwhelmed at the end of my studies. On a flight, I remember looking down in the evening and seeing a gazillion homes. I thought as one of 33 accepted in my class, ‘You can do this kid.’ It’s surreal to me that I graduated and secondly that my life’s work would receive an acknowledgment of this magnitude. This is not expected or anticipated. I didn’t work for this acknowledgment other than just doing the right thing, which is trying to provide access and opportunity for everyone.”
In the 1970s, Reynolds began her career working in higher education at prestigious universities like Brown and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her positions of counselor and assistant dean of student affairs and academic affairs, she focused her efforts on developing resources for minority students and women to ensure college success. By the early 1980s, she took her passion and work to the public sector. For 10 years, Reynolds was the first black woman to direct the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. As the longest serving director of the governmental organization, she played important roles in creating high caliber career development programs for civil rights professionals to better serve the state’s increasingly diverse population, and balanced aggressive enforcement of civil rights laws with the need to advance civil rights social collaboration. Her work with the department caught the attention of then-U.S. State Department Secretary Colin Powell, who invited her to join the five-person U.S. delegation to the Organization for Security and Co-operation’s conference on racism, xenophobia, and discrimination.
In response to Proposal 2, the 2006 ballot initiative that banned affirmative action in the public sector in Michigan, she cofounded The Imagine Fund, a nonprofit providing scholarship for academically qualified and economically challenged students of color to attend Michigan colleges and universities.
After nearly 20 years of public service, Reynolds formally retired in 2003, but continues to work as a consultant in areas related to her expertise and experience, particularly helping to assist leaders to achieve the benefits of diversity. Self-described as an “affirmative action baby,” Reynolds has earned many accolades for her public service.
“The Alumni Council selected Nanette Reynolds to receive the 2012 Award for Outstanding Contribution to Education because she exemplifies values, aspirations, and habits of mind encouraged at HGSE. She wrestled with personal tragedy, raised two admirable children, and devoted 20 years of her professional career in Michigan to assuring the civil rights of others,” said Alumni Council member Mieko Kamii, Ed.M.’73, Ed.D.’82. “In response to Proposal 2 that banned affirmative action in the public sector in that state, she laid the cornerstone for a foundation that provides scholarships for black and Hispanic students to attend colleges and universities in Michigan. In retirement, she continues to help those with struggling and silenced voices to be heard.”
HGSE first established the Alumni Council Award for Outstanding Contribution to Education in 1985 in order to recognize the significance of service to education by alumni. Each year, the Alumni Relations Office solicits nominations for the award from the alumni body. Candidates must be graduates of HGSE and have made a noteworthy contribution to education during their professional careers.