Kente Award Honors

USF’s Joyce Russell and Sam Wright will be honored for their distinguished careers and service.


TAMPA, Fla. (April 23, 2012) – Two long-standing associates of the University of South Florida will be honored by the university’s African American Advisory Committee to the President, at the 2012 Kente Awards Reception being held Tuesday in the Gibbons Alumni Center Traditions Hall from 6 to 8 p.m. A group of scholarship recipients will be recognized at the event as well.


Joyce Russell, former chair of the USF African American Advisory Committee and Samuel L. Wright, Sr., USF Student Ombudsman, will be presented with awards for their service to USF and the Tampa Bay community.


The Israel “Ike” Tribble Scholarship, named in honor of the late educator and businessman, and administered by the committee, will be given to four students, all in the College of Arts and Sciences. The recipients are: Erica E. Coates, a second-year graduate student working towards a doctorate in clinical psychology; two freshmen and biomedical sciences majors, Elizabeth Ellis who plans to become a cardiovascular surgeon, and Roberto Infante, in Honors College, who has his sights set on becoming a physician; and freshman Brianna Miller who is deciding between graphic art and public health as possible majors.


“This popular event not only raises money for the Ike Tribble Scholarship, but also brings together our community’s leadership and friends to remind everyone of the important role the university plays in serving the educational needs of the African American community,” said Les Miller, director of community relations and the Office of the Student Ombudsman, and liaison to the committee. “We’re especially pleased to be able to award a growing number of scholarships at a time when they’re needed most and to such bright and promising students.”


Russell, the first African American woman to receive Hillsborough County’s highest award, “Excellence In Government,” in 1992, worked as the county’s African American Liaison for eleven years until her retirement in 2011. In that position she maintained strong ties with myriad groups and organizations and focused on educating residents about issues such as the introduction of touch-screen voting machines and how to get involved in the redistricting process. 


During her career she worked for the Family Counseling Center of Pinellas County and was awarded “Business and Professional Woman of the Year” from the City of Clearwater and when she became employed with the Hillsborough County Department of Aging Services she received her department’s “Manager of the Year Award.”


Often seen on Hillsborough T.V. highlighting positive activities and progressive leaders in the African American community, she earned the Robert W. Saunders Award in 2008 for her work in promoting human rights. 


Russell has always added volunteering to her busy work schedule.  She served as past president of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators and on the board for Bright Horizons Day Care Center.  Today she serves as president of the Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial Scholarship Fund which has distributed over a half million dollars to graduating high school students to attend college.


Among her achievements are a successful campaign to raise the pay for direct-care child care workers and the drive to endow the Tribble Scholarship. She is a graduate of Florida Presbyterian College (now known as Eckerd College).


Russell’s memberships in Allen Temple A.M.E. Church, the NAACP Executive Committee, the National Council of Negro Women, as a life member, and Delta Sigma Theta, Sorority, Inc. continue to enrich her life.


A well-known community activist, Wright has been influential in a variety of arenas. His home town of Boynton Beach elected him its first Black city councilman in 1980. When he served as a Board member with Tampa Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau, he founded the Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival, Inc., which is held annually each January. 


In 2010, Wright was appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist to serve as a board member of the Florida Fund for Minority Teachers. He is a member of the State of Florida's Task Force on African American History and recently joined the boards of the Glazer Children’s Museum and Tampa~Hillsborough Action Plan. He also serves the University of Florida Association of Black Alumni as chair of the committee for the Black Alumni Weekend 2012 where he and fellow alumni will be celebrating their 50th anniversary.


Among his most cherished awards are the Tampa-Hillsborough Urban League Milestone Award, Educator of the Year from the Mt. Pleasant Family, the Richard F. Pride Lifetime Achievement Award from the Theta Gamma Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and the Educator of the Century Award from the National Society for Voices in Unity for Education. In 2009, he was recognized by the USF Black Alumni Network when it named its highest award in his honor. In 2010, he was named Father of the Year by the 100 Black Men of Tampa Bay.


Wright is also particularly gratified about his inclusion in Boynton Beach Heritage Park as an African American who made significant contributions to the city and his honorary membership in Florida Blue Key at UF. Wright is also a life member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., and is a subscribing life member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). 


With 26 years of service to USF, Wright takes special pride in having built a strong educational foundation and encourages everyone he comes in contact with to do the same. An honor graduate of the University of Florida‘s College of Arts and Sciences, with a degree in psychology and a graduate of the USF College of Education, with a degree in psychological foundations, Wright continued his studies earning a doctorate in special education administration and supervision in 1999.  As Student Ombudsman, he works with students to help insure their success at USF.


The African American Advisory Committee includes officers, veteran educator and former Delta Sigma Theta Tampa Alumnae Chapter President and CEO Marian Lauria-Davis, chair; noted physician James O. Brookins, MD, vice chair; and Brooks-DeBartolo School founder and former committee president, Phildra Swagger, now president of Combined Expertise, Inc., secretary.  Other members are Henry Bell, president and CEO of Bellserv Consulting and Ralph Alderman, national sales manager of TradeWinds Island Resorts.