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LU hosts alumna and Texas' first African American female sheriff

Sheriff Zena StephensLamar University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion and ExxonMobil’s Black Employee Success Team (BEST) presented an evening with Jefferson County Sheriff Zena Stephens, Feb. 22, on “Embracing the Present to Ensure Our Future.” Stephens recently became Texas' first African American female sheriff when she was elected to the position in Jefferson County.

The ceremony also included poetic reflections, musical performances, and introduction of Living Legends honorees: Gwendolyn Alfred, assistant professor of voice at Texas Southern University; Leah Jacobs, founder and president of Port Arthur Alumni Community Group; Albert Turner, business entrepreneur and community activist; Audwin Samuel, Beaumont City Council member; and Hargie Savoy, founder and president of the Martin Luther King Jr. Support Group.

“I believe that Sheriff Stephens has accomplished a very important milestone by becoming the first African-American sheriff,” said John Bello-Ogunu, senior vice president for Diversity and Inclusion. “Lamar University is very committed to global diversity and inclusion, and having healthy intercultural relations. Having a person of her caliber come to Lamar can not only help to underscore the university’s commitment to diversity.”

“I also believe that her presence helps us to understand the immeasurable contributions that African Americans have and continue to make towards to overall progress of America,” Bello-Ogunu said.

Stephens’ law enforcement career began at the Beaumont Police Department in 1989. Stephens has earned several community awards in Jefferson County. In 2006, Zena received the “Remarkable Women” award from Theodore John’s Library, in 2008 the Pioneering Women recognized her with the “Changing the World One Cause at A Time” award. Stephens was named the first female chief at Prairie View A&M University. She was also Jefferson County’s first female major and deputy chief.

Read more here about the Lamar University Division of Global Diversity and Inclusive Excellence.