Simmons Celebrates New Stamp Featuring Gwen Ifill ’77, ’93HD
Dozens of excited Simmons students, alumnae/i, faculty, staff, and friends gathered at 300 The Fenway on February 4 for a lively celebration of the new Gwen Ifill “Forever” stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service January 30 as part of its Black Heritage series. The Gwen Ifill College of Media, Arts, and Humanities hosted the event which it cosponsored with Simmons’ Office of Organizational Culture, Inclusion & Equity, and the Postal Service.
In welcoming remarks, Dean Brian Norman of The Gwen Ifill College spoke to the celebration’s theme: Honor and Action. “Gwen is a model of what we hope for all of our students here at Simmons, regardless of their chosen profession: to go out in the world to do good work, with excellence, with curiosity, and a commitment not just to individual success, but to making sure that opportunities are available to everyone,” said Norman. “Gwen believed in mentoring, especially Black women, and she lifted as she climbed.”
Featured speakers included alumnae/i, friends of Ifill, and current student Kara Walsh ’20, president of the Black Student Organization. “To see such a notable alumna’s face on this new stamp is inspiring to all. Although I never had the chance to meet Gwen, she is a role model to myself and others. Gwen Ifill never let anyone or anything get in her way,” said Walsh, who is studying nursing. “She reminds us that Black women are strong and resilient.”
Walsh drew parallels between her own Simmons experience and Ifill’s, noting that the University had offered them both “the space and the opportunity to express ourselves and lead in multiple ways. Our experience here gives us a chance to be trailblazers and inspire others after us.”
Theresa Brewer ’78, co-president of the Simmons Alumnae/i Association, offered the perspective of a contemporary of Ifill’s at Simmons. “The ’70s was a time of enormous social upheaval and student protests, not only at Simmons but on campuses across the nation,” said Brewer. “We were part of the African American sisterhood that, through our lived experiences, understood the depth of the historic struggles we would continue to face, and bonded us in a collective commitment to break down barriers. Our Simmons experience empowered us as women to step forward as leaders and change agents.”
Brewer challenged Simmons alumnae/i to honor Gwen Ifill’s legacy by paving the way “for those coming behind us.”
Dr. Keith Motley, chancellor emeritus of the University of Massachusetts, Boston, became a friend of Ifill’s during their student days in Boston; he’s now a member of the recently established Dean’s Advisory Council of The Gwen Ifill College. “What an incredible thing—to be on a ‘Forever’ stamp. That your legacy is imprinted in the annals for perpetuity…. I am bursting with pride,” said Motely.
Debra Perez, Simmons’ senior vice president for Organizational Culture, Inclusion, and Equity, described how she has drawn inspiration from things Gwen Ifill said and which speak to our times.
“Her words teach us that inclusion requires intentionality, and equity requires action. She said, ‘You have to decide what you care about, and then be prepared to act,’” said Perez. “Gwen’s legacy teaches what is possible—what we can do to act, even in the face of fear, and to do what’s right. Gwen was a doer.”
Expanding on the idea of being a “doer,” Perez noted that her office is always looking for volunteers who would like to mentor ALANA students and engage in the “critical work on equity and inclusion.”
The celebration concluded with an immediate opportunity for “Action”; a Reasons to Write activity offered attendees the chance to write notes to people—and use one of the Ifill stamps. Notes mailed on site could be officially postmarked as coming from The Gwen Ifill Station, a specially established one-day U.S. Postal designation.
U.S. Postal Service representative Anthony Fabrizio led the unveiling of a poster-sized image of the Gwen Ifill stamp. He was joined by the Rev. Ellis I. Washington, pastor at St. Paul AME Church; and members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., of which Ifill was an honorary member.
Guests at the Ifill Stamp Celebration also included Vivian Tolez Izubhi ’77, a classmate of Ifill; and some of the children of the late Professor Alden Poole, a longtime faculty member in the Department of Communications (1955-1986). He was a mentor to Ifill, and The Gwen Ifill College has established the Alden Poole Faculty Mentor Award in his honor.