Carroll Celebrates Inspirational Black Americans

Author: Carroll University

Published Date: 2/13/2023

Categories: University News

Who's Making Black History Right Now?

Black History Month had its beginnings almost a century ago. Then in 1976, the month-long commemoration of Black history was officially recognized by then President Gerald R. Ford.

Now more than ever, February is a time to remember and celebrate the people who have enriched the community with knowledge, pride and respect. We recognize the contributions, struggles and history of African Americans, and reflect on the idea that Black history is at the heart of American history. Welcome to the first Carroll University INSPIRATION LIST: Who's Making Black History Right Now? 

We asked Carroll University, alumni, staff and faculty to nominate fellow African/Black Americans for the list. Many of the nominees are rising stars whose influence, we believe, will become monumental. They are "hidden figures" doing the work, gaining success and sharing their talent…making Black history right here, right now. America, meet the next generation of Black excellence.

To kick us off, we asked President Cindy Gnadinger for the first nomination. The three tenets of Carroll’s Ethos are respect, integrity and stewardship – and this nominee exhibits these traits as a daily practice. 

President Gnadinger nominates Carroll alumnus Vivian Kurutz (‘86) for making history and living the Carroll ethos every day in her work. Vivian founded the Harlem Wellness Center to close the racial health gap by providing an array of innovative health and wellness programs to improve the lives of people in her community. Cindy admires her work and thinks that Vivian is simply amazing. To learn more about the Harlem Wellness Center, visit
Our next nominee comes from Dan Demerit, director of campus recreation.

Dan nominates Kris Pullam, Carroll’s head esports coach, the director of the Carroll eSports Center (CeC), assistant director of Campus Recreation and at-large member of Staff Executive Committee.  
“Kris skillfully navigates oversight of Carroll’s varsity esports teams, recreational and casual esports participants. He has pioneered the program to success, competing in numerous conferences, qualifying for the post-season across all titles and creating a new broadcasting/streaming studio for our students and university exposure. Kris is also an experienced official (not an easy job these days!), developing Carroll students into intramural officials within RecSports. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Kris is his care and passion for developing genuine humans – not just gamers – and encouraging inclusive, active participation for the entire Carroll community.” 

Our next nominee comes from Adrienne German, director of Intercultural and Diversity Engagement. 

Adrienne nominates Erica Lynette Edwards. Erica was a ballerina with the Joffrey Ballet, where she performed lead roles throughout a 15-year career, dancing in hundreds of performances in the United States and abroad. During that time, Ebony Magazine named her a "Young Leader in the Future of the Arts," and the Chicago Tribune gave her the title "Black History Maker." When she retired from the stage, she became Joffrey's designer of community engagement. Under her leadership, the department grew to support thousands of Chicago students every year, through a focus on community partnerships rooted in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Because of her visionary leadership in this role, Crain's Chicago named her a member of the exceptional "40 Under 40." Erica independently expanded her DEI services and now captivates a wide variety of clients with authentic and innovative programming. By developing shared understandings, Erica inspires communities to make the world a more just place. 

Our next nominee comes from Derek Marie, head coach for the CU men’s soccer team.

Derek nominates Franck Ngassa ‘18, a former CU soccer player. Franck is now a PA in Houston, Texas. Derek says, “Franck is an incredible human being whose life purpose is to help others.”
Our next nominee for Carroll’s Inspiration List comes from Amber Smith, Assistant director of Student Advocacy and Engagement.

She nominates Dr. Robert Davis, the president and CEO of Milwaukee's Black Holocaust Museum. Davis led the charge in reopening this historic museum and reestablishing its significance in the community.

Our final nomination for Carroll’s Inspiration List comes from Kelly Gehringer in Carroll’s MARCOM department. Kelly nominates Art Jones, adjunct instructor for Carroll’s introduction to social media & community management course.

Art is a natural-born storyteller. He has worked with some of the best brands in the world because of his innate ability to get to the heart of the matter by using his distinct voice. After managing social media for the University, Art went on to earn a Master of Education in Adult, Community, and Professional Learning degree from Carroll.

This spring, he brought that experience back into the classroom to teach a social media course here at Carroll. As an educator, Art incorporates inclusion, belonging and empathy into all his coursework. He believes that our strength as a community lies in our diversity – and that we are more vital together as a unit. His goal is to provide a safe, fair and prosperous learning environment, where all can thrive. In Art’s classroom, every learner has potential, and that every student deserves the opportunity to be better than they were the day before.

“While I could list off Art’s countless professional achievements, I am most impressed with his strong character. Whether you need life advice or a restaurant recommendation, Art is always there. Fiercely loyal and reliable, he will always go out of his way to make sure you are seen, supported and celebrated.”

Vivian Kurutz

Kris Pullam

Erica Edwards
Erica Lynette Edwards

Franck Ngassa

Dr. Davis
Dr. Robert Davis

Art Jones
Art Jones
Panoramic View of campus