Texas Tech University

Grace Gealey-Byers to Speak at Annual Celebrate Diversity Banquet

Amanda Castro-Crist

October 10, 2016

Grace Byers

Byers stars on the hit FOX music industry primetime soap opera “Empire.”

Grace Byers
Grace Byers

The Texas Tech University Division of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement welcomes actress Grace Gealey-Byers as the keynote speaker for the sixth annual Celebrate Diversity Awards Banquet.

Each fall, the division recognizes those within the Texas Tech and Lubbock communities who exemplify inclusive excellence. This year's banquet will begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday (Oct. 12) in the McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center.

Byers was raised in the Cayman Islands by her African-American mother and Caucasian father and faced the challenging experience of being the multiracial child of two deaf parents. She moved to America alone to attend the University of South Florida in Tampa, where she began acting and earned a bachelor's degree in theater arts. Byers then obtained a master of fine arts degree in acting at the University of California, Irvine.

Her professional career took her from Los Angeles to New York and finally Chicago, where she is based. In her free time, Byers is involved in Saving Our Cinderellas, a movement of Saving Our Daughters that empowers young girls and women to stand up against bullying, address social issues and uplift one another in support of positive interests.


"Each year we seek individuals who are leaders within their given industry and possess the ability to educate and inspire those who are in attendance," said Cory Powell, director of Mentor Tech, which helps organize the banquet. "We believe that Mrs. Gealey-Byers' background and unique perspective on diversity will enlighten those who attend the event."

Three local leaders also will receive recognition at the banquet. Adrienne Cozart, vice president of human resources at UMC Health System, will be recognized as this year's recipient of the Sen. Robert L. Duncan Community Champion Award. Janie Landin Ramirez, outreach programs director for the Texas Tech College of Education, and Tom Vermillion, executive director of the Lubbock Boys and Girls Club, each will receive Inclusive Excellence Awards.

"The event highlights the importance of diversity while also recognizing individuals within the Texas Tech and Lubbock communities whose efforts advance inclusivity," Powell said. "The banquet provides attendees with opportunities to celebrate the rich diversity that makes Texas Tech and Lubbock the great places they are."

Past speakers for the event include Edward James Olmos, Soledad O'Brien, John Quiñones, former U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and Terrence Howard, who also stars in "Empire."

Actor, author and literacy advocate LeVar Burton originally was scheduled to be the keynote speaker for the annual Celebrate Diversity Banquet, but due to a death in the family, he had to cancel. Powell said they are hoping to reschedule him as a speaker for the African-American History Month Lecture Series in February.

General tickets are $75 and VIP tickets are $100. Tables of eight are available for $1,000 and $1,500 (VIP). VIP tickets include premium seating, admittance to the VIP Reception and a photo with Burton. All table purchasers will receive recognition in the banquet's printed program and during the banquet.

For more information, visit the event page.

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