The aim of the award program is to acknowledge those students who demonstrate a commitment to:

  • individual pursuits promoting expression of Black culture, history, and values.
  • academic excellence and advancement of scholarship.
  • cultivating community through service to improve quality of life for Black people at WashU, in St Louis, and globally.

History of the James E. McLeod Honors and Awards Program

Recognizing a need to honor the Black students, faculty and staff of Washington University the Black Honors and Awards Program was instituted in 1971. The awards were designed to recognize students not only for their academic excellence, but also for their provision of services to the greater St. Louis area. Each award was named after a prominent figure in African or African American History.

In the 21st year of the program (1992) the name was changed from Black Honors and Awards Program to the W. E. B. Du Bois Honors and Awards Program. This change was made in recognition of the rich legacy of W. E. B. Du Bois; an educator, sociologist, historian and civil rights activist. Du Bois believed that advanced education, as well as a liberal arts curriculum was essential to African Americans in order to develop leadership. According to Du Bois, education is the whole system of human training within and without the school house walls, which molds and develops men.

While Du Bois’ philosophy remains important today, on the 41st year of the Awards Program, the Planning Committee voted to change the name once again to the James E. McLeod Honors and Awards Program. James McLeod was a legend in our own times to which the students, faculty and staff of Washington University all feel a special closeness and indebtedness. Not only was he genuinely interested in the educational achievements of students, but was also very interested in their quality of life. Like Du Bois, James was a strong proponent of education and also felt the importance of student involvement beyond the university walls. An active participant and contributor to community organizations, James encouraged students to develop and become involved in service projects in the larger community. McLeod spoke about the importance of his work in academia upon receiving the St. Louis American Salute to Excellence Award in 2008. He stated “As you get older things take a new meaning. Since I know what I am doing can mean for the community, it still charges me up. I am doing something that can last for generations. That what makes this a terrific job.” The committee certainly agrees that the work of Dean McLeod will last for generations and that the legacy of James E. McLeod should be honored and remembered going forward, thus directing the name change, effective with this 41st program, to the James E. McLeod Honors and Awards Program.

~ Virginia Toliver – May 1, 2012 (Revised)