SMU Football Star Jerry LeVias Is Keynote Speaker at 23rd Annual Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights

April 9, 2009

AUSTIN, Texas — Former Southern Methodist University (SMU) football star Jerry LeVias will present the keynote address for the 23rd Annual Heman Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights at The University of Texas at Austin.

The theme of this year's conference is "Sidelined: Racial Politics at Predominantly White Institutions." The symposium will be held April 14-17 on The University of Texas at Austin campus.

LeVias will deliver his speech on Friday, April 17, at 7 p.m. in the AT&T Conference Center. There will be a special screening of the recent HBO special, "Breaking the Huddle: The Integration of College Football," in the Texas Union Theatre from 3-5 p.m. LeVias was featured in the documentary and will be on hand for a question-and-answer session following the screening.

LeVias was the first African American football player at SMU and also the first African American to receive an athletic scholarship in the Southwest Conference. LeVias led SMU to the university's first conference football title in 18 years. LeVias was named an All-American in athletics and academics in 1968.  Following graduation from SMU, he played professional football with the Houston Oilers and the San Diego Chargers.

Other symposium sessions include a panel discussion with current and former University of Texas at Austin athletes, a panel discussion focusing on faculty women of color at the university and a student panel discussion, "Stop, Look & Listen: Examining the Racial Climate at The University of Texas at Austin."

"The Heman Sweatt Symposium provides a forum to discuss civil rights issues that affect all of us, and this year's theme is especially important to those of us in higher education," said Dr. Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement. "We have made great strides in the areas of discrimination, race relations and equity, but the reality is more can and should be done. Through open discussion, we have the opportunity to reflect on past actions and explore strategies for changing climate on campuses around the country."

The symposium is named for Heman Sweatt, the first African American to attend The University of Texas at Austin School of Law. The landmark case that allowed Sweatt into the school paved the way for the admission of African Americans to formerly segregated colleges and universities throughout the United States. The annual event focuses on compelling civil rights issues generated around a particular theme. It is organized by the university's Division of Diversity and Community Engagement and supported by many departments at the university. A complete schedule of events is below. All events are free and open to the public.

Schedule of Events

Tuesday, April 14    1-2 p.m.
The African American Student Athlete Experience: Past and Present
Description: A panel discussion with past and current University of Texas at Austin athletes followed by a question-and-answer session
University Teaching Center, Room 4.112

Wednesday, April 15   5-6:30 p.m.
Faculty Women of Color's Response to the Gender Equity Report
Description:  A panel discussion with University of Texas at Austin faculty members followed by a question-and-answer session
Jackson Geological Sciences Building 2.218

Thursday, April 16   6-8 p.m.
Stop, Look & Listen: Examining the Racial Climate at The University of Texas at Austin
Description:  A student roundtable discussion
Mary A. Gearing Hall 105

Friday, April 17   3-5 p.m.
Video screening with Jerry LeVias of "Breaking the Huddle: The Integration of College Football"
Description:  Showing of HBO special followed by question-and-answer session with LeVias
Texas Union Theatre

Friday, April 17   7-10 p.m.
Keynote address featuring Jerry LeVias
Description: Presentation of Barbara Jordan Essay Competition winners followed by keynote address. A reception in the courtyard at the AT&T Center will follow.
AT&T Executive Conference Center

For more information, contact:  Choquette Marie Hamilton, Department of African and African Diaspora Studies, College of Liberal Arts, 512-475-6061;  Leslie Blair, Div. of Diversity & Community Engagement, 512-232-4621.