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Tavis Smiley headlines School of Education at IUPUI event to celebrate outstanding alumni

Janet S. Oatess and Tavis Smiley
Janet S. Oatess and Tavis Smiley


September 20, 2012

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TV and radio host, author, philanthropist, advocate and documentary filmmaker Tavis Smiley will deliver the keynote address next month at a celebration of alumni from the School of Education at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

The first “Celebrating Transformational Leaders in Education” will take place at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, at the IUPUI Campus Center, 420 University Blvd. The event, an outgrowth of the school’s urban education speaker series, will honor two alumni from the School of Education who are making an impact as transformational education leaders. Smiley will discuss the impact of teachers and the importance of education.

“We wanted a signature event to engage the Indianapolis community, our students and our alumni, with a focus on urban education and the positive work that we’re doing,” said Pat Rogan, executive associate dean of the School of Education. “We wanted to provide an opportunity to hear from a nationally prominent speaker about critical issues and positive practices, while celebrating transformational educators.”

Smiley hosts the late-night television talk show “Tavis Smiley” on PBS as well as “The Tavis Smiley Show” and “Smiley & West” from Public Radio International. He is the author of 16 books. His memoir, “What I Know for Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America,” became a New York Times best-seller, and the book he edited, “Covenant With Black America,” became the first nonfiction book by a black-owned publisher to reach No. 1 on The New York Times’ best-sellers list.


Currently, Smiley appears in a campaign to promote the teaching profession with an alumna of the IU School of Education at IUPUI. As part of the Teachers Count campaign, the radio and TV host appears in a photo with Janet S. Oatess, a 1978 secondary education graduate. Oatess has taught English for 32 years at Maconaquah High School in Bunker Hill, Ind., where Smiley went to school. Smiley said Oatess often told him, “If you don't know the answer today, Mr. Smiley, you'll know it tomorrow.”

“Those words so resonated with me that I built an entire company on them,” Smiley notes in the Teachers Count article. “Reassuring words and simple gestures can actually transform lives.”


The School of Public and Environmental Affairs in Bloomington named its building atrium for Smiley in 2009. Smiley, a 2003 Indiana University graduate, donated $50,000 to the School of Public and Environmental Affairs to establish the Tavis Smiley Scholarship program for students from groups that are underrepresented in higher education. Smiley addressed the Indiana University Bloomington commencement in 2007.


A committee will select two educators in the first 10 years of their careers as the honorees. The honorees will receive a $1,000 award to advance their work.

“These are early-career ‘movers and shakers’ who are doing transformative work,” Rogan said.
Celebrating Transformational Leaders in Education is free to IUPUI students and $15 for the general public. Advance registration is required. Students should bring their IUPUI Student ID (Jagtag) and a copy of their current class schedule to School of Education Student Services, ES 3131 to pick up a pass for the event. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Online registration is available.



The IU School of Education at IUPUI focuses on the role of urban education in the 21st century. The school’s degree programs include a doctorate of urban education with an emphasis on researching the needs of high risk students and factors that impact student learning. The School of Education is home to the Center for Urban and Multicultural Education, a doctoral student-faculty research unit.

Teacher education and educational leadership programs in the school -- such as the National Science Foundation-funded Noyce Scholars Program and the Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teacher Fellowship Program which both prepare math and science teachers -- promote practices to help students in urban settings.