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Five new members inducted into Stanford’s Multicultural Alumni Hall of Fame

The award honors alumni with histories of distinguished service to their communities and to society at large.

Stanford’s four ethnic community centers inducted five new members into the university’s Multicultural Alumni Hall of Fame on Friday, an award honoring alumni with distinguished service to their communities and to society at large. Established in 1995, the ceremony is sponsored by the Stanford Alumni Association and held annually during the university’s Reunion Homecoming weekend.

From left to right: Linda Youa Lee, Hilda Hutcherson, Congressman Joaquin Castro, Julián Castro and Shoney Blake. (Image credit: Courtesy Multicultural Alumni Hall of Fame)

This year’s honorees are: Linda Youa Lee, ’07, associate director of the Chinese Progressive Association; Hilda Hutcherson, ’76, senior associate dean in the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at Columbia Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and a professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University; Congressman Joaquin Castro, ’96, Julián Castro, ’96, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; and Shoney Blake, an associate at Pipestem Law, ’06.

“I’m so impressed with the accomplishments of the inductees, and truly I’m just filled with pride that these are members of the Stanford community,” Stanford Provost Persis Drell told the group and crowd of several hundred who gathered to celebrate. “You are leaders who have made such important and lasting contributions through your work in education, medicine, the law and advocating for your communities.”

Drell added that of all the reunion weekend activities, the Multicultural Alumni Hall of Fame remains her favorite year after year because it highlights the inductees’ accomplishments and demonstrates the diversity of the Stanford community.

“You’ve had an impact across generations … you’re telling the stories that need to be told and you’re making sure they’re being told,” she said. “We know how important it is for our diverse population of students, faculty and staff to feel a sense of belonging and find welcoming communities on this campus … we know how important it is that they hear their stories told.”

Meet this year’s honorees:

Linda Youa Lee, ’07; Asian American Activities Center

The daughter of Hmong refugees who helped lay the groundwork for the formation of Stanford’s Hmong Student Union, Lee currently works as the Associate Director of the Chinese Progressive Association in San Francisco.

There she leads organizational development, fundraising and communications, working to empower low-income Chinese immigrant families to improve their living and working conditions.

“I spend a lot of my time thinking about safety,” Lee said. “What does safety look like [and] how do we create safety for all of us, not just some of us. Safety requires feeling a sense of belonging, and often as people of color, refugees, immigrants … sometimes our sense of belonging is in the hands of others … we need to stake our claim and remind people that we belong.”

As a student, Lee was involved in several Asian American student organizations, including the Asian American Activities Center and the Stanford Asian American Activism Committee.

At the event on Friday, she shared her experience of realizing she was the only Hmong student at Stanford in her class and spoke about her work partnering with the university’s Admissions office to increase diversity and work to make sure all students felt they could belong.

“It was in the Asian American community [at Stanford] that I started to realize who I was,” Lee said. “This is where I learned what social justice meant and what solidarity across difference looks like and how institutions of power and privilege can be transformed.”

Hilda Hutcherson, MD, MS, ’76; Black Community Services Center

Hutcherson distinctly remembers her first time seeing Stanford and how otherworldly the campus felt to a young woman who’d grown up in rural Alabama.

“I remember driving down Palm Drive, and sunlight shone off Memorial Church, and I remember thinking, ‘I must be in heaven,’ ” she said. “Stanford was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen.”

Hutcherson is the senior associate dean in the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at Columbia Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and a professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University.

After Stanford, Hutcherson went on to Harvard Medical School and received her MS degree from Columbia. She now works to motivate other first-generation college students through pipeline programs that provide academic enrichment and mentoring opportunities for more than 400 middle school, high school and college students from under-resourced communities each year. She proudly shared that her mentees have a 100 percent high school graduation and college acceptance rate.

In addition to her work advocating for her patients and students, Hutcherson is a nationally recognized expert in women’s health and travels nationally and internationally speaking about women’s sexual health issues. She served as a columnist for Glamour, Essence and Redbook magazines for more than 15 years and is the author of “Having Your Baby: A Guide for African American Women,” “What Your Mother Never Told You About Sex” and “Pleasure.”

“She wears many fabulous hats,” Associate Dean of Students and Black Community Services Center Director Rosalind Conerly said.

U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro, ’96, and MSNBC/NBC political analyst Julián Castro; El Centro Chicano y Latino

While at Stanford, the Castro brothers were well known among peers, including current El Centro Chicano y Latino Associate Dean of Students and Director Elvira Prieto, who shared stories of their advocacy and activism at Friday’s event.

These days, Rep. Castro represents San Antonio, Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives and is a member of the House Intelligence and Education and Labor committees, the House Foreign Affairs Committee and serves as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Development, International Organizations and Global Social Impact.

Julián Castro served as U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama from 2014-2017. Prior, he was the youngest mayor of a Top 50 American city, leading his hometown of San Antonio, Texas.

In 2012, Julián Castro gave a rousing keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention, during which he described the American Dream as a relay to be passed from generation to generation. After his historic run for president in 2020, Julián Castro launched People First Future to help elect progressive candidates.

Rep. Castro accepted the Hall of Fame award on behalf of himself and his brother Friday evening and shared memories of their time together as undergraduates at Stanford.

“It was the first place where I met people that were different from me, different cultures, different faiths, backgrounds, different dreams,” Rep. Castro said. “In seeing them appreciate their backgrounds, I began to appreciate mine and the place where I came from. I remember some of the lessons, but it was the experiences with my fellow classmates that I’ll always remember, and I take with me.”

He also encouraged current Stanford students to consider using tools such as social media to share their stories and lived experiences.

“All of us deserve to have our stories heard and told and written into the larger American narrative,” Rep. Castro said. “For students that are here today … I hope that you will tell our stories and the stories of communities where you come from because they are fundamentally a part of America.”

Shoney Hixson Blake, ’06; Native American Cultural Center

From her undergraduate days as an engaged Native American community leader and student-athlete, Blake distinguished herself as a builder of networks. Following Stanford, Blake attended the University of Chicago Law School and launched a successful private law practice as a patent litigation associate with Latham and Watkins LLP.

Blake and fellow alumnus Ray Blake married and spent seven years as Resident Fellows at Muwekma-Tah-Ruk, Stanford’s Native Theme House. There the pair worked to create a visible and affirming Indigenous home, hosting programs and classes, developing student staff and mentoring students on wellness, service and creative expression.

Now an associate at Pipestem Law in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Blake recently created the “50 for 50” Native Stanford Alumni spotlight series interviewing 50 Indigenous alumni over 50 weeks in celebration of the 2020-2021 50th anniversaries of the Stanford American Indian Organization and Stanford Powwow. She also created a film called “Building Tah-Ruk” video for Muwekma’s 30th Anniversary in 2018

“My whole purpose is building a connection between our students and our alumni with the hope that they can exchange inspiration from our small but mighty community here at Stanford and understand our legacy, both here on campus and worldwide,” Blake said.

NACC Director Karen Biestman called Blake “this generation’s teller of the Stanford stories.”

“She captured memories, movements, humor, struggle, triumph, legacies and aspirations that tell our story with depth … and is an overwhelming tribute of those who came before us and whose shoulders we stand on,” Biestman said.