LaTonia “Tonia” Gladney Karr, ’92, and her husband, Adam Karr, have made a generous gift to Stanford that will support postdoctoral fellows studying race and education and also strengthen services for the Black student community.

Seniors at Black Graduation in 2019. This annual event, hosted by the Black Community Services Center for more than 40 years, is a celebration of the educational journey and achievements of graduating students. (Image credit: Black Community Services Center)

The new endowed Karr Family Provostial Fellow Fund will support one of five early-career scholars who are joining the university this fall as part of a program to increase research and teaching in race and ethnicity. In addition, the Karrs have endowed the directorship of the Black Community Services Center (BCSC), establishing permanent sources of funding for the center’s work, as well as a fund to provide critical programming and services.

The Karrs’ investment seeks to further the university’s goals for IDEAL (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access in a Learning Environment), a presidential initiative launched in 2020 to transform Stanford into an institution that advances diversity as the key to excellence and achievement.

“Inclusion, diversity, equity and access are fundamental to creating a culture in which all community members can thrive, and they are essential to Stanford’s research and education mission,” said Provost Persis Drell. “I am so grateful to Tonia and Adam for sharing in our commitment to IDEAL and for helping the university in its efforts to become a more equitable and inclusive institution.”

Tonia Karr has been a member of the university’s Board of Trustees since 2013 and currently serves as vice chair. Last fall, Drell invited her to join a core IDEAL advisory group assisting the university in increasing institutional support for research, education and policy solutions focused on racial disparities in America.

Building an inclusive student community

The inaugural Karr Family Directorship of the Black Community Services Center is held by Rosalind Conerly, who has served as director of the BCSC and associate dean of students since 2019. In this role, Conerly oversees programs and services that focus on student academic and intellectual strength, leadership development, mental health and well-being, community building and alumni engagement.

Tonia Karr (Image credit: Courtesy Tonia Karr)

Jan Barker-Alexander, assistant vice provost for inclusion and community said, “We are so thankful for the Karrs’ generous gift, which recognizes and reinforces the BCSC’s legacy of community, scholarship and leadership. I am also deeply grateful for Tonia’s longstanding relationship with the center and her efforts to engage students, both formally and informally. Our students always benefit from her genuine care and concern for their well-being.”

Barker-Alexander, who previously served as the BCSC’s longtime director, is also executive director of the Centers for Equity, Community and Leadership (ECL) and oversees Stanford’s seven community centers. The Karrs’ gift follows recent gifts for the Asian American Activities Center and the BCSC and Ujamaa House.

“The BCSC played a pivotal role in my Stanford experience and, as an alumna, I have seen how it continues to prepare Black undergraduates and the broader student body to navigate a complex world with empathy and strength,” Karr said. “We hope our gift will help continue to advance the center’s critical work, and also support the postdoctoral scholars whose research on race and education will ultimately fuel change in society.”

Supporting research on race and ethnicity

The Karrs’ gift for the IDEAL Provostial Fellows Program will support the work of Eujin Park, a researcher at the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy at the University of Illinois-Chicago who will join Stanford in the fall. Her work examines how educational policies and opportunities are shaped by race, class and other sociopolitical processes, with a focus on Asian Americans.

Eujin Park (Image credit: Courtesy Eujin Park)

Park has been awarded one of five new post-doctoral fellowships established as part of the provost’s IDEAL initiative that will expand research and teaching in race and ethnicity and help diversify the professorial pipeline. More than 650 people applied for the three-year fellowships, which require recipients to teach, pursue research and help organize a major conference on race and ethnicity.

Each IDEAL fellow will be assigned to the schools and departments corresponding to the fields of their doctorate. Park will be based in Stanford Graduate School of Education, which is leading the university’s new Transforming Learning Accelerator (TLA) to expand interdisciplinary research on efforts that create more equitable and effective learning solutions. Both IDEAL and TLA are core to the university’s Long-Term Vision, which seeks to amplify the university’s purposeful impact in the world.

Both Tonia and Adam Karr are former beneficiaries of financial aid – she as a student at Stanford University, and he as a student at Northwestern University. Today they both serve as trustees at their respective alma maters.

Tonia Karr also serves on the advisory council for Stanford Graduate School of Education as well as on the board of directors for the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. She is a longtime university volunteer and served as co-chair of her 20th and 25th reunion campaigns. Together, the Karrs have made numerous gifts benefiting students and programs at the university, and also have established a foundation that focuses on improving educational outcomes for students from under-resourced communities.