Mar 9, 2007    #036
Contact: Nick Barron

Bennett named Alumni Service Award winner

Growing up in newly desegregated Kansas City, Angela Bennett’s parents instilled in her two main themes: To go wherever you’d like to go and remember to help those who come behind you. Throughout the years it’s evident Bennett has lived according to these outlines as she has continued to break traditional barriers, while living her life in service to others.

            “Their (parents) message to me was that I have a responsibility to other people who don’t have as much as I had or don’t have the kind of support that I had,” Bennett said. “They allowed me to be on their shoulders, and that’s the reason, I think, that as I go along, and as others go along, we need to be the shoulders for people who come behind us.”

            It’s this giving attitude that has led Bennett to being awarded the 2007 Bill French Alumni Service Award at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

            Along with helping others, Bennett has a habit of breaking through traditional barriers. She has been, in her words, “the first black ‘whatever’” many times in her life; including the first African-American attorney hired at the Kansas City law firm Lathrop & Gage LC. But Bennett has not allowed traditional barriers to keep her from succeeding and from helping others succeed as well.

As president of the University Of Missouri System Board Of Curators she feels privileged to be given a chance to make a difference.

“I was very proud to be a curator,” Bennett said. “It was an opportunity to work to better the Institution as a whole, but to also create opportunities for students to have access to a better education than has been offered in the past.”

            Even Bennett’s law degree is an example of her devotion to humanity. After earning her bachelor’s, there was no doubt in her mind that she would continue her education. The question was which degree would help her help others the most.

“My principle reason for going to law school was in order to be able to help people,” Bennett said. “I knew I wanted to do public service in law. I knew that I wanted to contribute to society through my degree.”

            And contribute to society she has. Bennett is the regional director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, and she has served as the assistant attorney general for the State of Missouri’s Consumer Protection Division and assistant county counselor for Jackson County, Mo. Perhaps her most consistent work, however, has been to UMKC.

            Bennett’s passion for her alma mater is endless. Along with her dedicated leadership in several organizations, the former UMKC cheerleader has been spotted at Kangaroo basketball games cheering on the home team. She believes UMKC hasn’t cheered for itself enough, on and off the court.

            “UMKC is one of the best kept secrets in town,” Bennett said. “And one of the things that I want to do, and continue to try and do, is not for it to be a secret but for people to know what a wonderful institution it is.”

            Bennett is a member of the Law Alumni Association, the UMKC Women’s Council, the Minority Affairs Advisory Board, and the KCUR-FM Advisory Committee, to name a few. She has received the UMKC Law Foundation Public Service Award (1989-90) and the UMKC Law School Alumni Achievement Award (1996).

            “Angela has not only been an active leader in several UMKC groups but also a steadfast alumni responder whenever she has been asked to do anything on behalf of the University, whether or not it brought her any type of recognition,” Michael Albano, Immediate Past-President of the UMKC Alumni Association, said.

            While Bennett’s term on the Board of Curators expired at the end of 2006, she said her involvement with UMKC and the community will continue. Despite all she’s done, Bennett feels there are still barriers she hasn’t broken and people she hasn’t helped. 

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 14,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students.  UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a three-part mission: visual and performing arts, health sciences, and urban affairs.

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