Urban League honors UMSL Chancellor Kristin Sobolik at annual Salute to Women in Leadership Gala

Chancellor Kristin Sobolik dons a medal and holds a plaque presented to her at the Urban League's Salute to Women in Leadership Gala

Chancellor Kristin Sobolik stands on stage to receive her medal and plaque as one of 14 honorees at Friday night’s Urban League Salute to Women in Leadership Gala in downtown St. Louis. (Photo courtesy of Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis)

University of Missouri–St. Louis Chancellor Kristin Sobolik was among 14 honorees at the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis’ annual Salute to Women in Leadership Gala, held Friday night in downtown St. Louis.

Sobolik was lauded for leading the development and implementation of UMSL’s five-year strategic plan focused on building inclusive prosperity at an event attended by several hundred people at the Marriott St. Louis Grand Hotel.

Her accomplishments also include overseeing a 10-year renewal of accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, the introduction of more than a dozen new academic programs, increases in private philanthropy by more than 20% and research expenditures by 57%, and the university’s continued rise in the U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” rankings since coming to UMSL as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs in 2017 and being appointed chancellor in 2020.

“I am truly honored to receive this recognition on behalf of UMSL and our collective focus on inclusive prosperity,” said Sobolik, who was presented with a medal and a plaque. “As UMSL’s chancellor, it is my privilege to get to represent the university in these spaces, but it is the collective work and efforts of our entire community that help guide our growth and development and my leadership each and every day. The Urban League provides leadership, support and guidance for our whole community, and their recognition of our collective work is particularly poignant and appreciated.”

The Salute to Women in Leadership Gala is an annual event that was created to recognize outstanding women who embody the mission of the Urban League to help create opportunity for disadvantaged and overlooked individuals and communities.

The honorees were selected from a wide swath of professional and civic categories, including community leaders, elected officials, educators, media, corporations, businesses and charities.

Two UMSL graduates joined Sobolik among this year’s honorees: Ferguson Mayor Ella Jones and Gwendolyn Wilson-Diggs, the vice president of Head Start and Early Head Start for the Urban League. Jones earned her BA in chemistry from UMSL in 1986 and in 2020 became both the first woman and Black resident elected mayor of the city. Diggs, meanwhile, received an MEd from UMSL’s College of Education in 1999 and joined the Urban League as a vice president in 2019 after more than 15 years working in the Ferguson-Florissant and Jennings school districts. She’s also served as an adjunct faculty member at UMSL.

The list of honorees includes:

Marilyn Bush, president of Bank of America St. Louis

Akberet Boykin-Farr, vice president of diversity and social responsibility at Emerson

Dr. Matifadza Hlatshwayo Davis, director of health for the City of St. Louis

Gwendolyn Wilson-Diggs, vice president of Head Start and Early Head Start for the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis

Nkenge Harmon-Johnson, president and CEO of the Urban League of Portland, Oregon

Ella Jones, mayor of the City of Ferguson, Missouri

Sonette Magnus, partner at Thompson Coburn LLP

Karen Morrison, senior manager of advocacy, community outreach and workforce diversity at BJC HealthCare

Pamela Morris-Thornton, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion at Panera Bread

Tanya Patton, assistant superintendent of student support services at Riverview Gardens School District 

LaTonia Collins Smith, president of Harris-Stowe State University

Kristin Sobolik, chancellor of the University of Missouri–St. Louis

“These extraordinary women contribute greatly to our community in addition to achieving excellence in their chosen professions,” said Michael P. McMillan, the president and CEO of the Urban League. “We are honored to recognize them for their stellar professional achievements and show our appreciation for all they do in our community.”

The Urban League also presented Lifetime Achievement Awards to actress Tichina Arnold and Areva Martin, an award-winning civil rights attorney, CNN legal analyst, author, advocate and founder and president of Special Needs Network, Inc.


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