In honor of Black History Month, Adams and Reese spoke with HBCU Presidents and educational leaders at our partner institutions. We discussed the opportunities they provide and integral roles they play in shaping futures of young Black leaders.
Southern University Law Center Chancellor John Pierre has led the Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based law school since 2016.
What impact does SULC have on the community and young black people in your community?
“Southern University Law Center has a tremendous impact on our African American community in many ways since our inception in 1947. We have trained thousands of lawyers who have been able to help fellow African Americans and others as they seek access to justice and our legal system. Without their representation and advocacy, we could not have made progress in Louisiana and/or across the United States – whether it’s desegregation, voting rights, policy changes, or economic empowerment, there have been significant impacts that our alum have had on lives within our communities. About one-third of our alumni are judges at district court levels across the state. These individuals were inspired in their journeys to serve in a trustworthy manner to citizens, deliver rules of law in an equitable manner, and provide judicial decisions and reasons for those rulings that people can respect within society.”
What does your role as a Chancellor and educational leader mean to you?
“My role is to be a transformational thinker, community change agent, bring innovative ideas to our law students, faculty, and members of administration, and then deliver the necessary resources to our law center for our students to be successful. For example, technology, AI, and ChatGPT are having huge impacts on the legal industry as we know it today. Technology has changed how we deliver legal services to clients, and we need to prepare our students for those emerging trends.”
What or who has had the biggest impact personally and/or professionally in your career?
“The work of Thurgood Marshall has had a significant impact. He was a giant as a lawyer and judge who exhibited so much personal courage in order for him to do the work he did. He traveled all over the country and was at forefront of so many changes in society. He was a fearless leader who had courage and did not back down from a challenge. You can’t think about being a lawyer or a judge without hearing the story of Thurgood Marshall. Closer to my life, a high school coach from my alma mater Loreauville High – the late Richard Pecantte – inspired me and encouraged me to enter law. I graduated from high school knowing what I wanted to do because of him. It’s important for a young person to have a role model to show you what you can become.”
What special meaning does Black History Month have for you?
“It gives us an opportunity to spotlight the amazing accomplishments of African Americans who endured so much adversity to accomplish so much throughout our history. It’s also a reminder for us to focus on the positive news amidst so much negative news in our society. Black History Month also allows us to highlight individuals in our communities who don’t get the recognition they deserve. For example, I am delivering a speech at an AME Church in Kentwood, Louisiana. Before that speech, I dove into the history of African Methodist Episcopals to discover the contributions of their community. Learning how various cultures and communities have contributed to our collective whole is an important exercise as a human.”
About Southern University Law Center: Southern University Law Center, founded in 1947 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is part of the historically black Southern University System. For students who want to pursue a dual degree, the school offers a J.D./MPA and J.D./MBA, along with certificates in tax law and public law. SULC's students can learn two different systems of law: Louisiana is a civil law jurisdiction (in the tradition of France and Continental Europe); law in every other state is based on the British common-law tradition.
About John Pierre: SULC Chancellor since 2016, John K. Pierre has devoted his career to molding lawyer leaders and being a champion of innovation. Under his tutelage, SULC has thrived as a global legal institution. Year after year, it is recognized for its diversity, world class faculty, and racial justice efforts. As a progressive leader and visionary, he advocates for technology advancements, community outreach initiatives, and strategic partnerships that ensures access and opportunity is provided to all. Pierre fervently serves as a transformational change agent and inspiration to legal professionals and thoughts leaders around the globe. He has earned numerous awards for his leadership, innovative strategy, and tireless efforts within the legal and professional realm, including Educator of the Year from the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and Top 10 Most Dominant HBCU Leaders from The HBCU Campaign Fund. Hampton University, the Baton Rouge Bar Association, and the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus are just a few of the organizations that have bestowed honors upon Pierre throughout his career. Also, his alma mater, Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, has named him a Distinguished Alumni. Pierre has served as a contributing panelist during national discussions with the Peggy Browning Fund, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the National Pre-Law Summit, and more. Pierre received a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Southern University in 1980, a master’s degree in tax accounting from Texas Tech University in 1982, and a juris doctor degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law in 1985. Pierre served his country as a Judge Advocates General Corps Officer for the United States Army. He arrived at SULC in 1990 as a faculty member.