Family, friends and members of the Mount community gathered on November 16 in a touching tribute to honor the life and legacy of the late Bernadette (Bernie) Robert ‘77 by dedicating the Center that now bears her name - The Bernadette Gonzaque Robert Center for Equity, Diversity and Justice.
As a student, alumna and leader, Robert’s professional and personal journeys were closely intertwined with the University. Over her 35-year tenure at the Mount, she served in a variety of leadership roles. In her last position as the associate vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Robert led the creation of the Center in 2016. Her expertise, vision and commitment to social justice were the force that built the foundation and the blueprint to increasingly foster inclusion and diversity across our campuses.
As a friend, mentor and colleague, she also touched the lives of many in the community – as evidenced by the many speakers who shared fond memories and anecdotes about Bernie during the dedication event.
“Bernie exemplified the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph, working always to serve all persons without distinction, to bring people together through love,” said President Ann McElaney-Johnson, PhD, during her opening remarks. “Today, we celebrate her as we take one more step toward fulfilling the vision she created with this community.”
Krishauna Hines-Gaither, PhD, who will join the Mount in January as the first vice president for equity, diversity and justice, flew from North Carolina to join the event and shared some words on the vision for the Center. “In carrying her vision forward, the Bernadette Gonzaque Robert Center for Equity, Diversity and Justice will be a space that is gathered by love, but yet measured by justice. First and foremost, it will foster a spirit of belonging. The Center will work internally and outward facing, so we are engaged with the Los Angeles County and beyond,” explained Hines-Gaither.
Maryann Nguyen, associate director of student wellbeing at the Mount who worked closely with Bernie for over 15 years, was among other friends and family members who spoke during the ceremony. “Bernie dedicated her life to the Mount and to the betterment of society. She dedicated her life to equity, diversity and justice for all people without distinction,” she said.
Renowned members of the Los Angeles community, including LA District Attorney General George Gascon, Councilwoman Linda Molina, and representatives from the LAPD also attended the ceremony. “The LAPD owns a debt of gratitude to Bernadette for her service,” said Luann Pannell, director of police training and education for the Los Angeles Police Department. As part of her many community leadership roles, Robert worked with the Los Angeles Police Department for over 10 years as a member of its professional advisory committee.
The University’s collective efforts to strengthen equity and inclusion at the Mount are a cornerstone of the new 2021-2026 Strategic Plan. “Today, we commit to our dear friend and our guardian angel to continue the work she started with us,” added McElaney-Johnson. “We are all a part of the vision we crafted with Bernie to live and work as an anti-racist University fueled by the power of unifying love called for by our founders.”
NOTE: Please join us in remembering Bernie by sharing your cherished memories, photos or videos of her on the online memorial by November 30. You may also make a gift to the Bernie Robert Memorial Scholarship or The Bernadette Gonzaque Robert Center for Equity, Diversity and Justice to support her legacy.
To access the livestream recording, click here.