Berry, Kennedy to serve as keynote speakers for annual Leadership Conference

The 2020 Leadership Conference Celebrating African American History Month is set for Jan. 31-Feb. 1 at Troy University.

The 2020 Leadership Conference Celebrating African American History Month is set for Jan. 31-Feb. 1 at Troy University.

Author, activist, educator and historian Dr. Mary Frances Berry and activist and author Peggy Wallace Kennedy will serve as keynote speakers during the 2020 Leadership Conference Celebrating African American History Month Jan. 31 – Feb. 1 at Troy University.

Dr. Berry will deliver the conference’s opening address on Friday, Jan. 31, in the Trojan Center Ballrooms on the Troy Campus. Conference check-in will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the second-floor lobby area of the Trojan Center. The opening session will begin at 6:30 p.m. Kennedy will serve as the conference’s luncheon speaker at 11:45 a.m. on Feb. 1 in the Trojan Center Ballrooms.

The Leadership Conference Celebrating African American History Month was launched in 2002 by the University and the City of Troy to promote dialogue that fosters multicultural collaboration and equip diverse leaders with tools to better serve their organizations and communities. This year’s theme is “Effective Leadership: Civically, Economically and Socially.”

Adult registration is $30, while student registration is $15. Register online at  

Dr. Mary Frances Berry

For more than four decades, Dr. Berry has been one of the most visible and respected activists in the causes of civil rights, gender equality and social justice. Serving as the chairperson of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, she led the charge for equal rights and liberties for all Americans over the course of four Presidential administrations.

Dr. Berry became the first woman of any race to head a major research university as Chancellor of the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches the history of American law and the history of law and social policy.

Dr. Berry received the Nelson Mandela award from the South African Government for her role in organizing the Free South Africa Movement, raising global awareness of South African injustice that helped to end more than 40 years of apartheid. She also served as assistant secretary for education in the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

A prolific author, Dr. Berry’s books cover a wide range of subjects, from the history of constitutional racism in America to the history of progressive activism. Her latest book, “History Teaches Us to Resist: How Progressive Movements Have Succeeded in Challenging Times,” examines the successful tactics of movements that ended the Vietnam War, jump-started government response to the AIDS epidemic, championed the Americans with Disabilities Act and advanced civil, women’s and LGBTQ rights. Her previous book, “Power in Words: The Stories behind Barack Obama’s Speeches, from the State House to the White House,” offers insight and historical context of President Obama’s most memorable speeches.

Peggy Wallace Kennedy

Born into one of the most powerful political families in the history of the American South, Peggy Wallace Kennedy is recognized as one of America’s most important voices for peace and reconciliation. From her unique perspective of living behind the gates of the Alabama Governor’s Mansion as her father, George Wallace, rose to become one of America’s most influential populists, Kennedy offers a compelling narrative of her family’s history and its relevance to the current version of the politics of rage. 

Kennedy has participated on special panels and delivered keynote addresses at national and state conferences, government agencies, corporate and special events as well as colleges, universities and high schools. She has participated in programs at the National Archives, Congressional Forums with Congressman John Lewis and on the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March joined Rev. Bernice King, the daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol as a living testament to the power of change and reconciliation.

A former public-school teacher, Kennedy has been married for 41 years to Justice H. Mark Kennedy, a judge for more than two decades including two terms as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama. The couple has two sons, U.S. Army Capt. Leigh Kennedy, a decorated veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Burns Kennedy, a graduate of the University of Alabama who is now pursuing his love of history as an archivist.

In recognition of her mission and work, Kennedy has received, among others, the Rosa Parks Legacy Award, Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Woman of Courage Award, Emmitt Till Legacy Foundation; Achievement Award, Oakwood University; I am a Man Award, April Fourth Foundation; Human Rights Award, The Brown Foundation; and the MLK Commission Award, San Antonio, Texas.

In addition to the two keynote addresses, participants can take part in a variety of plenary sessions on Saturday morning. Plenary session speakers include: Retired Army Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham, a Troy native who currently serves as president and CEO of P B J & G, LLC; Col. Nathan C. Mooney II, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair and Associate Professor of Strategic Leadership at the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.; Rev. Curtis Kennington, Rector of Troy’s St. Mark’s Episcopal Church; and, Christopher Scott, network engineer with AT&T and entrepreneur.

Additional information about the conference is available by contacting Barbara Patterson at 334-670-3204 or by email at, or Sheila Jackson at 334-670-2283 or by email to Registrants who wish to pay by check should contact Patterson by phone.