Moritz alum Gregory Vincent ’87 leading groundbreaking collaboration between NAACP, University of Kentucky
By: James Grega, Jr.
Before he ever attended law school, Gregory Vincent knew he wanted to work in the area of civil rights and public interest.
Now, 33 years after graduating from the Moritz College of Law, Vincent is leading a groundbreaking collaboration between the NAACP and the University of Kentucky which aims to integrate civil rights practices into the education system.
“We believe that if we focus on education – and that all students can get a quality education – they can also get access to the truth,” he said. “I think the other issue is that too often we give an edited version of our history and how all of these things come together. Understanding our past will allow us to move forward in a more progressive and honest way.”
Vincent began his role as the Executive Director and Professor of this new collaboration in July after spending two years as the Grand Sire Archon (CEO and Chairman) of the Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, the oldest Black Greek-lettered organization in the country.
In his new role, Vincent is tasked with a multitude of responsibilities including teaching, community engagement and research. His overall goal is to maintain the longevity of the new initiative, which was born thanks in large part to Julian Vasquez Heilig, the dean of the college of education at the University of Kentucky.
Heilig had worked with the NAACP before in a variety of ways and had also crossed paths with Vincent at the University of Texas – Austin. The idea was born in July of 2019 after Heilig was hired at Kentucky and one year later, Vincent began his new position.
“This is the first time the NAACP has partnered with a higher education institution with a focus on education,” Vincent said. “One of the most powerful parts of this partnership is that the NAACP is the oldest and most preeminent civil rights organization. They have been working on this for well over a century. These issues are rightfully getting attention today, but these issues have been addressed by the NAACP since its founding at the turn of the last century.”
While the new initiative is starting at the higher education level, the goal is to integrate its research into all levels of education. Vincent and the initiative are working on ways in which they can bring civil rights education into all levels of classrooms across the country.
“We want to engage in evidence-based research and practice to help educators from pre-K all the way to higher education to do their work and integrate principles of justice and equity into the curriculum so that we can have a more equitable society,” Vincent said.
In addition to his work at Kentucky, Vincent is still very much involved with the Moritz community. A member of the National Council, Vincent said he is passionate about giving back to the college and university that helped give him his start as a civil rights attorney.
“I always wanted to be a civil rights attorney. That is why I went to law school. Ohio State and the Moritz College of Law meant everything. Simply put, the law school and the university made an investment in me,” he said. “I grew up in New York City so as an out-of-state student, I was able to go to a phenomenal first-rate law school on scholarship. I was able to pick and choose positions like with the attorney general’s office without the burden of debt. I owe Ohio State such a debt of gratitude for that.”
Vincent served as the assistant attorney general in the Office of the Ohio Attorney General prior to entering academia in the late 1990s. He is grateful for the education he received at Moritz for a multitude of reasons, one of which being the relationships he still values almost 25 years later.
Vincent said he still has relationships with his Moritz professors, despite being more than 30 years removed from law school. Professors Deborah Jones Merritt, David Goldberger and Art Greenbaum all made, and are still making an impact on Vincent and his career.
“When I became a professor, there were so many people that were great mentors to me and I am still connected with, and so to have that relationship is absolutely amazing,” he said. “To be able to stay connected and give back both financially but also through the council has been outstanding.”