St. Stephen’s Mourns the Death of Yvonne Adams

It is with deep sadness and heartbreak that we mourn the loss of a beloved and celebrated member of our community, Yvonne Adams, who passed away on November 17, 2023.
As Director of Equity and Inclusion, Yvonne was a cheerleader, confidant, and advisor to a host of students and adults. She was intelligent, funny, irreverent, and fierce. She never took herself too seriously and made sure others didn’t either. Yvonne had a gift for being graceful at the center of conflict and difficult conversations. In those moments, she brought compassion, wisdom and humor. You were always within her embrace, but never off the hook.
Yvonne joined the St. Stephen’s community in 1993 as the girl’s basketball coach and a member of the residential administrators. Over her 31 years on campus, she served in a variety of roles, most recently leading the diversity, equity and inclusion team. As the girl’s basketball coach, Yvonne led her team to win the SPC Championship in 2015 and was named Coach of the Year by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches. During her career, she coached basketball and volleyball at all levels. She was a dorm parent and a faculty sponsor of the School’s Haiti partnership, traveling on several excursions with students to visit St. Stephen’s sister school St. Etienne.
In 2010, St. Stephen’s then Head of School Bob Kirkpatrick named Yvonne as the school’s first director of diversity to begin coordinating and guiding the diversity efforts that were already underway. In 2018, she was appointed as director of equity & inclusion and appointed to serve on the school's senior administrative team.
In that role, Yvonne was instrumental in teaching students, staff, and faculty how to navigate difficult conversations about a range of topics — from bigotry and hatred, to DACA and deportation, to protecting the human rights of natural disaster victims. Ultimately, she wanted to move students beyond tolerance to true understanding so that they would become independent learners and responsible and compassionate citizens of the world. Yvonne also worked closely with school administrators to recruit and retain a more diverse faculty and staff by offering services and resources that fostered a more equitable and inclusive work environment. 
Yvonne’s success as DEI director earned her the 2019 DiversityIS Leadership in Diversity Award given by the DiversityIS magazine. The award recognizes individuals at independent schools in the United States who have done exceptional work in encouraging and supporting the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students and employees. 

In March of that same year, Yvonne partnered with students and other national DE&I leaders to organize the school’s first ever Radical Hope diversity conference on campus. It eventually became an annual conference and symposium that focused on race, equity, and more. 

Yvonne served as faculty sponsor for St. Stephen’s first-ever student affinity group called Unapologetic. She used that same fervor and spirit to champion and activate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day activities, spearheading an active day of service in which students participated in marches and creative programming reflective of events happening around the world.

Yvonne grew to become a national leader in the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion community, and she created and led meaningful groundbreaking efforts that have had a lasting impact across the country. 

She was frequently invited to speak at a number of regional and national conferences including at Southwestern Association of Episcopal Schools (SAES), the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISAS), and the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). Yvonne also served as a consultant with the Glasgow Group, an organization dedicated to helping independent schools navigate complicated school matters and become more equitable communities where all members of a school community feel known, loved, and valued. Yvonne was a faculty member for the People of Color Conference (POCC) and National Diversity Practitioners Institute (NDPI), and she was responsible for selecting and mentoring students as the faculty sponsor for the Student Diversity Leadership Conference.

In her 31 years at St. Stephen’s, there were dozens of people who were inspired and touched by Yvonne, from alumni to staff, students, faculty, trustees and current and past parents. Yvonne used her insights and her confident voice to inject long-lasting change on our campus and beyond. She wasn’t afraid to have hard conversations, and she wasn’t afraid to say what needed to be said, no matter the audience. She was a champion of civil rights and a champion of human rights, and she believed every person deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.

We will miss her spirit of bravery and boldness, and we will miss her beautiful captivating presence. We will miss the incredible love she shared with all who had the privilege of knowing her. While our community is suffering an enormous loss, we pray for her family, her husband, her children, and her grandchild. We pray for God’s grace and peace during this extremely difficult time. Please join us in this prayer:

O God of grace and glory, we remember before you this day our sister Yvonne. We thank you for giving her to us, her family and friends, to know and to love as a companion on our earthly pilgrimage. In your boundless compassion, console us who mourn. Give us faith to see in death the gate of eternal life, so that in quiet confidence we may continue our course on earth, until, by your call, we are reunited with those who have gone before; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

God’s peace be with you.

Chris Gunnin
Head of School
Address: 6500 St. Stephen's Dr., Austin, TX 78746
Phone: (512) 327-1213