St. Stephen’s Concluded its Postponed MLK Day Activities with Special Guest Dr. Gene Batiste

St. Stephen’s recently hosted a campus visit and talk by Dr. Gene Batiste, chief catalyst at With Respect Consulting.

Dr. Batiste’s visit was originally planned as part of St. Stephen’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration and activation but inclement weather postponed the day’s activities earlier in 2024. The St. Stephen’s community, including parents and students, was happy to welcome Dr. Batiste to campus who focused his talk on Women’s History Month in honor and commemoration of beloved former basketball coach and Director of Equity and Inclusion Yvonne Adams.

Women’s History Month and its 2024 theme of #InspiredInclusion was the foundation for Dr. Batiste’s presentation. He began the day meeting with members of the St. Stephen’s Parents’ Association and then later spoke to Middle and Upper School students during their respective chapel services.

Dr. Batiste’s presentation included the “three pillars of Women’s History Month” and highlighted the ways Yvonne Adams embodied and personified those pillars.

“The first pillar gives tribute to a relentless spirit of resilience and achievement of women. Coach Adams’ vim, vigor and audaciousness, compassion and love illustrates this connection,” said Batiste.

Batiste’s presentation also included recorded virtual interviews with a number of St. Stephen’s parents.

“She had a spirit that was always uplifted and [she] always had audacity but with grace. She always taught us that and, meeting people where they are,” said Avani Parikh Vije P ’28.

Dr. Batiste’s second pillar centered around opportunity.

“Women History Month’s significance is that it provides us with an opportunity to honor the remarkable contributions women have made in society,” said Batiste. “Yvonne Adams will forever be synonymous with equity, inclusion, belonging, compassion, and love,” said Batiste. “Coach Adams challenged and continues to challenge all of us to think deeply, act boldly, and dream audaciously.”

Dr. Batiste also noted that Women’s History Month should be celebrated throughout the year but it should not overshadow other marginalized groups who are commemorated and appreciated during other months, for instance “Asian American and Pacific Islander Month in May, LGBTQIA+ Pride Month in June, Hispanic American Heritage Month in mid-September through mid-October and Native American Heritage, which we celebrate in November.”

Dr. Batiste mentioned his third and final pillar highlights the ways women have and continue to serve as catalysts for change by emphasizing words that are synonymous with light. 

“For example, light, guiding light––illuminating the path, carrying the torch and a beacon of hope,” says Batiste. “Coach Adams approached each challenge both professionally and personally with a steadfast devotion to make a difference. Her steadfast devotion continues to influence St. Stephen's and the St. Stephen's community and whose lives she touched through what she accomplished and through who she was as a person with her advocacy, compassion and passion for DEI,” said Batiste.

Dr. Batiste summarized his talk by bringing attention to a mantra Adams often referenced, “ten toes down.” Batiste showed his recorded interview with parent of St. Stephen’s alumni, St. Stephen’s trustee, journalist and Texas Tribune Co-Founder Evan Smith.

“What she means is, keep your feet firmly planted and stick to the principles that you know are the right principles to guide you and do not be towed by what’s in the wind at that moment,” said Smith. “Don’t give in to the politics of the moment or the meanness or the sourness of the world these days. We’re living, as it relates to DEI issues, to the policies that have been unbuilt, as I say. We’re in a world, at the moment, where cruelty is the point,” said Smith.

Dr. Batiste concluded his presentation with a call to action and final thoughts from student Temperance Darden ’25 during their virtual interview.

“See, hear, respect and honor the women around us and others in the St. Stephen’s community to enrich our lives,” said Batiste. “But while you’ve heard enough from me and the inclusion of St. Stephen’s community voices, the final word in honoring Coach Adams’ legacy should come from a student.”

“I really try and be there for other people because I know what it feels like to not have anyone to go to, and you go through stuff and you just let it build up and I don’t want it to be released in a negative way, so if you feel like you need someone to talk to, please talk to someone,” said Darden.

Dr. Batiste Background

Dr. Gene Batiste is the Chief Catalyst for With Respect Consulting. In this role, he serves independent schools, college and universities, and artistic and nonprofit organizations by guiding DEIB, leadership, and organizational vision to action through transformative engagement. As a chief catalyst, Mr. Batiste engages with clients as an advisor, consultant, facilitator, leadership coach, presenter, qualitative researcher, and strategist.
Address: 6500 St. Stephen's Dr., Austin, TX 78746
Phone: (512) 327-1213