IAAM’s CEO awarded “The Legacy Award” by Black Women’s Agenda, Inc.

Award presented at Congressional Black Caucus Conference event

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Charleston, S.C. – Dr. Tonya M. Matthews, president and CEO of the International African American Museum (IAAM), was selected by the Black Women’s Agenda, Inc. (BWA) for the 2023 Legacy Award, which is designed to honor and give tribute to “phenomenal black women,” according to the organization. The Legacy Award was presented at the BWA’s annual luncheon on September 22 in Washington, D.C., where 1500 women from across the country gathered.

The annual luncheon, now in its 47th year, hosts members of Congress, local and federal officials, business leaders, and educators from across the country. Past recipients of the award include Maya Angelou, Dr. Dorothy Height, Shirley Sherrod, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, Secretary Condoleezza Rice, and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Recognized as a thought-leader in social entrepreneurship, institutional equity, strategy, and the intersection of formal and informal education, Matthews is a writer and poet, and has had a storied career in non-profit leadership for over a decade.

I am profoundly honored to be the recipient of the Legacy Award from The Black Women’s Agenda, Inc. The work of BWA has been a leading, powerful voice for women, illuminating paths towards education, health, and economic empowerment. This award is not just a recognition of my efforts, but a tribute to generations of Black women who have paved the way for Black women – and all members of every community – to continue to forge ahead. To be mentioned in the same breath as women of such stature as Maya Angelou, Dr. Dorothy Height, and the Honorable Kamala Harris is an honor beyond words.

Dr. Tonya M. Matthews, president and CEO of the International African American Museum (IAAM)

Matthews became president and CEO of the IAAM in April 2021, and since taking on that role has focused on inspiring her staff to enhance visitor and community engagement initiatives, and on telling the untold stories of the African American journey. Over the past two years, her extensive leadership experience was instrumental in preparing for the museum’s grand opening, late June 2023. Under her leadership, IAAM has become a champion of authentic, empathetic storytelling of African American history and thus is one of the nation’s newest platforms for the disruption of institutionalized racism as America continues the walk toward “a more perfect union.”

Prior to her work with the IAAM, Matthews served as associate provost of Inclusive Workforce Development and as director of the STEM Innovation Learning Center at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, and prior to that as president and CEO of the Michigan Science Center. There, in 2015, she founded The STEMinista Project, a ground-breaking, national initiative that inspires middle-school girls to consider tools and careers in STEM, and STEMinista Rising, which supports professional women in STEM – and the colleagues who champion them.

Matthews is widely recognized for her accomplishments and dedication to the community. She has been noted as one of the area’s Most Influential by Charleston Business Magazine twice (2022, 2023) and honored as Trailblazer by Career Mastered Magazine (2017). During her tenure as president and CEO of the Michigan Science Center, she was named one of the Most Influential Women in Michigan in 2016. She is a former member of the National Academy of Sciences Board on Science Education and was appointed by both Democratic and Republican administrations to the National Assessment Governing Board. She has authored several articles and book chapters on inclusive board governance, non-profit management, and fundraising. Additionally, Matthews is a published poet, with some of her poetry included in 100 Best African American Poems (2010), edited by Nikki Giovanni. Her most recent work, “How Weaving Came into The World,” was published in the January 2022 edition of the Charleston City Paper.

Matthews received her Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Johns Hopkins University and her bachelor’s degree in biomedical and electrical engineering from Duke University, along with a certificate in African and African American Studies. She has also been honored with an honorary doctorate from Central Michigan University for her career achievements and contributions.

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