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Evie Garrett Dennis

Evie Garrett Dennis was born on September 8, 1924, in Farmhaven, Mississippi, to Ola and Eugene Garrett. She graduated from Cameron Street High School and received her B.S. degree from St. Louis University in 1953.

Dennis came to Denver, Colorado, as a researcher for the Children’s Asthma Research Institute and The Jewish National Home for Asthmatic Children. In 1966, she began her career in public education as a teacher. Dennis was instrumental in convening the first ever convention of The Athletics Congress (now USA Track & Field) in 1980. Since 1983, Dennis has chaired the El Pomar Foundation Awards for Excellence Commission, which recognizes and rewards Colorado nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individuals that serve their communities with distinction and excellence. She was the Chef de Mission for the United States Olympic Committee for two Pan American Games as well as the 1988 Olympic Games, a first for a woman in Olympics' history. Dennis was one of the first two women to reach the U.S. Olympic Executive Committee and the first to serve as Vice President of the U.S. Olympic Committee. She has chaired its Women’s Committee and Diversity Committee and remains a member of the Governing Bodies Council. She has been a staunch advocate and spokesperson for Title IX, ensuring equal access to sports for young women. Dennis served as Deputy Superintendent of the Denver Public School System from 1988 through 1990 and the District Superintendent from 1990 to 1994. She was the first woman and the first African American to head the 60,000-student district. Dennis was charged with implementing and monitoring the U.S. District Court order to desegregate Denver Public Schools. Through her dedication to improve and ensure equal educational opportunities for all students and to work with the community through the difficult issues presented by the court’s order, Dennis successfully guided the school system through a complicated and divisive period to create positive alliances between the school district, parents, students, teachers, patrons, and community leaders. She designed and implemented innovative programs to meet the needs of the district’s diverse population, including the Education Advisory Councils; the Denver Energy, Engineering and Education Program (DEEEP); and the American Israel Student Exchange Program. Dennis officially retired from the Denver Public School System in 1994.

Dennis was honored as an inductee to the Sportswomen of Colorado Hall of Fame in 1997. In 1999, she was named Laureate of the Association of National Olympic Committees. In addition, Dennis was inducted into the United States Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2004.

Accession Number

A2008.118

Sex

Female

Interview Date

11/3/2008

Last Name

Dennis

Maker Category
Middle Name

Garrett

Schools

Cameron Street High School

Saint Louis University

University of Nebraska-Omaha

University of Colorado Boulder

Nova Southeastern University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Evie

Birth City, State, Country

Farmhaven

HM ID

DEN01

Favorite Season

Fall

Sponsor

Jerome Page

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Colorado

Birth Date

9/8/1924

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Denver

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Turkey

Short Description

City education administrator and olympics executive Evie Garrett Dennis (1924 - ) was the first woman and first person of color to serve as the vice president of the U.S. Olympic Committee. She was also the first woman and first African American superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, where she was instrumental in the desegregation process.

Employment

Denver Public Schools

Children's Asthma Research Institute and Hospital

Washington University School of Medicine

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Evie Garrett Dennis' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Evie Garrett Dennis lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Evie Garrett Dennis describes her mother and her likeness to her

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Evie Garrett Dennis talks about her maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Evie Garrett Dennis describes her father and her likeness to him

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Evie Garrett Dennis lists her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Evie Garrett Dennis talks about her parents' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Evie Garrett Dennis describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Evie Garrett Dennis describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Evie Garrett Dennis describes her childhood community

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Evie Garrett Dennis describes her early education

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Evie Garrett Dennis describes her home in Farmhaven, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Evie Garrett Dennis talks about her brother, Robert Garrett

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Evie Garrett Dennis recalls her family's move to Canton, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Evie Garrett Dennis talks about the Church of God

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Evie Garrett Dennis remembers Cameron Street High School in Canton, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 17 - Evie Garrett Dennis describes her family's holiday traditions

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Evie Garrett Dennis describes her siblings' occupations

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Evie Garrett Dennis talks about her undergraduate education

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Evie Garrett Dennis recalls her decision to move to Denver, Colorado

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Evie Garrett Dennis remembers working at the Children's Asthma Research Institute and Hospital in Denver, Colorado

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Evie Garrett Dennis recalls teaching at Lake Junior High School in Denver, Colorado

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Evie Garrett Dennis remembers her recruitment as an administrator of the Denver Public Schools

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Evie Garrett Dennis describes her role in the desegregation of the Denver Public Schools

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Evie Garrett Dennis describes the results of desegregation busing in Denver, Colorado

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Evie Garrett Dennis remembers the violence during the desegregation of the Denver Public Schools

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Evie Garrett Dennis talks about the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Evie Garrett Dennis describes the segregated schools in Denver, Colorado

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Evie Garrett Dennis remembers joining the Amateur Athletic Union

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Evie Garrett Dennis recalls becoming an officer of the Amateur Athletic Union

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Evie Garrett Dennis remembers serving on the U.S. Olympic Committee

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Evie Garrett Dennis recalls her experiences at the 1991 Pan American Games in Cuba

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Evie Garrett Dennis remembers representing the USA Track and Field team

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Evie Garrett Dennis describes her graduate education

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Evie Garrett Dennis remembers receiving the Congressional Gold Medal

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Evie Garrett Dennis talks about steroid testing on the USA Track and Field team

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Evie Garrett Dennis recalls her interactions with Cuban President Fidel Castro

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Evie Garrett Dennis reflects upon her experiences of sexual harassment

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Evie Garrett Dennis describes her efforts to diversify the U.S. Olympic Committee

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Evie Garrett Dennis recalls serving as the superintendent of the Denver Public Schools

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Evie Garrett Dennis describes her achievements in the Denver Public Schools

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Evie Garrett Dennis recalls working with Omar Blair

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Evie Garrett Dennis talks about her retirement

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Evie Garrett Dennis describes her daughter and grandchildren

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Evie Garrett Dennis recalls her trip to Russia

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Evie Garrett Dennis describes her experiences abroad, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Evie Garrett Dennis describes her experiences abroad, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Evie Garrett Dennis remembers the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Evie Garrett Dennis remembers the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Evie Garrett Dennis recalls the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Evie Garrett Dennis remembers the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Evie Garrett Dennis describes her advocacy for athletic and art education

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Evie Garrett Dennis reflects upon her life

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Evie Garrett Dennis shares a message to future generations

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Evie Garrett Dennis describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Evie Garrett Dennis reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Evie Garrett Dennis describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Evie Garrett Dennis narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

3$5

DATitle
Evie Garrett Dennis recalls her decision to move to Denver, Colorado
Evie Garrett Dennis recalls her experiences at the 1991 Pan American Games in Cuba
Transcript
So what happens next? You get married to Philip [Philip Dennis]--$$And we (simultaneous)--$$--(simultaneous) and you graduated [from Saint Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri].$$And we, and we get pregnant (laughter) with Pia [Pia Dennis Smith]. We both applied to medical school, Meharry [Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tennessee]. He went, I stayed home and took care of the baby and worked two jobs to support him in medical school. And the year he was supposed to graduate, the year he did graduate, suddenly there was somebody else on the scene with a child to be. And so we were divorced. And I worked two jobs during that time. I worked at what they call the St. Louis Chronic Hospital [St. Louis, Missouri] sort of as a nurse's aide, and then I worked at the post office [U.S. Post Office Department; U.S. Postal Service] at night. And my sister took care of my baby while I supported him in medical school. And as things happen, there you are with somebody else on the scene with a pregnancy and what have you and so a divorce occurred. My child was--I'm doing research at, at Washington University medical school [Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri] during this time, as I indicated as well as working at the post office. Pia was, Pia is my daughter's name, was an allergic child and so the allergist that I took her to see was doing research on the same floor where I was. And he said to me one day, "How is Pia? I haven't seen her in a long time." And I said, "Well it's a long story." He said, "Well better hurry up and tell me because I'm leaving St. Louis [Missouri]." I said, "You are, where are you going?" He said, "To Denver [Colorado]." Then he told me he was coming here to establish the Children's Asthma Research Institute and Hospital [Denver, Colorado]. I said to him, "Do you need a good technician?" He said, "As a matter of fact, Eileen [ph.] can't go," which was his person. And I was working in hypertension and cardiovascular diseases and research. Well we--I conferred with the boss that I was working with on establishing a book, which is listed in, in my bibliography, I mean a list of publishing people there. And he said, "Are you serious?" And I said, "Yes." He said, "I'm going to Denver." And he came back he said, "You've got the job if you want it." Well I have to go to court and talk about taking the child out of town, so that--we worked that in. and so I came here to help him establish the laboratory altogether. I had the, the luxury of equipping the laboratory and doing all the work in asthma and allergy and infectious diseases.$In my role working with women's track and field for the United States, I traveled a lot with teams. And I, I made this statement to a group meeting in Munich [Germany] in a different area one time that I've traveled on every continent in the, in the world and, and some two or three times. And a little guy said to me, "Have you ever been to Iceland?" And I said, "Well no, but I didn't think of Iceland as a continent." But I--it provided me the opportunity to take athletes around the world. And so I've had lots of first in this movement. I was the first then female or minority to serve as a vice president of the [U.S.] Olympic Committee. I was the first female or minority, male or female, to serve as what they call a chef de maison for a major team. I did that at the Pan American Games in Caracas [1983 Pan American Games, Caracas, Venezuela].$$And what does that actually--$$You are responsible for that team and all the staff, for whatever happens. You are the connection to the International Olympic Committee, the international Pan American Games group [Pan American Sports Organization]. I served as that in Caracas [Venezuela] at the Pan American Games, a very difficult assignment. And I was the first chef de maison to serve, female or minority, at an Olympic Games. I did that in 1988 in Seoul [1988 Summer Olympics, Seoul, South Korea]. Then they came back and wanted me to serve as chef de maison for the Pan American Games competing in Cuba [1991 Pan American Games, Havana, Cuba]. All three very difficult assignments because of the, the reaction for men and particularly men in those areas to women being in leadership roles. Mr. Castro and I, well became kissing buddies. Every time he saw me, he wanted to kiss me. When the, when the Gulf War broke out, I was sitting in a press conference with Fidel Castro in Cuba. And I was like how can I get out of here quickly because he just ranting and raving. You didn't know what he was saying, but you knew that he was ranting and raving about that awful United States, you could hear that coming through all the time. But before I was, was ready to leave there, he found out I was in education and he said, "Would you consider coming to, to serve as my deputy of education for two years?" And I said, "Sorry, can't do that." "Oh," he said, "I can arrange." And I said well--$$You're talking about Castro?$$Fidel Castro. I said, "Well let's get the games over with and we'll talk about it." Well the games about over with and had thirty-eight countries competing in these games. And wherever we went, when I came in leading my delegation, that's where the cameras were peeled. They tell me he knew every minute of the day where I was. When the games were over he sent his interpreter to say tell her we need to talk about this before. And I said, "Well, I have to accompany my team back home, so we'll talk about it later." So that ended that conversation. But I, I just tell you all that to tell you some of the things I've, I've come up against in, in, in my role in these areas.