The Austin Chamber of Commerce has named Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, president and CEO of Huston-Tillotson University, as the 2021 Austinite of the Year.

Under Burnette’s leadership, Huston-Tillotson, a private, Historically Black University in East Austin, grew its endowment by more than 55%. The university also partnered with Apple to create the African American Male Teacher Initiative, which was Burnette’s “passion project," and it collaborated with Tesla on a manufacturing engineering curriculum and a career progression internship for undergraduates, according to the media release. Burnette also completed numerous projects on its deferred maintenance list including the construction of the Sandra Joy Anderson Health and Wellness Center – the first new building on campus since 1974 – and the remodeling of King-Seabrook Chapel.

As stated in a recent piece by the Austin American-Statesman, Burnette was not only selected for her work in accelerating and expanding the city's historically Black university, but also for her citywide civic leadership, including crucial service as co-chair for the Mayor's Task Force on Institutional Racism and Systemic Inequities.

The Chamber created the special award in 1984 to recognize significant leaders in the local community who were instrumental in making Austin an even better place to live, work, and do business. Recent honorees include Susan Dawson (2020), Jesús Garza (2019), Ray Wilkerson (2018), Bobby Jenkins (2017), Dell Medical School Drs. Ken Shine and Clay Johnston (2016), Mobile Loaves and Fishes CEO, Alan Graham, (2015). Other winners include Dr. Peter Flawn (1984), the 45th Texas Governor Ann Richards (1994), Susan and Michael Dell (1997), Senator Kirk Watson (2000) and Pike Powers (2005).

“I am deeply appreciative and eternally grateful to be the recipient of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce’s Austinite of the Year award,” Burnette said. “To be recognized in this way is a highlight of my life. Upon moving to Austin to serve as the sixth president and CEO of Huston-Tillotson University, I unknowingly embarked upon a wondrous journey that would forever change my life in the most extraordinary, impactful and unimaginable ways. I have experienced firsthand the magic of a city of people collectively leaning in to do the hard work necessary to build a beloved community for all - even when it gets hard and uncomfortable to do so.”
  • Learn more about Burnette's journey and everlasting impact on our community, covered exclusively by the Austin American-Statesman.

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