Cherrelle Duncan, Bush School Class of 2013, was honored last week as the 2022 recipient of the Bush School’s Outstanding Alumni Award. She was recognized on October 6, 2022, in the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center dining room in front of an audience that included many family, friends, mentors, Bush School faculty, alumni, and students.
“I’m truly honored. It’s a great honor to be placed in such distinguished ranks of those who have been awarded this honor before. And to have walked the halls of the Bush School alongside them,” Duncan said.
Joy Monroe, Assistant Dean for Development, Alumni Relations, and Strategic Initiatives at the Bush School, opened the ceremony by introducing a few special guests before Dean Mark Welsh recognized Duncan, highlighting some of her major accomplishments in a career as a public servant.
“The reputation of the Bush School is directly the result of the impact and the effect that our former students have on the people they meet, they serve, and they interact with for the rest of their career,” Dean Welsh asserted.
Duncan currently is the Chief of Staff for Houston City Council District F, council member Tiffany D. Thomas. Her jobs include project management, strategic planning, and the management of funding for special projects like youth engagement, city beautification, public safety, and economic development. She also coordinates pandemic relief efforts, emergency food distribution, town halls, citywide youth conferences, and employment fairs throughout her district, along with many other meaningful projects.
“I think it gives you a sense, when we talk about service, of what service means to someone like Cherrelle,” Dean Welsh stated.
Duncan also serves as the Leadership Training and Development Chair of the National Urban League of Young Professionals and as an entrepreneur founding both Duncan Impact Solutions, a nonprofit consulting firm, and SOA Co. Books, a mobile bookstore that supports minority readers and authors.
“Cherrelle, you’re not receiving this award because of all the job titles, and the things you sign up to do. It is the way you do it, the way you connect, the way you interact, the heart behind all this,” Dean Welsh said.
Dean Welsh invited the two individuals to the stage who nominated Duncan for the Bush School Outstanding Alumni Award.
Megan Alvear, Bush School Class of ‘21 and current Assistant Director of Development for the Bush School, explained how she met Duncan at an Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Meeting where Duncan delivered a speech that inspired her.
“Cherrelle is one of the best Bush School students I have ever met. I appreciated her as an alumna taking the time to get involved with the AFP chapter. I have felt inspired to be a better public servant because of Cherrelle. And I am so grateful to call her my friend,” Alvear stated.
Joey Roberts, Bush School Class of ’14 and one of Duncan’s close friends, also spoke on why he nominated Duncan for the outstanding alumni award.
“She always takes the challenging route, and faces those challenges head-on – making so many impossible situations become possible,” Roberts said.
Duncan then took the stage and thanked those in attendance recognizing her former classmates, colleagues, mentors, and previous professors.
“This honor is because of the individuals in this room who have encouraged and supported me to achieve,” Duncan said. Duncan continued, sharing the accomplishments of her family in their careers in public service and how she grew up observing their work.
“It was never a question of if I would go into public service. Making a career out of public service was a no-brainer because I do not know how to do anything else,” Duncan said.
Through teary eyes, Duncan took a special moment to honor those who have an irreplaceable place in her heart – her mother, her sister, and her brother-in-law. She recognized each individual and the role they have played in her life, contributing to her career as a public servant, leaving the entire audience emotional.
Duncan concluded her speech with the words, “Public service is a noble calling. It is my calling. I will continue to stay in the fight.”
Less than ten years after graduating from the Bush School, Duncan returned to the place that prepared her for a leadership role in public service, now being celebrated for her amazing work and example of what it means to be a true career public servant.