A portrait by Terrance Osborne, internationally renowned artist and New Orleans native, of three Tulane Trailblazers — Gloria Bryant Banks (SW ’64), Pearlie Hardin Elloie (SW ’65) and Marilyn S. Piper (SW ’64) — was unveiled at the School of Social Work building in downtown New Orleans on Nov. 11, 2022.

Gloria Bryant Banks, Pearlie Hardin Elloie and Marilyn S. Piper in front of their portrait by Terrance Osborne
Terrance Osborne’s portrait of Gloria Bryant Banks, Pearlie Hardin Elloie and Marilyn S. Piper conveys their journey of hope and perseverance.

Banks, Elloie and Piper were the first African American students to earn degrees from the social work school.

Banks served as secretary for the Louisiana State Department of Social Services.When Gov. Edwin Edwards interviewed her for the position, he noted her Tulane degree.

“I know very well that that Tulane University degree made a difference — a positive difference — in my getting that job,” Banks said. To this day, she added, she is “glad to be a Greenie.”

Elloie directed the Office of Children, Youth and Families at Total Community Action before directing her own Head Start Center. She recalled her push for Tulane to desegregate, inspired by Ruby Bridges, Leona Tate, Gail Etienne and Tessie Prevost, who at age 6 desegregated public elementary schools in New Orleans in 1960.

Piper served as head of Child Protection for the State of Louisiana and later was an adjunct professor at Tulane. Piper knew she wanted to be a social worker when she was a young girl and kept that goal with her throughout her schooling.

“When I found out, back in 1963, that Tulane had said they would enroll Black students, I said to my family and some of my close friends, ‘I’m going to apply, I’m going to be accepted and I’m going to succeed,’” Piper said.

Tulane Trailblazers, launched by President Michael Fitts in 2019, is an initiative to honor individuals who have led the way to the university becoming a more inclusive, diverse and welcoming community.