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Saturday, May 07, 2005

SWU Graduation, May 5, 1974

The graduation exercises, 31 years ago, at the institution where I have been working for four decades, were memorable for several reasons. I have a copy of the program--it's the only one I have kept, except the one where I spoke. It shows all of the following, except the first, which is not indicated:

1) First graduation as a regionally accredited institution.

2) First graduation class which included African-Americans. There were two of them. One of these, a biology major I knew well, had several firsts to his name:
first African-American admitted and entering (Not the first black--there was an African student before him)
being on our first intercollegiate athletic team, men's basketball, in our initial year of competition, as a freshman
being on the men's soccer team, in our initial year of competition, as a senior--he had gotten kicked off the basketball team, as I understand it, for growing a beard (How things have changed!)
first African-American graduating--he was afraid that the other person, whose name came before his in the alphabet, would be the first, but the graduates were in order of major, then name, and biology came before English

He went on to teach high school for a year, to work for a utility company in a technical capacity, and, eventually, to obtain a Master's degree in science from a state university. I was happy to have him speak to a class once when he came back for a visit, and he did a good job. Talked about some things I didn't know.

This individual was a remarkable young man. He had graduated from the last all African-American high school in the state. He lived with his grandparents, who could not read or write, and signed his own school documents for them. He did get some scholarships, but also worked, cleaning a bank, and probably on other local jobs, as a way to pay for his education. I have lost track of him, and I suspect that he has died.

3) First African-American graduation speaker

4) One of the two marshals was a quadriplegic

There were 81 graduates, and five of these graduated with honors. I expect about 30% of our graduates this year will graduate with honors. Grades have, indeed, inflated in 31 years.

A new reader pointed out that I have been posting memories. So I have, recently. I expect to get back to the present and the future soon. May not post for a day or two. We have family with us!

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