Ceremony to Honor Contributions of African-Americans Who Broke Barriers at University

stock photo of Keen Johnson Bldg.

Eastern Kentucky University will pay homage on Monday, Feb. 20 to African-Americans who years ago broke barriers on the Richmond campus and inspired many who followed.

A ceremony at 5 p.m. at the Keen Johnson Building will recognize some of the university’s first African American students, faculty, staff and student-athletes, who “paved the way for our diversity initiatives today,” according to Sandra Moore, associate provost for diversity planning at EKU. The event, which coincides with the campus observance of Black History Month, will begin with an unveiling of a commemorative permanent display in front of the Keen Johnson Building and continue with a reception and recognition program in Walnut Hall inside the building.

The university community and public are invited.

As chronicled in the display, which was first assembled as part of EKU’s centennial observance in 2006, the ceremony will recognize:

·         Andrew Miller, Eastern’s first African-American student. In 1956, Miller, a teacher at what was then Richmond High School, enrolled in a summer graduate course. He went on to earn his graduate degree in 1958. By then, a handful of African-American students were enrolled at Eastern.

·         George Lee, Eastern’s first African-American football player. When Lee was refused admission to a movie theater in 1961, 40 of his teammates left the theater in protest.

·         Jack Jackson, who came to Eastern in 1961 on an athletic/work-study grant on Coach Don Daly’s track team. Jackson went on to become the first African-American president of the EKU International Alumni Association.

·         Aaron Marsh and John Tazel, who in 1967 helped lead the EKU football team to a bowl bid.

·         Anne Peyton, the first African-American student to attend Eastern all four years and graduate. At times, she was the only African-American student on the Richmond campus.

·         Robert Warfield, the first (and only) African-American president of EKU’s Student Government Association and student representative on the Board of Regents.

·         Jim Way, who received his master’s degree from Eastern and became the first African-American on the university’s faculty when he accepted a position in the Department of Industrial Arts in 1966.

·         Delma Francis, who became the first African-American editor of The Eastern Progress in 1974 and went on to a successful journalism career, most notably with the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

·         John Black, one of the university’s first African-American staff members.

·         Hazel Warford, a custodian from 1931 to 1961 who also gave boxing lessons to generations of Eastern students. A plaque in the Weaver Health Building honors his years of service.

Today, EKU counts among its 15,000 students approximately 1,300 racially underrepresented students, including more than 800 African-Americans. With many programs and services now in place, the university has earned national recognition for its commitment to diversity.

Miller, Way, Black and Warford will be honored posthumously at the Feb. 20 ceremony. Some of the honorees are expected to be present; in other cases, family members may attend.

Speakers during the ceremony will include EKU President Doug Whitlock and Moore.

Published on February 15, 2012