BOONE—Imagine you are attending Appalachian State University in the spring of 1965. Enrollment is just shy of 3,060 students. A total of 369 are enrolled in graduate school.
Now imagine you are an African-American attending what was then Appalachian State Teachers College as integration was spreading across the South.
Barbara Reeves Hart of Gastonia was the first African-American to earn a master’s degree from the university, graduating in spring 1965 with a master’s degree in special education for the deaf.
Hart and other alumni who were African-American leaders while at Appalachian and part of the university’s early diversity efforts will be honored Oct. 2 at Appalachian and receive a Faces of Courage award during a Commemoration of Integration celebration, which will be held at 12:30 p.m. at the Holmes Convocation Center. The event is free and open to the public. The ceremony also will be available for viewing at http://streaming.appstate.edu/commemoration.
The program will include remarks from Dr. Harry L. Williams ’86 ’88 ’95, president of Delaware State University. Williams served as associate vice chancellor for diversity at Appalachian, in addition to holding administrative positions in the Office of Admissions earlier in his career.
“This event commemorates an important milestone in Appalachian’s history and recognizes persons whose courage and desire for a great education laid the foundation for future generations,” said Chancellor Sheri N. Everts.
The ceremony is part of homecoming activities Oct. 2-3.
“I did not realize at that time that I might become the first African-American to receive a master’s degree from Appalachian State,” Hart wrote of her time at Appalachian. “I do recall my mother mentioned that of the hundreds and hundreds of students graduating that day, she did not see any other Black student walk across the stage to receive a diploma; I was the only one in the entire graduating class.”
Other honorees are:
- Dr. Carolyn Anderson ’69 of Winston-Salem, who was the first African-American, full-time faculty member at Appalachian. Anderson, who earned a degree in mathematics, taught in the Department of Mathematics. Anderson went on to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics in 2004 from American University. She held faculty or administrative posts at Livingston College, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College before retiring as associate director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Winston-Salem State University.
- Dr. Willie Fleming ’80 ’84 of Charlotte was a founding member of the Appalachian Gospel Choir and its first director, a founding member of the Black Student Association and the Black Faculty and Staff Association and an advisor for minority students. He also helped university administrators establish National Pan-Hellenic Council fraternities and sororities for African-American students. Fleming is an associate professor of psychology and counseling and coordinator of school and mental health programs at Gardner-Webb University.
- Dr. Zaphon R. Wilson ’76 ’77 of Raleigh was a member of the faculty in the former Department of Political Science and Urban Planning and Geography and the university’s first assistant to the provost for minority affairs. While at Appalachian, he founded the Black Faculty and Staff Association. He currently is dean of the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences and professor of political science at Saint Augustine’s University.
- Darrick Claiborne ’96 of Virginia, an artist and senior systems analyst at Dominion Resources LLC, will present a painting to commemorate integration at Appalachian to the university.
After graduation, Hart worked for more than 30 years with the deaf and hard of hearing in North Carolina and California, including serving as a speech-language pathologist in several school districts.
Hart, who walked to segregated public school while growing up in Belmont, recalls “colored” water fountains, service windows marked “Colored patrons” at local restaurants, having to ride in the back of public bus transportation, being denied access to public libraries in the Belmont area, and getting worn and second-hand textbooks from the white schools.
“Yet, in spite of all such adverse conditions, the students of Reid School and many of my classmates became successful leaders in the community, state and nation,” Hart wrote.
She also wrote of the dedication of her public school teachers who “were determined to help us achieve our fullest potential in spite of adversity and hardships. I am truly thankful to have had the honor and opportunity of attending Appalachian State Teachers College.”
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.
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