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Most Flagship State Universities Are Showing Great Progress in Improving Their Black Student Graduation Rates

The nation’s flagship state universities educate tens of thousands of black students. So it is indeed good news that at 25 flagship universities with large numbers of black students, the graduation rate has improved at 23 institutions over the past decade. The only exceptions are at the University of Mississippi and the University of Virginia, where the black graduation rate remained the same over the period. Despite no gains over the decade, the University of Virginia maintains the highest black student graduation rate of any of the flagship universities.

Some of the black graduation rate gains have been spectacular. For example, the black student graduation rate at the University of Florida has improved from 45 percent to 71 percent. At the University of Texas, the University of Georgia, and the University of Oklahoma, the black student graduation rate has increased by 20 percentage points or more since 1998.

  The tremendous gains in black student graduation rates at the nation’s flagship state universities are due in part to more rigorous academic standards imposed at many institutions. In short, these institutions are beginning to attract more highly qualified students who are focused on achieving academic success. Undoubtedly, more generous financial aid programs at some flagship institutions are also responsible for higher black student graduation rates.

Historically Black Universities Awarding the Most Doctoral Degrees

According to new data released by the National Science Foundation, in 2008 historically black colleges and universities awarded 431 doctorates to recipients of all races. Three years earlier, in 2005, historically black universities awarded 367 doctorates. Thus, there was a significant increase of 17 percent over the three-year period.

In 2008 Howard University awarded 102 doctorates, the most of any historically black university. Jackson State University awarded 56 doctorates in 2008. This ranked the university in second place among historically black institutions. Tennessee State University awarded 49 doctoral degrees in 2008, ranking the university in third place among historically black institutions. Morgan State University and Texas Southern University each awarded 42 doctorates in 2008.

The City of Philadelphia Offers Aid to College-Bound Blacks

Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia has announced that the city will soon open an office on the first floor of City Hall to aid city residents who want to go to college. The PhillyGoes2College program will help students select which school is right for them and help them navigate through the sometimes confusing world of financial aid. The office will also help students prepare for their SAT college entrance examinations and offer advice on writing essays for college applications.

Mayor Nutter stated that another focus of the PhillyGoes2College program will be to encourage colleges and universities in the city to offer scholarships that are reserved for graduates of the city’s public school system. Nutter’s goal is to have 1,000 fully funded scholarships for city students over the next two years.

The new PhillyGoes2College program is race neutral. But since 45 percent of the city’s population is black and 65 percent of the students in the Philadelphia public school system are black, the new program will disproportionately impact African Americans in a positive way.

For the First Time in Its 50-Year History, Students Are Living on the Campus of Southern University of New Orleans

For the first time in the university’s half-century history, students are living on the campus of Southern University in New Orleans. The university, which had been a commuter school prior to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, is now recruiting students from outside the New Orleans metropolitan area.

This month the university opened about one third of the apartments in a 700-unit, 19-building complex on its new Lake Pontchartrain campus. The downtown campus of Southern University was severely flooded after Hurricane Katrina and a temporary campus was set up about a half-mile away. In addition to the residential complex, a new information technology center and a College of Business are planned for the new campus.

Harvard Law School graduate Seeking to Become the First Black Governor of Alabama

Artur Davis is a 42-year-old black congressman from Alabama. He is now serving his fourth term. Davis is a graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School.

But now Davis has his sights set on the governor’s mansion which nearly a half-century ago was home to archsegregationist George Corley Wallace.

Davis has a difficult task ahead of him. Blacks make up about 25 percent of the electorate in Alabama. And Barack Obama polled only about 10 percent of the white vote in the state.

Furthermore, the black political establishment in Alabama is backing Davis’ white opponent in the Democratic primary. Joe Reed, chair of the Alabama Democratic Conference, and former Birmingham mayor Richard Arrington do not believe Davis can win enough white votes to prevail in the general election. These same black leaders backed Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential primaries believing that Barack Obama would not be able to win the general election. Artur Davis was the Obama campaign chairman in Alabama.

$21,299  Median debt of white students who earned a doctoral degree in 2008.

$38,586  Median debt of African-American students who earned a doctoral degree in 2008.

source: National Science Foundation

Historically Black Cheyney University of Pennsylvania Receives Accreditation Warning

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, a historically black institution which is part of the 14-campus Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, received a warning from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education that it was in danger of losing its accreditation. The commission stated that Cheyney was deficient in three of its 14 ratings categories relating to financial strength and long-range planning. Three predominantly white colleges, one in New York and two in Pennsylvania, were also given warnings.

Over the past 20 years only one college in the Middle States region has been stripped of accreditation.

In Memoriam

Paul Farwell Keene Jr. (1920-2009)

Paul Keene, a noted artist and educator, has died from natural causes at his home in Warrington, Pennsylvania. He was 89 years old.

Keene was a native of Philadelphia and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. After serving as a Tuskegee Airman in World War II, Keene used the GI Bill to study at the Academie Julian in Paris. There he founded a gallery where American artists could show their work.

After spending two years teaching at the Centre D’Art in Haiti, Keene returned to the United States in 1954 to join the faculty at the Philadelphia College of Art. In 1968 he was appointed professor of art at Bucks County Community College. His paintings, drawings, and prints on the black cultural experience are displayed in museums around the world.

In 1966 he created a large mural for display at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 1972 he was commissioned by the Franklin Mint to create the Scott Joplin Sterling Silver Commemorative Medal. After his retirement from teaching in 1985 he was associated with the Experimental Printmaking Institute at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania.

James Edward Cheek (1932-2010)

James E. Cheek, president emeritus of Howard University, died earlier this month in Greensboro, North Carolina, after a long illness. He was 77 years old.

Dr. Cheek was a native of North Carolina and earned a bachelor’s degree at Shaw University, the historically black educational institution in Raleigh. He later earned a master’s degree in divinity from Colgate Rochester University and a Ph.D. from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.

After earning his doctorate, Cheek joined the faculty at Virginia Union University in Richmond. At age 30 he was named president of his alma mater, Shaw University. In 1968 he was chosen as president of Howard University. He served in that post for two decades. During his tenure, enrollments grew by 3,500 students and the school’s budget increased tenfold.

Dr. Cheek received 19 honorary degrees and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan in 1983.

Carlene Hatcher Polite (1932-2009)

Carlene Polite, an educator and novelist, has died from cancer at a hospice facility in Cheektowaga, New York. She was 77 years old.

A native of Detroit, her parents were organizers for the United Auto Workers. She was trained as a modern dancer at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance but later turned to writing. She was the author of The Flagellants, a story about the demise of the relationship of a black couple. Her second novel, Sister X and the Victims of Foul Play, was a mystery focusing on the murder of a black nightclub dancer in Paris.

From 1971 to her retirement in 2000, Polite taught creative writing at the University of Buffalo.

Grants and Gifts

• Hampton University, the historically black educational institution in Virginia, received a $380,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The funding will be used to hire staff for the university’s Proton Therapy Institute, a leading cancer research and treatment facility.

• Johnson C. Smith University, the historically black educational institution in Charlotte, North Carolina, received a $500,000 grant from the Belk Foundation to endow a scholarship fund for students pursuing a business major with an emphasis in retail management or marketing.

The National Endowment for the Humanities Funds Research on Race

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) recently announced 319 grants totaling more than $20 million. These grants provide support for the preservation of humanities collections at museums, colleges, and universities and educational programs to help libraries, museums, and archives to preserve and enhance access to their collections. Other grants provide funds for traveling exhibitions, research fellowships, and faculty research in the humanities.

Among the many projects in faculty research funded this year are several that touch on the issue of race:

Judith Weisenfeld is a professor of religion at Princeton University. She received a $50,400 grant for her research entitled “Black Prophets, Gods, and Utopian Visions: Religion and Racial Identity in the Great Migration.”

Jann Pasler, a professor of music at the University of California at San Diego, received a $50,400 grant for her research entitled “Music, Race, and Colonialism in France, 1880-1920.”

• A $50,400 grant was awarded to Christopher Hager, an assistant professor of English at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He will use the funds for his project, “A Colored Man’s Constitution: Emancipation and the Act of Writing.”

Patrick Burke, an assistant professor of music at Washington University in St. Louis, will use his $33,600 grant for his research on race and rock music in the 1960s.

Nancy Carnevale, an associate professor of history at Montclair State University in New Jersey, obtained a $50,400 grant to study the interaction of African Americans and Italian Americans in suburban New Jersey in the 1900-1960 period.

• African Americans and the Classics is the subject of the research of Margaret Malamud, a professor of history at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. Her research will be supported by a $50,400 grant.

Joseph Inikori is conducting research on the slave trade and socioeconomic development in the Atlantic world. Dr. Inikori, a professor of history at the University of Rochester, received a $50,400 grant.

• The history of the African ceramic tradition is the focus of a study by Barbara Frank, an associate professor of art at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Her research is supported by a $50,400 grant from the NEH.

Michelle McKinley, an assistant professor of law at the University of Oregon, is conducting research on slavery, legal activism, and the ecclesiastical courts in Lima, Peru, prior to the year 1700. She received a $25,200 grant.

• A $37,800 grant was awarded to Jane Landers, an associate professor of history at Vanderbilt University. She is heading a project with the title, “African Kingdoms, Black Republics, and Free Black Towns in Colonial Spanish America.”

“We seek students who are intellectually curious and hard-working. We also seek passionate learners who share a commitment to integrity, work ethic, and open-mindedness. None of those things shows up on the SAT.”

Jill Tiefenthaler, provost and professor of economics at Wake Forest University, defending the educational institution’s decision not to require applicants to submit scores on the SAT college entrance examination, in the Greensboro News & Record, 12-27-09

Seminars on the Importance of Saving Will be Held at Seven Black Colleges

America Saves is an educational program run by the Consumer Federation of America and supported by a broad coalition of nonprofit, corporate, and government groups. The aim of the organization is to help individuals and families save and build wealth. Through information, advice, and encouragement, the group assists those who wish to pay down debt, build an emergency fund, and save for a home, an education, or retirement.

Now there is an offshoot of the program called Black America Saves. As part of the effort focused on African Americans, this winter Bank of America is sponsoring seminars at six historically black colleges and universities. Town hall meeting-style seminars will be held on campus for students to attend free of charge. At schools with campus radio stations, programs will air that provide saving tips for students and will encourage them to attend the seminar. An essay contest on the importance of saving will be held.

Participating HBCUs include Howard University, Wiley College, Jackson State University, Grambling State University, Savannah State University, Tuskegee University, and Bennett College for Women. The campaign will kick off at Howard University during America Saves Week in late February.

A New Traveling Exhibit Showcases the Gay Side of the Harlem Renaissance

The Stonewall Library and Archives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, bills itself as the largest independent museum dedicated to preserving and showcasing gay and lesbian history. The library now has a collection of 18,000 books and periodicals. The archive includes more than 5,000 items.

Now Stonewall is debuting a traveling exhibit that will focus on gay and lesbian influences on the Harlem Renaissance. The exhibit spotlights gay life in Harlem during the 1920s and 1930s with profiles on the leading gay, lesbian, and bisexual participants in the movement.

Corporate Fellowships Boost Minority Enrollments at Wake Forest University

The School of Business at Wake Forest University has instituted a corporate fellowship program that offers full tuition for its 10-month master of arts degree in management and a $21,000 stipend to cover living expenses. The fellowships are offered to students from underrepresented minority groups or students who have shown leadership in efforts to increase diversity on their undergraduate campus.

The students accepted for the eight fellowships also receive personal mentoring from the CEOs of the companies that are sponsoring the program. The firms involved include Frito-Lay, BB&T Bank, and Flow Automotive. Dean of the business school Steve Reinemund hopes to double the number of corporate fellowships in the near future.

The program has had a significant impact in diversity at the Wake Forest business school. Applications for admission are up 1500 percent. Underrepresented minorities make up 44 percent of the current entering class. This is up from 18 percent a year ago.

Black Man is Passed Over, Then Approved, for Presidency of a Community College on Long Island

In December three finalists were chosen by the presidential search committee at Suffolk Community College, which operates three campuses on the eastern end of Long Island in New York. One of the candidates was Shaun L. McKay, an African American who has been serving as interim executive vice president since February 2009. Previously he was dean of the college’s Brentwood campus.

Dr. McKay is a graduate of the University of Maryland. He holds a master’s degree from the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore and an educational doctorate from Morgan State University.

After the other two finalists dropped out of the running for the college presidency, the chair of the board of trustees announced that it was reopening the search process. The faculty assembly passed a resolution calling for Dr. McKay to be named president, and the local chapter of the NAACP and other groups protested the decision not to hire Dr. McKay.

After the protests, the board of trustees conducted a second interview with Dr. McKay. After this meeting, the board announced that it would enter into contract negotiations with the intention of reaching an agreement that would name McKay president of the college. A final vote on the appointment is scheduled for February 11.

Appointments, Promotions, and Resignations

• Stacey E. Settle, director of the MBA program in the College of Business and Applied Professional Services at South Carolina State University, was named interim dean of the School of Graduate Studies at the university.

Dr. Settle is a graduate of Cheney University of Pennsylvania and holds master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Howard University.

• Marie C. Johns, a former executive with Verizon and current member of the board of trustees of Howard University, was nominated by President Obama as deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration.

• Celestine A. Ntuen was named interim vice chancellor for research and economic development at North Carolina A&T State University. Dr. Ntuen is a Distinguished University Professor and the founding director of the university’s Center for Human-Machine Studies in the department of industrial and systems engineering.

A graduate of the College of Education in Uyo, Nigeria, Dr. Ntuen holds a Ph.D. from West Virginia University.

• Larry R. Ellis, one of only six African Americans to hold the rank of a four-star general in the U.S. Army, was named to the board of regents of Morgan State University in Baltimore. Since his retirement from the Army in 2005, Ellis has served as CEO of Point Blank Solution Inc., a manufacturer of protective body armor for the military and law enforcement agencies.

• Kemal M. Atkins was named interim vice president of student affairs at Delaware State University in Dover. He was the vice provost for student affairs at East Carolina University.

Atkins holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.

• William W. Asbury was elected chair of the board of directors of the Golden Key International Honour Society. Asbury retired in 2003 after 27 years as an administrator at Penn State University, where he was vice president for student affairs.

Honors and Awards

• Harry L. Williams, who was recently appointed president of Delaware State University, received the Presidential Award of Distinction in Education from the General Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.

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