Help Wanted: African-American Spies With a College Degree

In the not-too-distant past, employment in the nation’s intelligence agencies was largely closed to African Americans. Blacks were viewed as security risks and their intelligence was considered inferior to that of whites. Blacks had no professional posts in the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, and other intelligence agencies. Many whites in the intelligence community believed that blacks were not to be trusted with the nation’s secrets. During the Cold War era, Europe was the location for a large percentage of intelligence activity. As a result, field agents with a dark skin would have drawn undo attention to themselves.

But times have changed. Now the nation has elected a black president. Traditional stereotypes are beginning to melt away. Also, U.S. intelligence agencies need more operatives in Africa, South America, and other areas where a darker skin is an asset for a clandestine operative.

Another consideration is the fact that today many intelligence officers do not operate in the field but rather ply their trade behind a desk and a computer. There, the color of one’s skin does not matter.

As a result of the new intelligence landscape, the federal government is making a concerted effort to recruit more African Americans as spies and other intelligence operatives. Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair reports that agencies are recruiting on the campuses of nearly all black colleges and universities.

A new federally sponsored Centers of Academic Excellence program at 21 colleges and universities aims to increase the number of students who make intelligence their career. Three of these 21 schools are historically black colleges and universities: Howard University, Miles College, and Florida A&M University.

Under the program, schools receive funds to add courses on international issues, cultural awareness, and foreign languages. Funds are also provided for students at these colleges and universities to intern at U.S. embassies abroad. Some 600 students have been selected into the intelligence community scholars program so far. Some receive financial assistance to help them pay for college.


The Racial Gap on the SAT Writing Test

This is the fourth year that The College Board has offered the SAT writing test. On this test, students write a short essay on a topic decided by the test administrator. Many of the nation’s highest-ranked colleges and universities do not give much weight to the results of this test because they are skeptical of its predictive power to determine who will do well in college. Also, many test takers have been trained by coaching schools to “hijack” the writing subject assigned by adapting an essay already written before the test by the student or a parent.

Nevertheless, The College Board reports that blacks do slightly better on the writing portion of the test in relation to whites than they do on other sections of the SAT. In 2009 the mean score on the writing test for blacks was 421. This is 96 points below the mean score for whites. The racial gap on the writing test has actually widened by five points from 2006, when the writing portion of the test was first administered by The College Board.

Many observers believed that the introduction of the writing component would, by design, lessen the racial scoring gap in order to deflect criticism of The College Board. It is probable that in some instances the people who score the new writing section are able to detect the race of the writer by the vocabulary and subject matter of the student’s essay. There is then a suspicion in some quarters that the scorers of the test may be inclined to “give a break” to black students. Therefore, it is suggested that the examination is graded on a slight curve that benefits blacks and Hispanics.



NACME Names New President

The National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering has named Irving Pressley McPhail as its sixth president. The council, which was established 35 years ago, has a mission of increasing the number of minority students pursuing degrees and careers in engineering. The council works with K-12 schools to develop an interest in engineering among black and other minority youth. It also provides college scholarships for minority students who plan to major in engineering.

Dr. McPhail is a native of Harlem in New York City. He is a graduate of Cornell University where he majored in sociology. He holds a master’s degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education and a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania.

From 1998 to 2005, Dr. McPhail was chancellor of the Community College of Baltimore County. He has served on the faculty at Morgan State University, Delaware State University, LeMoyne-Owen College, and Pace University.


In Memoriam

Chester M. Hedgepeth Jr. (1937-2009)

Chester Hedgepeth, an associate professor of English and director of the African language program at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, has died at the age of 72. Dr. Hedgepeth served on the university faculty for 26 years.

A graduate of Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois, Hedgepeth went on to earn a master’s degree from Wesleyan University and an educational doctorate from Harvard University. During his long teaching career he was a member of the faculty at Virginia Union University, Macalester College, the College of St. Thomas, and Virginia Commonwealth University.

Henry Ogedegbe (1946-2009)

Henry Ogedegbe, an associate professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, died in a hospital in Hackettstown, New Jersey. He was 63 years old.

A native of Nigeria, Dr. Ogedegbe was a graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon. He earned a master’s degree in biology from Central Connecticut State University and a Ph.D. from Union Institute in Cincinnati.

Earlier in his career he taught at Florida Gulf Coast University. His research interests included West Nile virus and heart and renal disease in African Americans.

Jasmine Lynn (1990-2009)

Jasmine Lynn, a 19-year-old sophomore at Spelman College in Atlanta, was shot and killed by a stray bullet as she returned to campus after a visit to nearby Clark Atlanta University. A fight occurred on the street between students at Clark Atlanta and some nonstudents. At least five shots were fired and one hit Lynn in the chest.

Lynn was from Kansas City, Missouri, and was a graduate of Lincoln College Preparatory Academy. At Spelman she was majoring in psychology and minoring in business.

Beverly Daniel Tatum, president of Spelman College, stated, “Words cannot express the sadness I feel about the tragic loss of Jasmine’s life, the result of senseless violence.”


Honors and Awards

The clinical child psychology program at the University of Kansas in Lawrence received the Richard M. Suinn Minority Achievement Award from the American Psychological Association. The award is given to a psychology program that has exhibited an outstanding effort to recruit and retain minority students.

Seven scholars at historically black colleges and universities were honored with the 2009 NOBLE Laureate Award from the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education. The award is given to scholars who have shown leadership in science, mathematics, and technology education. The seven winners are:

James Ervin Glover, professor and chair of the department of mathematics at Fort Valley State University in Georgia;

Gaston M. N’Guerekata, professor and chair of the department of mathematics at Morgan State University in Baltimore;

Doris J. Ward, associate professor of biology at Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina;

Matthew Edwards, professor of physics at Alabama A&M University;

Linda Hayden, director of the Center of Excellence in Remote Sensing Education and Research at Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina;

Loretta Jaggers, professor of education at Grambling State University in Louisiana; and

Gemma Douglas Beckley, chair of the department of social work at Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi.

Kofi Agawu, professor of music at Princeton University, received the 2009 Harrison Medal from the Ireland-based Society for Musicology. The award recognizes musical scholarship of international distinction.

Professor Agawu is a graduate of Reading University in Britain. He holds a master’s degree from King’s College in London and a Ph.D. in historical musicology from Stanford University.


Grants and Gifts

• Spelman College, the historically black educational institution for women in Atlanta, received a grant from Coca-Cola Enterprises to establish a scholarship fund to honor Vicki R. Palmer, a retired company executive who serves on the college’s board of trustees. The Vicki R. Palmer Scholarship will be awarded to students with financial need who have shown academic promise and a commitment to community service.

• Fisk University, the historically black educational institution in Nashville, Tennessee, received a $1.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation to enhance the university’s research capabilities in astronomy and astrophysics. Part of the grant money will be used to recruit minority students in these fields.

• Winston-Salem State University, the historically black educational institution in North Carolina, received a two-year, $171,875 grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The funds will be used to enhance the university’s international business education program.

• Texas Southern University, the historically black educational institution in Houston, was awarded $3.8 million in grant funds from the U.S. Department of Education’s HBCU Institutional Aid Program. The funds are earmarked for the purchase of scientific and laboratory equipment, community outreach programs, and for construction and renovation of school facilities.

• Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, received a $100,000 grant from the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. The funds are earmarked for scholarships for minority students.

For breaking news and previews of upcoming articles


Major Fundraising Campaign Aims to Help Low-Income Students at the University of Virginia

The University of Virginia is mounting a new fundraising campaign to support its AccessUVA financial aid program for low-income students. The effort is part of a $3 billion fundraising campaign slated to end in 2011.

AccessUVA has been successful in increasing the number of low-income students on campus. Last year, 877 freshman students qualified for AccessUVA funds. This year, 1,250 freshmen are receiving aid under the AccessUVA program.

As a result, the costs of the AccessUVA program have increased significantly. In 2004, the university’s need-based aid support was $37 million. This year the university expects to issue $73 million in need-based aid for its students, almost double the amount from five years ago.

The new fundraising effort is aimed at providing funds to keep AccessUVA solvent well into the future.


“HBCUs cannot explain away big differences in graduation rates simply by reference to the usual suspects. The management practices of those colleges have to be part of the explanation — and part of the solution.”

Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, speaking at the 2009 National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week Conference in Washington


The Slow Road to Recovery for Xavier University

Xavier University, the historically black educational institution in New Orleans that is affiliated with the Catholic Church, reports that 767 freshman students enrolled this fall. This was down slightly from a year ago and remains considerably below the level that existed prior to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated much of the city of New Orleans in 2005.

Total enrollments at Xavier are up 4 percent this year due to a large number of transfer students. Total enrollments are now at the highest level since the hurricane.


Mississippi Civil Rights Museum at Tougaloo College May Be in Jeopardy

In 2008 Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour created a 39-member commission to choose the site for a civil rights museum. The commission decided to build the museum on the campus of Tougaloo College, a historically black educational institution. Since the site was selected nothing has been done to move the project to fruition.

Now some members of the commission want to reconsider the decision and move the proposed site to downtown Jackson. The idea is to place the museum in a location where it will be more easily accessible to tourists.


Mathematician Joins the Faculty at Rice University, Where in 1964 He Broke the Racial Barrier for Students

Growing up in Alice, Texas, Raymond L. Johnson had to walk from his home six blocks past a new elementary school to a two-room schoolhouse for blacks. He earned a National Merit Scholarship to the University of Texas. But there, he was obliged to live in a racially segregated dormitory. At that time there were professors on campus who refused to admit black students to their classes. There were places on campus where black students were not permitted to go. But Johnson found a mentor at the University of Texas, a mathematician who was an alumnus of Rice University in Houston. However, at that time Rice University was closed to black graduate and undergraduate students.

In the late nineteenth century, William Marsh Rice, an oil, cotton, and real estate tycoon, was said to be the wealthiest man in Texas. He left the bulk of his estate to a trust that was to establish the Rice Institute for Literature, Science, and the Arts. Rice’s will specified that only white students would be permitted to attend.

In 1963 the university trustees sensibly announced that it would relieve itself from the whites-only clause of William Marsh Rice’s will. Johnson then applied and was accepted to the graduate program in mathematics. After extensive oppositional legal maneuvers by alumni who wanted to keep Rice University a whites-only institution, the courts finally permitted the university to integrate. Johnson began classes in 1964 and was awarded his doctorate in 1969. He was the first African American to earn a degree from Rice University.

After winning his Ph.D., Johnson joined the mathematics faculty at the University of Maryland. There, he was the first African-American faculty member. He remained on the University of Maryland faculty for 40 years. Now Dr. Johnson has returned to Rice for a three-year term as W.L. Moody Jr. Visiting Professor of Mathematics. He is teaching a course this fall on differential equations. “I’m not ready to stop working,” the 66-year-old Johnson stated. “I still have a lot of energy.”


African-American Doctoral Students Launching New Journal on Black Males in Education

A new peer-reviewed publication entitled the Journal of African-American Males in Education is set to begin publication next year. The journal will cover black males at all levels of education and will include research and commentary on students, teachers, administrators, and fathers.

The journal will be coedited by J. Luke Wood and Tomashu Kenyatta Jones Sr.

Wood is a doctoral candidate in educational leadership at Arizona State University. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from California State University at Sacramento.

Jones is a doctoral candidate in urban schooling at UCLA. He also holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from California State University at Sacramento.

Readers interested in learning more about this journal can visit the Web site.


972  Mean score on the reading and mathematics sections of the SAT college entrance examination for white students from families with incomes below $20,000.

960  Mean score on the reading and mathematics sections of the SAT college entrance examination for black students from families with incomes between $160,000 and $200,000.

source: The College Board


Appointments, Promotions, and Resignations

• Lorne Lee was named assistant professor of music and director of bands at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. Lee was an assistant professor of music at Savannah State University in Georgia.

Lee is a graduate of the University of Central Oklahoma. He holds a master’s degree in music from Howard University.

• Leslie T. Fenwick, dean of the School of Education at Howard University, was elected to the board of directors of the Teacher Education Accreditation Council.

Dr. Fenwick is a graduate of the University of Virginia. She holds a doctorate in educational policy and leadership from Ohio State University.

• Jacqueline Wood, associate professor of English at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, was named interim director of the African-American studies program at the university. Dr. Wood, who holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Florida, has been on the University of Alabama at Birmingham faculty for 10 years.

• Jeffrey Ogbonna Green Ogbar is the new associate dean for the  humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Connecticut. He has been serving as an associate professor of history at the university.

Dr. Ogbar is a 1991 graduate of Morehouse College. He holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in history from Indiana University.

• Leonard C. Uitenham was appointed chair of the department of bioengineering at North Carolina A&T State University. He was chair of the university’s department of mechanical and chemical engineering.

Dr. Uitenham holds bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degrees, all from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

• Erica Dixon was named director of campus recreation at North Carolina Central University in Durham. She has been a faculty member in the university’s department of physical education and recreation.

Dixon holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from North Carolina Central University.

• Carmen K. Sidbury, associate dean for sophomore and junior studies at Spelman College in Atlanta, was named program director for the Division of Graduate Education at the National Science Foundation.

Dr. Sidbury was the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech.




Copyright © 2009. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.