Historic Firsts

Images Descriptions
Dr. Clifton R. Wharton

FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT OF A MAJOR U.S. UNIVERSITY

In January 1970, CLIFTON R. WHARTON began his eight-year presidency at Michigan State University. Appointed at a time of great social change in the United States and on campus, Wharton was committed to the education of the economically and educationally disadvantaged.

Major contributions during his tenure included establishment of the Presidential Commission on Admissions and Student Body Composition, the Presidential Fellows Program, and the building of a performing arts center which was later named the Wharton Center for Performing Arts in honor of Wharton and his wife, Dolores.

Dr. Blanche Martin

FIRST BLACK MSU BOARD OF TRUSTEES MEMBER

BLANCHE MARTIN, class of 1959, takes the oath of office as the first African American member of the Michigan State University Board of Trustees on January 6, 1969. Martin served two consecutive terms on the board. A former football star at Michigan State, he was named to the All-American academic first team (1957-58) and was awarded the Ross Trophy for outstanding academic and athletic achievements (1959). He earned a doctorate in dental surgery from the University of Detroit in 1967 and established his dental practice in East Lansing.

Dr. David W. Dickson

FIRST BLACK FACULTY

DAVID W. DICKSON was appointed to the English department faculty in 1948, and his course on the Bible as Literature is remembered as one of the most popular offered by the department. Dickson taught at Michigan State until resigning in 1963 to take a position at Federal College in Washington, D.C. He later became president of Montclair State University in New Jersey.

Prof. William Harrison Pipes

WILLIAM HARRISON PIPES joined the Michigan State faculty in 1957, teaching speech and literature. The first African American in the United States to earn a PhD in speech and the first to be granted full professorship at MSU, Pipes's academic career included serving as president of Alcorn State University and academic dean of Philander Smith College. He remained at MSU until his retirement in 1975.

Alpha Phi Alpha

FIRST BLACK FRATERNITY

ALPHA PHI ALPHA was the first social fraternity to be established by black students at Michigan State. Organized in May 1948, the fraternity was dedicated to providing service to mankind and the advancement of interracial groups at Michigan State.

Alpha Kappa Alpha

FIRST BLACK SORORITY

Founded on February 3, 1954, MSU's chapter of ALPHA KAPPA ALPHA became the first black sorority on campus, with 17 charter members. Its initial service projects included reading to the blind, giving guided tours of the campus, and visiting a veterans' hospital.

Patty Burnette

FIRST BLACK "MISS MSU"

In 1967, PATTY BURNETTE, a social science junior, was crowned "Miss MSU." This honor included representing Michigan State University in the Miss Michigan Pageant.

Don Vest

FIRST BLACK CHEERLEADER

DON VEST, class of 1952, takes top place in the cheerleader performance at a football game in 1950. A business and public service major, Vest was also a member of the varsity gymnastics team and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.

 


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