Assistant News Editor
The Black Faculty and Staff Association celebrated its fifth year anniversary with a panel discussion, “An Experiential History of African American Faculty and Students at Murray State University,” in the Curris Center’s Barkley Room on Monday featuring Frank Black, Nancy Tyler- Demartra, Willis Johnson, Steve Jones, Marvin Mills and Pearl Payne.
Jones, Chair of the department of social work, criminal justice and gerontology, introduced the panel to a full Barkley Room by citing the date that Murray State was desegregated in 1955.
“This view of the history of African Americans faculty and staff is important and needs to be told,” he said.
Elliott Jordan, an artist and a Murray State alumnus, was among the first of the students to attend the University in 1967 and showcased his artwork at the event.
Willis Johnson, retired professor of mathematics education at the University of Kentucky, encouraged audience members to ask questions at the Question and Answer session after the panel discussion.
Marvin Mills, one of the founders of the Occupational Safety and Health Services program at Murray State, told his story after Jordan.
During his time on campus, Mills aided in the OSH program’s accreditation and recruited the top African American students from high schools across the state.
Frank Black, a past faculty member at Murray State, followed Mills in telling audience of his journey to get to Murray State. Black said he came to Murray as the assistant dean of the college of human development, the second highest position held by an African American on campus, when Willis Johnson informed him of the quality of faculty and students.
Black said this was due to his predecessors at the University and his boss at the time, Don Hunter.
“I didn’t get here by accident,” Black said. “I landed on the shoulders of a giant.”
Pearl Payne, professor of speech and hearing science, and Nancy Tyler-Demartra, Human Rights Activist and member of Mothers on a Mission, both gave the audience a student’s perspective, as they were both among the first African Americans to be enrolled at the University. Both Payne and Tyler-Demartra told their stories honestly, illustrating both good and bad experiences.
Steve Jones closed the panel with a brief description of his time as a faculty member at Murray State, an invitation to a short reception and a Question and Answer session followed.
Brian Clardy, president of the Black Faculty and Staff Association said he was very pleased in the turn out of the panel and that he hopes it is a way to inform the community of the strides Murray State has taken in the inclusion of diversity on campus.
“We have to have a historical sense of where we’ve been, the good the bad and the ugly,” he said. “We have to know where we’ve been in order to determine how much progress we’ve made as a University community. I can say this about Murray State: we’re on the move to become a very diverse campus.”