The first African-American graduate of MU spoke Friday at the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center.
Gus T. Ridgel spoke to an excited audience.
“I’m here to pay respect to him,” said Keener Tippen, who attended the event. “My father and Dr. Ridgel are friends.”
Born in Poplar Bluff, Mo., Ridgel first graduated from Lincoln University in 1950, earning a master’s degree in economics from MU in only two semesters. Afterward, he earned a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin.
“I had no money when it comes to two-year tuition fee,” Ridgel said. “I got no options but chose to take all required courses in two semesters. I will never do that again.”
Ridgel said he experienced a very different social life on campus than white students when he attended MU in the 1950s.
“I did not experience any specific racial climate from other students, but there was no place I could eat around the campus,” Ridgel said.
Multicultural Center Director Pablo Mendoza said he attended the event to share ideas with other listeners.
“It was all segregated back then, completely varied from what it is now,” Mendoza said. “With 2,000 African Americans and the other minorities, Dr. Ridgel is the one who changed the campus. We would not have been admitted, if not because of him.”
Ridgel gave guidance to students regarding both career and life success.
“Not all the doors are open,” he said. “My only advice is that be as prepared as you can, sometimes, you have to be better.”
At the end of his presentation, Ridgel said students would get another chance to see him speak.
“I promise you guys, I will get to see you again,” Ridgel said.