Building named for first black MU professor

Even as classes met inside today, the General Classroom Building was officially renamed Arvarh E. Strickland Hall after MU's first black faculty member.

Aside from the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center, the change makes the building the first on campus named for a black person.

"I have been overwhelmed," Strickland said. "This is a tribute to Lloyd Gaines, Lucile Bluford, to all of those folks who came and some who tried and found the doors shut in their face and others who did enter this institution. To all of these black people who were part of the history of the University of Missouri, thank you for coming out to honor them."

Gaines was the first black student admitted to MU, but he disappeared before enrolling. Bluford was admitted to MU, but turned away when school officials realized she was black. When the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the school had to allow her to enroll, the School of Journalism closed its graduate program. Both have since received honorary degrees.

Strickland already has an endowed professorship and a room in Memorial Union named in his honor.

The renaming was years in the making. In 2005, the Legion of Black Collegians presented Chancellor Brady Deaton with a revised version of a list of ten demands first drafted in 1968. One of these demands was that the university dedicate a building to a black leader, academic or cultural icon.

After a series of meetings between LBC members and Deaton, LBC, the Missouri Students Association and the Residence Halls Association passed joint resolutions in support of the renaming.

Deaton then presented a proposal to the UM system Board of Curators.. The board, which has final say in the renaming of campus buildings, voted in April to approve the renaming.

In a ceremony led by Deputy Chancellor Mike Middleton, the School of Law's first black faculty member, university officials and visitors paid tribute to Strickland and thanked him for his contribution to the university.

"He's a leading author of black history, an active scholar and a highly respected community leader," Deaton said.

Visiting figures from Strickland's time at MU included then-History Department Chairman Richard Kirkendall, who appointed Strickland to a faculty post, Lincoln University professor Antonio Holland, who studied with Strickland as a graduate student, and other friends of Strickland.

"I am proud to say I know Arvarh Strickland," said Eliot Battle, retired Columbia Public Schools and Columbia College administrator. "I am prouder to say that he is my friend."

Academic Retention Services Director Linda Garth, who was representing the Black Faculty and Staff Organization, said the building would be adorned with a plaque in Strickland's honor. She said the plaque would be installed later.

"We didn't anticipate the support that would be garnered in your honor, Dr. Strickland, but you will be proud of this plaque," Garth said.

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