Recent Event Highlights: Back and Black Reunion - Villanova Homecoming 2012, Villanova Wins NCAA Basketball Championship, Dr. Hazel Johnson-Brown Becomes First Black Woman General, Black Student League Involved in Takeover of Tolentine Hall, Office for Social Action Established, Black Student League Takes Over Dean's Office, and 9 more...
Created by tmogan on Jul 2, 2013
Last updated: 05/08/14 at 09:37 AM
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Black Villanova: An Oral History, an online exhibit sponsored by Falvey Library, was unveiled at the "Back and Black: Celebration of the African American Experience at Villanova" event on October 27, 2012. This event brought back to Villanova's campus many participants of the project to re-unite and to re-connect with each other and with their alma mater.
After years of frustration and two University Senate resolutions which failed to produce any discernible action, the Social Action Committee - led by Dr. Edward Collymore - was finally successful in its campaign to secure a position for a minority recruiter. As a result, Denise Houser was hired as an admissions counselor and began work at Villanova in September 1985.
On April 1, 1985, the Villanova Wildcats defeated the Georgetown Hoyas to win the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship in Lexington, Kentucky. The Wildcats were led by Ed Pinckney, Dwayne McClain and Gary McLain in capturing the school's first NCAA basketball championship.
Robert N.C. Nix, Jr. was a 1950 graduate and valedictorian of Villanova University and a second-generation graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School. In 1984, Nix became the first African American Chief Justice of any state’s highest court, and the first African American to be elected to statewide office in Pennsylvania. He served as a justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania for 24 years, 12 of which were as chief justice.
In 1979, Villanova alum Dr. Hazel Johnson-Brown became the first black female general in the United States Army and the first black chief of the Army Nurse Corps. During her career she was also the Director of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Nursing. After her retirement from the military, she served as professor of nursing at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and finally at George Mason University in Virginia. At George Mason University, she was instrumental in founding the Center for Health Policy, designed to educate and involve nurses in health policy and policy design. Johnson-Brown retired from teaching in 1997.
The Black Student League was part of a coalition of students who occupied Tolentine Hall as part of a protest over student rights. Napoleon Andrews, BSL president at the time, helped to lead the student protest. Villanova student leaders were frustrated by their lack of progress in securing a Bill of Rights, which would grant them greater control over student policies and procedures. At the same time, students were upset that due process was not followed in a well-publicized drug case involving sixteen students. On February 7, 1974, the long simmering frustration boiled over and the result was a massive take-over of Tolentine Hall by over 1000 students. The occupation lasted four days. When negotiation failed after they ended the first siege, the students returned to occupy Tolentine Hall again on February 13 and 14. This time, Father McCarthy made concessions on the due process issue and agreed to present the Bill of Rights to the Board of Trustees for further consideration.
The Black Student League invited boxing great and anti-war activist Muhammad Ali to campus as part of the first-ever Black Week. Ali spoke to 1200 people in the Fieldhouse.The fighter was convicted of dodging the draft in June 1967 and was stripped of his title. His sentence would ultimately be overturned by the United States Supreme Court in June 1971. In the meantime, Ali was traveling around the United States speaking on college campuses about the war in Vietnam and about civil rights for black Americans.
In September 1969, Villanova established the Office for Social Action. The office was charged with recruiting students of color and coordinating the university's community service programs. The Villanova administration tapped Father James Ryan, O.S.A., to serve as the director of the new office. To fill the assistant director position, Villanova president Father Welsh personally called on former Villanova student-athlete Edward Collymore. Collymore returned to Villanova after service in the Marines and as a juvenile probation officer in Boston. Collymore became Villanova's first black administrator. The office would become the leader in the struggles over affirmative action and the increased recruitment of minority students.
On April 23, 1969, the BSL published the first edition of the Black Wildcat. The unmistakable clenched fist on the front cover sent a clear signal to the Villanova community that the BSL was clearly influenced by the larger Black Power movement. With its controversial articles and opinion pieces, the Black Wildcat served to educate the Villanova community about the experiences of black students on a predominately white campus.
On Tuesday, February 18, 1969, several members of the Black Student League burst into the Tolentine Hall offices of Father Donald Burt, O.S.A., the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. They went to speak to the Dean about the small number of black students and faculty on campus as well as the lack of classes exploring the black American experience. Refusing to leave until a meeting was granted, they locked the door behind them. The “Locked Door Affair” represented the BSL’s first major effort to force the Villanova administration to address black student concerns. Several new initiatives to recruit and retain black students resulted from the meeting.
Villanova student-athletes Larry James and Erv Hall competed in the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City, Mexico in October. Hall won the silver medal in 110 meter hurdles. James won gold in the 4x400 relay and took silver in the 400 meter dash.
During the fall 1968 semester, black Villanova students organized themselves into the Black Student League.
In November 1967, activist and educator Harry Edwards called for a boycott of the New York Athletic Club after the club's discriminatory membership policies were featured in the New York Times. After hearing this, Larry James, a sophomore African American star in the 400 meters, approached Dave Patrick, the captain of the Villanova men’s track and field team, about the teams' planned participation in the N.Y.A.C. meet in Madison Square Garden in January 1968. With the blessing of legendary coach Jumbo Elliott, Patrick called a team meeting to discuss what course of action the team should take and the vote was 17-0 in favor of boycotting the meet. On January 31, 1968, Villanova University issued a statement that indicated that the Villanova track team was pulling out of the event. Many other colleges and universities followed suit by boycotting the games.
On January 20, 1965, four thousand people crammed into the Fieldhouse to hear King. Another thousand were not able to gain access to the facility because of seating limitations. University President Father John A. Klekotka, O.S.A., and Thomas J. Furst, the president of the Student Government Association, introduced King to the expectant and respectful throng. King encouraged the Villanova crowd to get involved in the struggle for civil rights, declaring: "If man has not discovered there are some things he is willing to die for, he is not fit to live." He also discussed the recent Civil Rights Act of 1964 and noted "surprising and extensive compliance around the South" with the new legislation which he called a "second Emancipation Proclamation." King’s speech – entitled “Challenge of a New Age” - was so well-received that the capacity crowd gave him a standing ovation. The Villanovan proudly reported that “there were no demonstrations and the talk was covered by numerous radio and television stations.”
On April 1, 1959, George Raveling was named captain of the Villanova basketball team, a first for any black athlete at Villanova. At the annual basketball banquet that same evening, Raveling climbed to the podium and, choking back the tears, said: “I am fully aware of the responsibility that I have, both as Villanova basketball captain and as the first of my race to hold that honor.” Raveling thanked his coach Al Severance and “the other wonderful people at Villanova for the chance they have given me to become useful.”60 Raveling graduated in 1960 after a successful basketball career at Villanova. Immediately after his playing days, Raveling claimed that he was the first African American to hold a “white-collar” job at Sun Oil Company. He later became the first assistant basketball coach of a predominately white institution, when he joined the Villanova staff in 1963. After a long and distinguished coaching career, Raveling went to work for Nike where he serves as Director of Global Basketball Operations.
On this date Charles "Charlie" Jenkins became Villanova's first ever Olympic gold medalist as he won the 400m dash. Several days later Jenkins also won gold in the 4x400m relay. Jenkins' Villanova teammate Ron Delaney won gold for Ireland in the 1500 meters in the same Olympics.
The Interracial Club’s mission included the following two goals: first, “the combating of race prejudices” and, second, “the attainment of social justice for the entire group regardless of race.” In March 1947, the Interracial Club sponsored a series of events known as Interracial Justice Week. On March 9, Villanova students attended an interracial forum at St. Joseph’s University. The forum featured a panel of community members and students who answered the “controversial Issues and 'questions brought up by the audience concerning the Negro and his rightful place in society.” Robert N. C. Nix, Jr., an African American student from Philadelphia and president of the Interracial Club, represented Villanova on the panel. Nix graduated in 1950 and eventually served as the Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court from 1984 to 1996. Nix was the first African American Chief Justice of any state’s highest court, and the first African American to be elected to statewide office in Pennsylvania.
James Richardson was the third African American to graduate from Villanova University. Born in 1917 to a Catholic family, Richardson grew up in West Philadelphia and was the only black student during his time at St. Ignatius grammar school. He attended West Philadelphia Catholic High School for Boys where he fell under the strong influence of the De La Salle Christian Brothers. Richardson again found himself as the only black student, this time in the halls of one of the largest Catholic high schools in the United States during the 1930s. A promising student with an aptitude for numbers, Richardson excelled academically and was awarded a scholarship by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to attend a Catholic institution of higher education. While at Villanova, he worked on the Belle Air yearbook staff and was a member of the Delta Pi Epsilon honor society.
John Henry Graves, who attended Central High School in Philadelphia, graduates from Villanova with a B.S. in biology. Graves, along with Scott Walker, are believed to be the first African American graduates of Villanova University.
Scott Raymond Walker, believed to be the first African American graduate of Villanova University, completes his degree in economics. Walker graduated from Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia prior to attending Villanova.