Iowa State University nameplate

News Service
Gold bar
Today's News
News releases
ISU homepage


Tahira Hira, Office of the President, (515) 294-2042
Pat Miller, Lectures, (515) 294-9935
Annette Hacker, News Service, (515) 294-3720


AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University President Gregory Geoffroy has announced a year-long initiative to observe the 50th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Brown vs. Board of Education.

The purpose is to engage students, faculty and staff in discussions surrounding the case. The effort builds upon President Geoffroy's "Conversations on Diversity," launched in January 2003.

The Supreme Court's May 17, 1954 ruling ended racial segregation in public schools and laid the groundwork for the civil rights movement. The court unanimously deemed an 1896 "separate but equal" clause as unconstitutional, because it violated students' 14th Amendment rights by separating them solely based on the color of their skin.

"It is fitting that we reflect upon one of the most important decisions ever issued by the Supreme Court --one that has opened doors for countless Americans and upholds every student's right to a high-quality education," Iowa State President Gregory Geoffroy said. "The last 50 years have shown that diversity and education go hand in hand. A diverse environment creates stronger learning opportunities because of the broad range of people and experiences from which it draws. Diversity is critical to our land-grant mission, and our quest for it is ongoing."

Sept. 17 keynote address: Roger Wilkins
Iowa State's commemoration of Brown vs. Board of Education kicks off on Sept. 17 with a keynote address by Roger Wilkins, author of "Jefferson's Pillow: The Founding Fathers and the Dilemma of Black Patriotism." The free, public event will be held at 8 p.m. in the Memorial Union Sun Room.

Wilkins served as Assistant Attorney General during the Johnson administration. He has witnessed and participated in some of the major historical events of our time -- from the Civil Rights movement, to Watergate, to the campaign to free Nelson Mandela and end apartheid.

In a distinguished journalism career, Wilkins has written for both The New York Times and The Washington Post. He (along with colleagues Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and others) was cited by the Pulitzer Prize committee in 1972 for Watergate coverage.

Wilkins is a regular commentator on "The News Hour with Jim Lehrer" and has appeared on "Frontline" and "The American Experience." He currently serves as chairman of the NAACP Crisis magazine and is a contributor to Mother Jones. Wilkins' writing also frequently appears on the op-ed pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Village Voice and Sojourner.

Wilkins' autobiography, "A Man's Life," was reprinted in 1991, and he served as co-editor (with Fred Harris) of "Quiet Riots" in 1988.

Among an array of public service activities, Wilkins serves as chair of the board of trustees of the African American Institute, as a board member of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and as a member of the school board of the District of Columbia. Wilkins also is a member of the national Brown vs. Board of Education 50th Anniversary Commission.

Other plans
An Iowa State committee is working to identify other opportunities in which to commemorate the Brown vs. Board of Education decision. Committee members include Tahira Hira, assistant to the president; George Jackson, Graduate College assistant dean; Walter Gmelch, College of Education dean; Tom Hill, vice president for student affairs; and Pat Miller, Lectures Program coordinator.

These opportunities will include guest speakers and special discussion topics for President Geoffroy's "Conversations on Diversity," commencement, and other campus events such as ISCORE, the Iowa State University Conference on Race and Ethnicity.

The ISCORE planning committee, chaired by Japannah Kellogg, minority liaison officer in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has chosen the Brown vs. Board of Education decision as the theme of its 2004 conference. ISCORE will explore the impact that decision has had on higher education. ISCORE committee members are working with members of the Brown family to secure their appearance at the 2004 conference.

The College of Education has launched a year-long thematic celebration of the landmark decision. Georgia Hale, assistant dean for student and minority affairs, is leading a group of College of Education faculty, students and staff, as well as public school and community leaders, to champion a series of initiatives. College of Education Dean Walter Gmelch said the idea is not only to commemorate the success of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, but to perpetuate it.

"Our vision is to weave the issue of access from this decision into the fabric of our college -- to go well beyond the year's celebration," Gmelch said.

Provost Ben Allen will meet with all deans at the beginning of the fall semester to encourage discussion and events surrounding Brown vs. Board of Education within their colleges. The goal is to heighten awareness and discussion of this significant historical event throughout the university community, committee members said.

Additionally, the Ames branch of the NAACP plans a photo chronology of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision during Black History Month in February, 2004.


Iowa State University
... Becoming the Best
Ames, Iowa 50011, (515) 294-4111
Published by: University Relations,
Copyright © 1995-2003, Iowa State University of Science and Technology. All rights reserved.