Pioneers of VSU's 50 Years of Integration
In 1963, Drewnell Thomas and Robert L. Pierce Jr. were the first black students to integrate Valdosta State College. Thomas and Pierce are regarded as pioneers who helped to forge the way for thousands of African American students, faculty, administrators, and staff to become part of the university’s historical and cultural legacy.
The following list provides the names of African Americans at Valdosta State who achieved a variety of accomplishments and recognitions during the past 50 years. The list was compiled by Kelli Williams, senior psychology major, and Dr. Shirley H. Hardin, director of African American Studies and professor of English.
In 1970, as a student Dr. Joyce Ann Joyce was the first African American to receive the Annie Powe Hopper Award. In 1973, Joyce returned to VSC to teach English.
Dr. Louis Dunbar was hired in 1970 as the first African American facultymember; he taught library science.
In 1974, Skip McDonald, a native of Adel, GA, and VSC nursing major, was crowned the first African American homecoming queen.
Arthur Hart was hired in 1974 as the first African American administrator; he served as assistant to the vice president and dean of faculties and director of the VSC Learning Skills Center.
Dr. Joseph Brown was hired in 1976 and was the first African American to serve as assistant to the dean of students for Minority Affairs. He served the university for 24 years.
Dr. Ola M. Brown was hired in 1974 to teach in the College of Education. She later became the first African American to head the Early Childhood and Reading Education Department. The Ola M. Brown Scholarship(Education) is named in her honor. She served the university for almost 25 years.
Dr. Moses Hardin was hired in 1976 as the first African American to teach French at VSU. He retired December 2012 after 36 years of service to the university and to the community.
Dr. Shirley H. Hardin was hired in 1976 and serves as the director of VSU’s African American Studies Program, which was established in 1996. A professor of English, she has served the university and the community for over 36 years.
Jessie Tuggle became a Blazer football player in 1982, played 17 years for the Atlanta Falcons, and was inducted into the National College Football Hall of Fame.
Dr. Jerry Hardee was hired in 1983 as a professor in the VSC College of Education. He later served as assistant to the president for Equal Opportunity Programs & Multicultural Affairs and was the first African American to serve on the VSC President’s Cabinet. He retired in 1997 after having served VSU for 14 years.
In 1993, Ude Eko, from Nigeria, was the first international student to serve as Student Government Association president. He earned a B.A. Degree in Political Science & in History, and an M.A. Degree in History from VSU.
Robert (Bobby) Shannon (1980) and Lauren Davis (2008) were the first African American male and female presidents of the Student Government Association.
Dr. Bobby Blake, professor of music and African American Studies, was the first African American to serve as associate dean of the College of the Arts. He served VSU from 1991-2002.
Dr. Ouida McDougal, a retired professor of Early Childhood and Reading Education, received her M.Ed. from Valdosta State College. She was hired in 1971 and served the university for over 30 years.
Marion G. Duckworth, assistant professor of Instructional Support, came to Valdosta State College in 1976 and served the university for 25 years. A reading teacher, she was largely responsible for students successfully passing the Regents Examination and the GRE tests.
Mary Alford Barron was hired in 1975 as a clerk/administrative assistant for the Dean of Student Affairs and then promoted in 1985 as the VSU Testing Officer. She retired in 2001 after having served Valdosta State for 27 years. In 2011, she and daughter, Lawanna, endowed the Claydon Hayward Barron Memorial Scholarship at VSU for qualified African American Studies minors.
Mr. Glenn Sims, assistant professor of sociology, came to Valdosta State College in 1976 and served the university for 10 years. Many minority students were recruited in sociology during his tenure. He was also the first African American hired full time to serve the VSC Sociology Department.
Dr. Maggie J. Viverette is the Director of the Office of Social Equity and the first African American female to serve on the VSU President’s Cabinet. She has served the university for 21 years.
Dr. John Gaston came to Valdosta State in 1992 as head of the Communication Arts Department. He was the first African American hired as full-time dean of the College of the Arts and recently retired after 21 years of service.
Kimberly Ballard-Washington, Esq. was hired in 1998 as assistant to the president for Equal Opportunity Programs and Multicultural Affairs. She also provided legal assistance to VSU President Hugh C. Bailey from 1998-2000.
Laverne Lewis Gaskins, Esq. was appointed the university’s first attorney in 2002 and has served VSU for more than 13 years.