University of Scranton recognizes first African American graduate – 1919

The University of Scranton dedicated Louis Stanley Brown Hall today. Mr. Brown was the first African America graduate of the University, then St. Thomas College, when he earned his commercial degree in 1919. As Coordinator of Education for Justice, I was asked to speak briefly at the dedication. 

I followed our Keynote Speaker, Dr. Yohuru Williams. Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Fairfield University in Connecticut. He gave a terrific address on the challenges of diversity at Jesuit institutions of higher education in the twenty-first century. It was kind of unfair to follow such a dynamic speaker but here were my brief remarks:

Today’s Louis Stanley Brown Hall dedication provides us with the opportunity to recognize the first African American graduate of The University of Scranton and to recognize the tremendous contributions made by generations of students, staff, faculty, administrators and Trustees of color, that have made the University of Scranton the Catholic and Jesuit institution that it is today.

Today’s dedication also provides us with an opportunity to reflect upon where we stand as a University dedicated to preparing young men and women of faith for a life of service to their local, national, and global communities. Dr. Yohuru Williams a graduate of the political science program here at the University and now dean at my alma mater, Fairfield University, has already laid out the urgency with which Jesuit institutions of higher education must embrace that challenge. I second his call to action.

One of the goals of Jesuit and Catholic education at the University of Scranton is to help form men and women so that they may become leaders to their communities. We owe it to our students to ensure that they are prepared to identify injustice in all of its forms and to be able to take concrete steps in pursuit of creative solutions.

We also must recognize that they will do so in an increasingly diverse world, in Scranton, Northeastern Pennsylvania, and across the United States. Recent national events make it difficult to deny that racial prejudice and white privilege continue to prevent millions of United States citizens from realizing their full political and economic rights. These realities also make it difficult for our students and faculty to analyze critically and engage productively in discourse about issues and instances in our country and on our campus that are results of these systems.

Our graduates will be expected to navigate and lead a world in which multicultural awareness and knowledge are fundamental to our country’s democratic future. Across the University, we have a special responsibility as faculty to ensure that our curriculum prepares students to become more aware of and capable of addressing these critical challenges of the 21st century.

As an institution of higher education with a very talented group of faculty, we can also encourage greater analysis of the structural causes of racial injustice and propose ways to overcome such structural impediments that prevent the development of a more just society here in our local community. As Father Adolfo Nicolás has argued research “has as its objective making a difference in people’s lives” (2010).

Our students and our faculty must live up to Dr. William’s challenge. Having Mr. Louis Stanley Brown’s name featured on campus will serve as a constant reminder to do so.

Thank you.