September 16, 2013
Director of Communications
VSU to Commemorate 50 Years of Integration
VALDOSTA – On Sept. 17, 1963, Valdosta natives Drewnell Thomas and Robert Pierce Jr. led the way for integration at Valdosta State College. The two young students joined the freshman class for orientation and the following day settled into their campus routines. They played a pivotal role in forging a historical and cultural legacy that continues at Valdosta State University.
“During this celebration, will honor and continue to learn from those bold individuals who have, through time, demonstrated to us that a truly great university must be one where its transformative opportunities are available to all, not just to a few,” said VSU President William J. McKinney.
Throughout the 2013-2014 academic year, VSU will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its integration with a series of events, including programs, lectures, art exhibits, historic presentations, and panel discussions. The events, sponsored by the university and student organizations, recognize and honor the impact of Thomas and Pierce, as well as other pioneering students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
“History was made on the VSU campus 50 years ago when Ms. Drewnell Thomas and Mr. Robert Pierce Jr. integrated our campus,” said Student Government President William C. Jimerson. “Their bravery opened the doors to diversity and the inclusion of all students. It is important that we reflect on this bravery and courageousness that has allowed each and every student an opportunity to pursue higher education at VSU regardless of race. We salute and recognize these two trailblazers and all of the VSU pioneers not only just this year but every day on our journey as Blazers and as we pursue to become innovators of the 21st century.”
Valdosta State University will kickoff “50 Years of Integration: A Celebration of Inclusion,” a yearlong commemoration of integration and its historical impact and how it has shaped the university, on Sept. 18. Faculty, staff, and students are invited to attend the Heritage Community cookout from noon to 2 p.m., Palms Quad. The event, sponsored by the Langdale College of Business Administration, will include a proclamation from the City of Valdosta and Lowndes County recognizing the significance of the milestone in the university’s history.
Later that evening various student organizations are sponsoring “A Look Back and 50 Years Forward Kickoff Reception,” 6-8 p.m., Bailey Science Center Auditorium, room 1011. The event is open to the public free of charge.
“The VSU integration celebration committee has been instrumental in bringing together a cross section of the campus community, as well as members of the surrounding community, to determine what shape the university’s celebration would take,” said Dr. Maggie Viverette, director of Social Equity. “The committee members have been working tirelessly to create a calendar of events that reflect the significance of the celebration, honor the bravery of the pioneers, and engage the current VSU community to discuss paths for future progress.”
“Just as the changes that occurred on the campus 50 years ago impacted the faculty, staff, and students it is the hope of the committee that the schedule of events will engage and impact the subgroups of today’s campus community,” said Viverette.
The Office of Communications has established a “50 Years of Integration: A Celebration of Inclusion” website and Facebook page that highlights the yearlong celebration and provides stories on Valdosta State’s pioneers, photographs, and updates on events associated with the commemoration. Visit the website at http://www.valdosta.edu/about/news/integration/ and follow on Facebook at VSU50.