You’ve probably heard of Yoder, Miller and Kratz, but have you also heard of Lark, Berry and Dyson? Each February, Goshen College joins individuals and organizations across the U.S. in recognizing Black History Month. In addition to honoring the stories and contributions of African-Americans in our national history during this month, we also call attention to the stories and contributions of African-Americans in GC’s history.
Below are 10 moments that not only shaped the African-American history of Goshen College, but that have been integral in shaping GC into who we are today:
Juanita Lark became the first African-American to graduate from Goshen College. Lark was the daughter of James H. Lark, the Mennonite Church’s first ordained Black bishop.
Black students began weekly informal meetings. In 1969, these meetings lead to the creation of the GC Afro-American Society, a precursor to the Black Student Union (BSU) launched in 1971.
Lee Roy Berry became Goshen College’s first African-American faculty member. Berry continued to teach at GC through his retirement in 2010.
“Ebony Voices,” a GC gospel choir is formed. In the 1970s, GC also began offering courses in African-American Literature, African Arts, African Culture, Black Theology, and Black History.
With 64 African-American students enrolled, African-Americans represented more than 5% of the GC student population — a number and percentage that has remained a peak ever since.
Howell House, a Goshen College small-group house, was established as “Black House,” in response to a group of Black students’ request for a Black student small-group housing option.
The Cross Cultural Relations Center was established to provide academic counseling, promote campus sensitivity to minority students, and provide programs for minority students.
Sylvia Dyson, the first full-time director of the Cross Cultural Relations Center. Photo by Winston Gerig, The Goshen College Record – Vol. 88 No. 2 (September 22, 1978).
GC launched the James Lark Leadership Education Program, designed to develop African-American Mennonite lay and professional leadership.
Goshen College alum Zenebe Abebe ’75 was hired as Vice President for Multicultural Education. In 1993, Abebe helped launch GC’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Study Day.
Multicultural affairs staff: Zenebe Abebe, Chris Waltner, Ian Walker, Smith Fleurantin, Enid Rodriguez, Shanti DeFehr (Photo: John D. Yoder)
For more, read “Black, White, Mennonite: African-American Students at Goshen College 1968-1983,” a senior history thesis written by Dominique Burgunder-Johnson ’06, Goshen College VP of enrollment & marketing.