UF to celebrate 50th anniversary of integration of the university


Published: Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 16, 2008 at 8:55 p.m.

February marks the start of a year-long commemoration of the 50th anniversary of integration at the University of Florida.

The theme of the year is "Celebrating the Firsts" to honor the first black graduate from each of UF's colleges.

"We need to celebrate the firsts," said Florida Bridgewater-Alford, UF's director of community relations. "I don't think there ever was a celebration of their accomplishments and these are the people that paved the way for today's exceptional students."

Events begin in February and will be culminated a year later on Feb. 20, 2009 with a Black Legends Ball.

The first event is an exhibit in the UF library's special collections honoring Jim Haskins, one of the first black professors and author of "Cotton Club." A special corner will be dedicated to him and his accomplishments starting the first week in February, Bridgewater-Alford said.

The committee, led by Bridgewater-Alford, started planning in November.

"We sat down and tried to think of people who could bring the breath of knowledge, historical information and excitement," Bridgewater-Alford said. "We really have a great group."

Katie Marquis, a member of the committee and the director of membership and marketing for the UF Alumni Association, said that she anticipates a fantastic response from alumni because this is a monumental milestone in black history and UF's history.

The events are targeted to the university, the Gainesville community and the 12,000 black alumni across the world, Bridgewater-Alford said.

Everyone is encouraged to attend and get involved, she added.

Currently there is no set budget.

"We're working off of faith right now," Bridgewater-Alford said. "A lot of the events will be self-supporting."

The committee is in charge of working with other offices at UF. Some colleges already have lectures and other events planned, and then the anniversary theme is incorporated into the plans, Bridgewater-Alford said.

Most of the events are still in the preliminary stages, Bridgewater-Alford said.

Anthony Crenshaw, a committee member who is assistant director of multicultural and diversity affairs and the director of the Institute of Black Culture, hopes to attend as many events as possible.

"The significance is not only of 1958 but also every accomplishment that has happened since then," Crenshaw said. "I think it's very exciting."

Members of the committee also include Evelyn M. Moore Mickle, one of the first black women to be admitted and graduate from UF's College of Nursing.

There were five blacks enrolled in her nursing class when Mickle began. Only one other graduated with her in August 1967.

"It was a social shock," Mickle said.

Her husband, federal Judge Stephan Mickle, is also a member of the committee. In March, the UF Fredric G. Levin College of Law is planning a special weekend in honor of Mickle, as he was one of the first African-Americans to graduate from the school.

"I'm excited that UF will show those African-American students who came before, who are here now, and who will come later that we are a better university because of them," Bridgewater-Alford said.

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