Black Purdue documentary film

Uploaded by PurdueUniversity on 24.11.2009

[ Music ]
>>About 50 years before old John Purdue came to Indiana
from Ohio, American troops fought the Kickapoo Indians
in the Battle of Tippecanoe.
Their victory won the land that became West Lafayette
and made it possible to form Purdue University in 1869.
One hundred years later, Purdue was yet again the site
of a major battle of ideals.
A small group of determined students banded together
to demand change.
Armed with bricks alone, not to break but to build,
speaking truth to power, they changed the course of history
and rebuilt the foundations of Purdue one brick at a time.
This is their story.
[ Music ]
If you've ever been the only one of your kind,
maybe it was your gender from where you came or your race
that gave you the painful feeling of isolation.
The black Purdue experience grows out of that feeling.
And so it goes, that in the beginning there was only one.
[ Music ]
In the early years at Purdue, being black meant
that you were among the first, the few or the forgotten.
Two decades later with the attack
on Pearl Harbor the nation called and blacks answered.
>>Wave after wave of enemy planes bombed American aircraft
and units of the Pacific fleet in a treacherous attack
to achieve perfect tactical surprise.
>>The war department, in order to satisfy the increasing demand
for officers, created the elite Navy V-12 program
on 131 U.S. college campuses.
Blacks entered the military in record numbers.
Purdue's West Lafayette campus,
chosen for its superior engineering
and technical curriculum soon became training grounds
for officers.
Even though newly enlisted blacks were overwhelmingly
restricted to low ranking positions,
there was soon an exception.
Frederick Branch became the first African-American officer
in the United States Marine Corp in 1945.
But while the Navy V-12 program brought minor racial problems,
it also brought painful contradictions.
While black soldiers lived in newly built military barracks
on the campus of Purdue,
no black student was allowed dormitory housing.
[ Music ]
>>When I arrived in, at Purdue in 1942,
I went through the registration line and one
of the first persons I saw was a counselor.
He took one look at me and said you don't belong at Purdue.
You're not college material.
Being black at Purdue, we were just on the edge of everything.
We weren't involved in any of the student organizations.
The atmosphere was completely different then.
[ Music ]
>>We could not live in West Lafayette,
but a two white clergyman set up an International House.
>>For black male students, the only place on campus
to sleep was the International House.
A small home reserved for students
from foreign countries and negros.
Residents hailed from as far away as Czechoslovakia, Korea,
Indonesia, China, Uruguay and Gary, Indiana.
For black female students the only housing was miles away
accessible by foot in the most undesirable parts
of West Lafayette.
>>When my sister and I came to Purdue in 1946
and we could not live on the campus.
>>Frieda's father, Fred Parker sent a letter
to President Hovde seeking
on campus housing for his daughters.
Hovde denied their admission to the dormitory.
Disheartened, Mr. Parker then sought out favor in [inaudible],
secretary of the colored branch of the Senate Avenue YMCA
in Indianapolis and the Black Power broker.
On behalf of the Parker girls, he assembled a motley crew
of concerned citizens to pay a visit to an old friend,
Indiana Governor, Ralph Gates who in turn pressured Purdue.
>>We received a letter from the Dean of Women
who did everything she could to discourage us from coming
and living on the campus short
of telling us how much happier we would be
and how the people wouldn't speak to us and, you know,
the same old thing all the time.
We didn't believe them anyway.
So we were admitted to the dormitory.
>>The spring semester of 1947 marked the end
of housing discrimination at Purdue along
with the four newest colored residents
of Bunker Hill were the Parker girls.
>>The Student Union building had a barber shop but we could not,
they would not cut negro students hair there.
So the late Judge A. Aloyisus Higginbotham and I went
to the President and we protested to him that we wanted
to get our haircuts in West Lafayette.
>>In order to get a haircut black male students would drive
an hour south of Purdue in order
to find a local colored barbershop in Indianapolis.
>>And he listened to us very patiently, then he said,
well we'll put a pair of hair clippers in the service
and storage building and you can check them
out and cut your hair.
So that was such a slap in the face
that Leon Higginbotham became a federal judge,
an eagle scholar went on to Oberlin to finish his education.
[ Music ]
>>While the minor gains of prior years were a source of pride
to many, for future generations
of black Purdue students they were barely enough.
With a new generation came a whole new mindset.
A new negro was coming to Purdue.
>>A new negro is a person with a new sense of dignity
and destiny, with a new self respect.
Along with that is this like a [inaudible]
which once characterized the negro, this willingness
to stand up courageously.
>>Gradual racial progress now gave way
to frustration and discontentment.
Social unrest was in the air.
The nation was at war.
The civil rights movement was in full throttle.
The boiler was soon to erupt.
>>When I came to Purdue in the fall of 1965,
it was a very large campus, lots of red brick buildings,
lots of white people and finally saw some black folks
and that was like very exciting
because there were very few of us.
I was told that we, in 1965, the total population
of the school was 18,000 and of
that supposedly 100 black students and of
that supposedly 20 black females.
I never knew more than 10 black females.
And there probably were 100 students, most of them
that were black were either athletes or engineering students
or pharmacy majors and some science majors.
>>Well, I came to Purdue University as a student in 1966.
The climate was one of ultraconservatism.
I mean there were many challenges
for African-Americans coming to this institution.
The biggest challenge was, there were very few people
who looked like me here.
It was a big university at that time which probably
of neighborhood of 20,000 but when you looked around,
you didn't see very many people like me.
Most of the students who were here who were white people
or were athletes like myself [inaudible]
on the football team.
But as time went on we began to realize, it was important for us
to overcome the battle, overcoming the obstacles
that we had to face, and there were many,
there were many things that we couldn't do in this campus,
on this campus, in this community that other people did
without any problem whatsoever.
>>The thing I think that's probably difficult for people
to understand now about the 60s is how rapidly things were
changing, even at Purdue.
And I say, even at Purdue,
because Purdue was a very traditional
and very conservative school.
I mean when I got there, you know,
what you noticed was the football team,
the world's largest drum, the cheerleaders, the fraternities
and sororities, the engineering students carrying their slide
rules on their belts, that's, you know,
the technological generation ago.
It was very traditional.
And by 1968 and 69, I mean there were days
when you might have thought you were at Berkley or Madison,
Wisconsin to see the demonstrations
that were taking place.
>>Now, there was a Viet Nam war going on
and the news was constantly playing all those casualties.
And then all of a sudden it began to report the unrest
by the population particularly younger people,
folks who started to call themselves hippies.
Other universities that started to have demonstrations,
some violent, some non-violent.
Purdue was probably one of the last campuses to show any level
of unrest by any student.
>>Visiting speakers on campus were electrifying
and thought provoking.
Jesse Jackson, Dick Gregory and the Indianapolis chapter
of the Black Panther party were among them.
Black students at Purdue were reeling and listening
to messages of protest.
They organized the negro history study group
which eventually became the black student union
to discuss growing frustrations.
>>We got a number of meetings in Stewart Center
to discuss demands as we had as black students.
About that time was when we started calling ourselves black
as opposed to negro.
No more tolerating that.
>>One of the things that came out of that was an attitude
of us black students that we've been ignored,
we haven't been provided with the kind of resources
that the general student body has been provided with
and we think we ought to be recognized.
[ Music ]
>>Just one month after the assignation of Dr. King,
the students emerged with their own non-violent plan advised
by Marine veteran Bob Jones and two visionary leaders,
Sophomore, Homer LaRue and Junior, Linda Jo Mitchell.
It was an overcast May morning in 1968.
One hundred and twenty nine students armed with a list
of nine demands assembled at the steps
of the Administration Building.
[ Music ]
>>The day of the march, we had already been told that we needed
to get a brown paper bag and find a red brick.
Purdue was red brick buildings, everywhere.
So we each got our brick, put it in our little paper bag,
we assembled in Stewart Center and we got in a single line.
>>Each of us went to a brickyard and got a brick.
And there was actually construction project going
on campus that made it convenient for us.
But we all picked up a brick and we marched
from the Union Building, the normal center
for student activity,
in a straight line, no one said a word.
>>With our red bricks in our brown paper bags, one by one,
to Hovde Hall, which is the main administration building
where the President and other higher level officers had
offices, in single file, quietly and many people
with dark sunglasses on, you know, it's real cool back then.
Walked single file, quietly to Hovde Hall and one by one,
we place, took our red bricks out of our brown paper bags
and one by one we walked up the steps
and put a brick on the steps.
>>And on the first level platform, we laid a pile
of bricks right down in front of the building.
It was an amazing experience because as we looked
into the windows there was people in all
of the windows watching this student group march
on the Administration Building.
>>I remember the demonstration as being very moving,
it was very well organized.
The students were quiet, they were dignified.
Well the two organizers of the demonstration, Linda Jo Mitchell
and Homer LaRue, knew me and sort of knew where I stood.
And by this time they knew that the Exponent was sort
of a real student newspaper, not just the public relations organ
that the university wanted us to be.
So they gave us a heads up that this demonstration would take
place so that we would make sure we, you know,
had a reporter there, photographer there.
They put this sign on the steps of the administration building,
they filed by one at a time, carefully laid their bricks
at the base of the sign.
It was a very powerful demonstration.
I can remember it, you know,
you looked up at the Administration Building
and there were heads peeping out the windows
from behind the curtains.
And I think there was a certain amount of fear on the part
of the people in the Administration Building about,
you know, what was maybe going to happen next.
>>So we laid the bricks down in front
of the administration building on the stairs.
We placed a sign in it.
The sign said, [inaudible] next time.
[ Music ]
>>One year after the protest, on March 20th,
1969 the student newspaper,
The Purdue Exponent published a six page black supplement.
Inside there was a full page investigation
into the progress made
on the black student demands presented the previous year.
The article was entitled, "The Demands and The Answers".
The integration of history courses resulted
in a single class taught by a white professor
who had a hard time saying the word, negro.
On the integration of student organizations,
the article stated, "Blacks Remained Conspicuously Absent".
On the inclusion of black arts,
the music department had only entertained the idea
of a jazz course.
No list on discriminatory housing was ever produced.
And the course taught by Linda Jo Mitchell was discontinued.
Regretfully, after one year very little had actually changed.
[ Music ]
By the 60s, Purdue had begun to recruit black athletes
like all American Leroy Keyes
and trackman Eric McKaskell [assumed spelling].
>>As an athlete you were somewhat
in like a little special category, you know, looked up to
in a certain way especially if you were a star athlete.
But the extent of other things in terms of social and otherwise
that was total different, different story.
Our Freshman year in 65 the count was 100 brothers and
or was it, I knew it was 120 total and, and,
the sisters were very, very, very slim, I mean in terms
of numbers, in terms of numbers.
And so that meant that if you were a Freshman brother you,
you know, you were just out of it, you know, because, you know,
the ladies looked at the upper classmen.
And forget quote, unquote,
talking to white girls like that.
That was an unwritten rule that you keep your,
especially if you were an athlete coming from the south,
keep you nose clean, you know,
play whatever sport you do, [inaudible].
>>Well life as an athlete was life
that I would say was enjoyable from the standpoint
that physical activity can take away frustration.
Everybody has frustration.
And the frustration that we had to deal with would build
up during the course of the day or in the evening
after practice kind of dissipated
when you were student athlete.
You know, you had an opportunity
to physically get it out of your system.
Also, the fact that we were individuals
that the community admired from the standpoint
that we were doing positive, something positive
for their teams made it an easier place for an athlete
to be versus an individual who is a black and only a student.
>>The black athlete at Purdue became vital
to the student movement lending their local celebrity
to the cause often raising the profile of student protests.
Black athletes were historically among the first
to break racial barriers at Purdue.
Herman Murray, the first black Boilermaker on the grid iron.
Ernie Hall in the same year changed life on the hardwood
in Boilermaker basketball forever.
Lamar Lundy, who in 1957 became the only Boilermaker
to win both MVP of the football
and basketball teams in the same years.
One of Purdue's first black cheerleaders, Pam King,
drew more jeers than cheers with her afro and clenched fist.
Even All-American Leroy Keyes found his bravery challenged
both on and off the field.
Leroy played and protested much
like his high school rival Eric McKaskell who was soon
to learn the high cost of taking
on the stringent grooming policy of Purdue athletics.
>>This was my Senior year and I had gotten injured
and so I wasn't, you know, a value so, at least in my mind.
Because if you couldn't run, you know, what was your value.
And I was concerned whether
or not I'd still had my scholarship.
But there was seven of us on the team and we decided
that if we wanted to wear a mustache we could.
You know, because from our culture
that was just a statement, you know, I mean,
that was just something that African-American men did.
So we got together and said look,
we're going to make a stand and we're not going
to shave our mustaches off.
>>Purdue's track team had a longstanding uniform policy
requiring runners to remain clean shaven.
But within Purdue's turbulent climate
and an evolving racial identity black runners decided to stand
up and put their razors down.
>>In our thinking this was in the spring of 69,
so the 68 Olympics already happened.
And when we saw Carlos and Tommy Smith do that,
do the black fist thing.
And we looked up to these guys, you know,
because I mean they were the bomb as you would say it.
When they made that stand, you know, we said, wow, man,
they stood up against the establishment, man, you know,
an American National Anthem.
And it just affected our psyche.
And then back in April of 68 we were running
at the Kentucky relays at the University of Kentucky
and that's when we heard that Dr. King was assonated.
And man, it, you know, we started crying.
I, I'm just going back and playing it over in my mind.
Man that had just hit us that man,
this guy was a peaceful dude, you know, peaceful man
and somebody killed him.
So we felt that we had to make a stand.
You know, that we weren't going do, quote,
unquote the white mans thing any longer.
I mean we were going to do what we required but we were going
to do what we culturally knew was our identity.
Yeah, so it was building up.
All that was going on during that time,
it was building up, it was building up.
And so when we showed up at the airport three did shave
and four didn't.
[ Music ]
And the assistant coach said here you guys,
you know, you all can't go.
I said, what you mean we can't go, you know, and he said,
you know, shave your mustaches.
I was injured anyway so I wasn't, I was mainly there
to support of Jimmy and, and them.
And [inaudible] I said look man, I'm a Senior man
but these guys are Juniors man, they need.
And they said, no they're not going.
And I said man, if I had a bomb there I'd blow the [inaudible].
And the next thing I knew, the FBI was on the scene
and I was definitely terrified
because I didn't know what they were going to do.
They could have done anything, you know,
they could have trumped the charges up,
they could have arrested me, they could have done anything.
After interrogating me that found that okay, this is,
you know, a young guy, [inaudible] statement
and he's not a terrorist.
And so I was released from that.
Shortly thereafter, the State Police, two officers come up
and they arrest me for disorderly conduct.
When I was arrested and the news hit the students,
I was set for a court appearance.
It was a rallying point because prior to that, you know,
the silent protest and there was like a lull.
>>The arrest of 22 year old Eric McKaskell galvanized the black
student body like never before.
With the help of Purdue's first black professor,
Helen Bass Williams, the students organized a march
into the town of Lafayette.
>>Court appearance was on Monday.
We organized, met at the student union, 100 students
and we marched from the student union, also Wabash River,
Wabash Bridge to Lafayette, from West Lafayette to Lafayette.
When I got to the courtroom coming
up the stairs I still remember, I mean, it,
a guy from a CBS affiliate in Indianapolis interviewed me.
And I said, "I'm calling in the, you know,
the law because of trumped up charge"
and so I was given the nation time.
And we go make our way into the courtroom and it's jammed.
I ain't never seen that many black folk in one room
in the courtroom where the District Attorney questioned me
and he recommended to the Judge
that this case be [inaudible] evidence.
And so it was dismissed and after that, we just shouted.
>>As the march continued back to campus,
the focus quickly returned to the Administration Building.
This time students went beyond the building steps
and silence was replaced with urgency and passion.
>>And as we were going up to the steps
of the Administration Building
into the main lobby this is what we were singing.
We asked, we're here to see President Hovde and as we went
up to his office, you know, his secretary was kind
of caught off guard, she didn't know what we were going to do.
And I said, "We're here to see President Hovde"
and she said, "Well he's not here."
So well we want to talk to him, we need to talk
to President Hovde and she saw that we meant business.
And she got him on the phone.
I said, "President Hovde, this is Eric again."
I said, there was previous communication and we're here
to say that they're certain demands
that have not been fulfilled.
And I made it clear to President Hovde that this had nothing
to do with the athletic incident.
This is, this is new business.
This is the business that we talked about [inaudible],
you know, a year later with the list of demands.
Plus, a place where we can gather
as African-American students.
>>This time President Hovde got the message.
There was no delay in action.
He appointed a special committee to look
into black student problems right away.
In a fateful move, the student committee headed
by Eric McKaskell made one small change to their requests.
They wanted a special place as a permanent part of campus life.
>>Damn, I wish there was somewhere I could go and rap
with some brothers and sisters.
>>A black cultural center should be a place
where black culture is made both physical and viable.
>>On June 6, 1969 the Board
of Trustees unanimously accepted the development program
for black students, a five year initiative.
In the fall of the 1970 semester saw the opening
of the Black Cultural Center.
There was now a home within a home for black students.
It was also a repository of black culture
for the larger Purdue community and soon became fertile ground
for the development and support of programs and organizations
that would enrich campus life for decades to come.
>>And we, the black house, the Black Cultural Center,
commonly known as the black house was kind
of place of refuge.
It was a place where you really got a taste of home and,
you know, I really hadn't been big on history.
And there, there were a lot of historical artifacts,
a lot of books and magazines about black history.
It was a whole environment of, you know, Malcom and Martin
and Mohammad and all those
and it was encouraging and nourished there.
Tony Zamora [assumed spelling] was the head of the,
the Executive Director of the black house at that time.
And he was very personable, into jazz music,
just a real cool brother so I related to him very well.
Stark contrast to the academic side
so during the morning you'd go to class and you could get beat
up in Physics 151 and 152, run by the black house to get kind
of a break to kind of recharge and then jump back in there
so you could hit Chemistry 230 or 240.
>>Boy, I mean to actually see what our vision was,
to come into fruition was awesome.
Because here, you know, we were 20, 18, 19,
20, 21 year old students.
But to see this house come about was awesome.
>>Hallelujah, thank God, we showed them,
[inaudible] start singing.
[ Music ]
>>On the other side of campus, Dean John Day was also working
to create opportunities for black students.
In the Krannert School of Management with BOP,
the Business Opportunities Program.
His most valuable recruit came in 1970, a high school principal
from Gary, Indiana, Dr. Cornell Bell.
Over the next three decades, Dr. Bell recruited, mentored
and advised over 800 students
through the Business Opportunities Program.
He was a special man with a gift to inspire.
>>In the 70s at Purdue, we were right after 1968
which was a very difficult year for African-Americans.
Dr. King was killed, Bobby Kennedy was killed, Tommy Smith
and John Carlos did their salute at the Olympics
so everybody was conscious of race as we moved
out the late 60s into early 70s, the Krannert School of Business
at Purdue started a program to lure
and entice young African-Americans
to go into business.
My company is composed of 19 McDonalds restaurants,
I have 750 employees and we have gross sales
of plus 40 million dollars approaching 50 million dollars.
And it's, if I look at the background that I picked
up from Krannert, it was the analytical skills to look
at the P and L's and really understand the infrastructure
of the business model from a quantitative basis.
So it's great to be associated
with this world class elite academic institution.
>>In 1974, the engineering department gave birth
to the minority engineering program
and appointed an enterprising young Purdue alumni
to head the program, Marion Blalock.
>>As coordinator of minority engineering programs, as I was,
there were some things that were already in place.
They were a result of the march that we'd done in 1968
and they had begun to develop.
So we were experimenting with various programs.
We did some outreach programs, we went to the students
where they were and we had some onsite campus visits
where we would bring the students to us
and they would spend a week or two or three days on campus get
to meet other black students.
>>Over the next 35 years, Marion would be responsible
for graduating over 2,000 students
through the minority engineering program.
However, in 1974 the department had not yet seen the likes
of an ambitious young street smart kid
from Chicago named Tony.
>>The engineering department, being black in the school
of engineering was again, very, very challenging.
In high school I'd always been very good in math, did real well
on the SATs and the ACTs.
I was very confident in my ability to perform in class.
I could, can kind of charm my way through
and not really have to work that hard.
When I got to Purdue though,
it was a very different environment.
My academic advisor there suggested
that since we hadn't had calculus,
calculus wasn't offered in [inaudible] high school and most
of the engineering students had calculus already,
they suggested well maybe you should take a remedial math
curriculum and if you did that you had
to take a remedial physics and chemistry curriculum
because they came as a package.
I wasn't having it.
I'm taking regular math no matter what.
Well if you do that you've got to take regular physics,
regular chemistry, so be it.
So I remember the first day of Calculus 161, we get into class
and a couple other students that had gone
to West Lafayette High School said, hey [inaudible] look,
it's the same textbook that we had in high school.
I'm thinking, oh, oh, trouble here.
And I [inaudible] again
to understand what they were talking
about in terms of preparedness.
But Ed Barnett and other black students
in engineering there knew this was going to be an issue for us
so they invited us to their study session and encourage us
and really helped tutor us.
So one of the advantages that I had and that my group had was
that several of us were from Chicago.
In fact five us were from the same high school.
And, you know, we were the cool guys on campus.
We even carried little business cards that said,
we sooth, we charm, we satisfy.
It had a top hat, cane and gloves on it.
And we all had nicknames.
I was known as Tony Rome because I wore this stingy brimmed dives
hat that Frank Sinatra had worn in his movie "Tony Rome."
Anyway, sad story.
But we all had the Chicago look, we wore the silk and wool pants
and the black sweaters and we danced,
we bopped which is not called a step but we bopped
and we were really good at it.
And when we would go out to a party, we made a presence.
We were pretty generally recognized as being different
from the other students on campus.
>>Anthony Harris was one of a group called the Chicago Six.
The Chicago Six consisted of Anthony Harris, Ed Coleman,
Brian Harris, John Logan, Stan Curtley and George Smith.
They were all from the Chicago area.
Most of them I believe went to Lynn Bloom High School.
Tony was sort of the head guy of the group.
He was a pusher, mover, shaker.
Tony when graduated from Purdue in '75 went
on to Harvard Business School.
So you could sort of get a feel for the kind of man Tony was.
>>My experience with the American Society
of Mechanical Engineers gave me an opportunity to travel
to different campuses, to go to professional conferences.
Even had an opportunity to go
to the national convention in New York City.
And kind of had a chance to meet other black students
from other universities that were at these meetings.
And kind of talk about wouldn't this be great
if there was more African-American participation.
When I went back then to the black society
of engineers I kind of brought these ideas with me
and pitched them to my roommates.
You know, wouldn't it be something
if our organization was more global, more international
and had more reach and more scale and more scope.
Again, there was a lot of consciousness in the air,
there was, the voices of Malcom and Martin were there
and there was a lot of student protests that we'd heard
about prior to our arrival.
I think I was becoming conscious as opposed to it being all
about me and all about us with our little group, it became all
about us with the [inaudible] a bigger group.
We saw that there weren't very many black students
reticulating, that the black students
that were there weren't graduating,
that there was no black faculty,
and that blacks once they graduated some were struggling
with getting jobs.
And as I traveled around with the American Society
of Mechanical Engineers this story was the same all
over the country.
And I thought, you know, we really could do something
about this if we could structure this thing and organize it.
And the American Society
of Mechanical Engineers was a great template.
So I pitched it and it sold.
>>With the help of President Hansen,
the Purdue NSBE Chapter prepared to host representatives
from 80 colleges and universities.
Tony and his six friends from Chicago desperately wanted
to create a national engineering organization.
>>They got with President Hansen here at Purdue.
Dr. Hansen wrote a letter out to the presidents
of many universities across the country and encouraged them
to allow someone from their school to come to Purdue
and discuss the idea for a national body.
And it was that invitation that attracted students from all
over the country, as far away as Canada, to come to Purdue.
I believe it was April 12, 1975.
And they met here, I believe they met in Stewart Center,
I was here at the time.
The Purdue Chapter was the host Chapter and at the end
of that meeting we left with a national body defined
that we called the National Society of Black Engineers.
>>So listen, when I graduated from Purdue in 1975,
I went and pursued my MBA and kind of went away
from the organization for a while and then came back
in an advisory capacity around 1980, 81.
Since that time the organization has truly blossomed.
It currently has 33,000 members in 19 countries world wide.
We have a full time paid professional staff
of 25 employees, we own a 19,000 square foot building
in Alexandria Virginia.
The organization has a 15 million dollar annual budget.
I mean this is the largest student run organization
in the world and the most [inaudible] organization
of its type anywhere.
>>In 1980, the Black Cultural Center celebrated its tenth year
anniversary and hosted its first black alumni dinner.
This event set the stage for black Purdue
to mature beyond the student experience into the ranks
of Purdue's prestigious alumni.
>>A Purdue degree means a lot of different things.
It actually starts before you graduate.
And the first part of it really has to do
with how you are recruited.
So when you come out of Purdue there are name brand companies
that want you because of the educational expertise
that you have and because of what they know that you're going
to be able to deliver coming out of a Purdue education.
So I had a chance to talk to companies in California,
there were companies east coast, west coast,
I talked to global companies coming out.
The second part of a education
from Purdue was based upon the experience
and that toughness you had to have to make it
through the curriculum.
What we really learned was how to think.
You learned how to work through problems.
And no matter where you go, no matter what you do you're going
to have to work through problems.
So, you know, the Purdue education
for me married with how I grew up.
And a common sense approach to dealing with life,
those two things together, I felt that I was ready
to handle anything that was thrown at me.
>>When I graduated in 76 and actually had two degrees,
a bachelors and a masters, and I headed south,
I really didn't realize the impact of Purdue.
How a great institution that it was.
When I hit the corporate office many people thought
that it was an Ivy League school.
And when I talked to my relatives,
I started in Memphis Tennessee,
they really thought it was an Ivy League east coast school.
And the further I moved from Lafayette, I began to realize
that the first man to walk on the moon,
Neil Armstrong was a Purdue graduate.
The last man to walk on the moon,
Alan Cernan is a Purdue graduate.
They boast about seven or eight astronauts.
So again, I didn't realize the impact of this institution
and how elite an institution it was until I moved away.
>>People say well, you know, electrical engineering,
so how did you use that to do this or that?
Electrical engineering is just about how pieces fit together,
how things flow together, how you address issues
that you might have and you have
to break problems down in small chunks.
And that is no different than what the CEO
of the largest corporation of the world does.
So for me today, as a president of McDonalds U.S.,
if I have human resource initiatives or issues
or pipeline development, it's a small chunk.
If I'm looking at how to market to Latinos or market to Asians
in America in a very different
and a novel way, it's a small chunk.
If I'm looking at media buys and whether
or not the media market may be soft now
or a negotiation I might have with the commissioner
of the NBA, it's all small chunks.
And so for me that part of my education I use each
and every moment of the day.
You know, the most important thing I took away
from Purdue is very easy.
And I'll tell you, I took away a lot of things, you know,
I took away a great education, I took away the ability
as I mentioned to think and problem solve, you know,
I took away, I mean I have some fantastic friendships
that were created there.
But the most important thing, you know, by far was the fact
that that's where I met my wife.
And so, you know, now it's 28 plus years later,
she's still the sweet little girl that I met
in our first calculus class.
>>Don and I first met on the first night of campus at Purdue.
We hadn't even started classes yet and we had both been invited
to a scholarship dinner.
And so I said, well, you know, I'm Liz,
we met the first night of school.
We go yeah, yeah, I remember you [inaudible]
so where are you from?
And he said, I'm from Chicago.
I said, I'm from Chicago.
And I said, what part of Chicago
and he said north side of Chicago.
And I said, hum, you know, there's not a lot of black folks
from the north side of Chicago.
Where did you grow up?
He said, it's a little street,
you won't know anything about it.
And I said, what street, he said Cleveland Street.
And I said Cleveland?
>>I grew up on, she said I grew up on Cleveland Street.
>>I grew up on Cleveland Street.
I said what was your address, and he said...
>>1342, she said...
>>952 North Cleveland.
We grew up four blocks apart.
>>And never knew each other.
>>And had never met.
And so we started talking about other things,
we had both taken four years of Latin in high school,
we were both interested in astronomy
and we just kept talking and I'm like, okay,
there's something happening here.
>>We're blessed.
Simply put, we are blessed.
And I say that because to whom much is given, much is required.
So we don't really have a choice but to give back.
When it comes to students, sponsoring students, you know,
some one, somewhere sponsored us.
You know, neither of us had the money to be at Purdue.
Monies came from organizations and from people
who were basically given the same level of support
that we are attempting to give today.
The other thing is we want to be a beacon of people just to know,
you can make it through.
If you can make it through Purdue, you can graduate,
you can have a viable career, a viable life.
You can be anything you want to be whenever you decide you want
to be, it's up to you.
[ Music ]
>>1990 was the first year Purdue School
of Business elected an African-American as President
of the student government.
Alice Richardson from Bellwood, Illinois,
helped organize a hands across campus rally that saw students
from a variety of backgrounds join hands
and then circle the fountain followed
by a quick run through the water.
>>[Inaudible] a very big school, I mean,
36,000 students can be daunting and so for me I was a joiner.
When I first got to campus at Cary Quad
where I lived they had elections.
And so first thing I did was I ran for treasurer of Cary Quad.
They had a bicycle club it was like [inaudible].
I joined Jahari, I joined science club
because at the time most students [inaudible]
for science.
I joined the society of [inaudible],
I joined Kappa Phi fraternity.
I just wanted to join stuff.
And then towards the end of my junior year,
I had an opportunity to sort of think
about either joining Purdue's Board of Trustees and/or running
for student government, President.
And they had never met a black student who wanted to or aspired
to be sort of the student body president and that intrigued me.
But, and given that there was only 1,000 black students
on campus, it quite frankly felt like [inaudible] campus to sort
of [inaudible] that was special.
And more importantly we really think we had an impact
on the campus after the election.
Post Purdue, you know, I had the opportunity to go work
at [inaudible] Brothers emergent group, I had an opportunity
to go work in Africa where I started a [inaudible] bank
with some fellow, with some people
from [inaudible] Brothers.
But then Africa, after Harvard Business School I got the
ability to go work in finance where you get to buy companies
and [inaudible] and improve them.
I'd say the most important thing I got
from Purdue was basically friendships and quite frankly,
life long friendships with people are sort
of my deep personal friends as well as sort of my mentors
and network from which I get advice and inspiration to sort
of push harder and work harder and try to be successful.
And so for the last ten years we have built a minority
in the company focused on buying and selling companies.
And some of the things [inaudible] are business college
experience which is the [inaudible] around here,
that we're having a Purdue business and leadership seminar.
>>The Purdue Black Alumni organization created the annual
business and leadership summit in 2007 as a way
to promote networking among black alumni.
Each year, ten scholarships and invitations are made available
to the next generation of Boilermakers
through the business opportunities program.
One such recipient is Heather Parchman.
>>I chose Purdue because, you know, as soon as I came
on the campus I looked at my four
or five different big ten schools and as soon as I came
on the campus I stepped off the bus and I was
like this was, this was my school.
Another reason why I chose Purdue is
because they have the business opportunity program
which got me the connection with the black community.
A Purdue family gave me some help [inaudible]
after the semester.
I couldn't afford to continue the semester.
I [inaudible].
So they sent me a letter and they said, you know,
you give me a deadline, if you don't have your money
in by this date, your classes will be cancelled.
My heart really just dropped and,
you know, I talked to my mom.
And I was like, I don't know what to do.
You know, she didn't have the financial means to do it.
I talked to my advisor over at, the director of [inaudible] and,
you know, he's like, okay,
[inaudible] you know black family.
And [inaudible] called them up and it's like this young lady,
this outstanding young lady needs help.
And so they, you know, dropped like five hundred here,
seven fifty here, a hundred dollars here and, you know,
all total, you know, accumulated total was six thousand dollars
and just enough for me to, you know,
continue with this semester.
So, you know, I think without the business opportunity program
I probably would not be here right now.
[ Music ]
>>In 1998, Naman Powers Jr., one of the student protestors
of the 1968 march, who had
since become Purdue's second African-American Trustee
returned along with his brother Claude to give
over 100 thousand dollars towards the construction
of a new three million dollar Black Cultural Center facility.
>>We do educational tours here at the Black Cultural Center.
And part of the educational tours is to talk
about the architectural elements of this facility
because we were very deliberate in the design of the facility.
This is the first building on the university campus
that was designed by an African-American architect
and we highlight some of those architectural elements.
One of the most striking is the portal which is the entrance way
to the Black Culture Center.
It creates or sends a message
that Purdue University is an inclusive community
and that portal is representative of leading
into the black community here at Purdue University.
Our receptionist desk has a very unique shape to it.
It's actually inspired by the hull of a ship.
And the hull of a ship has significance
in the African-American community because many
of our ancestors were transported via slave ships
as part of the middle passage.
And whenever we have groups of students come
to the Black Culture Center we have them congregate there
in front of it, our receptionist desk, and talk about the hull
of the ship and the significance of it.
And let them know if their African ancestors could have
survived that horrific journey of the middle passage
that they too can survive the Purdue University experience.
[ Music ]
>>Today, Purdue students enjoy the fruits
of labor hard fought decades before.
Forty one years after Delta Sigma Theta,
the first African-American Sorority to arrive at Purdue,
students like Erica Mills continue to find support.
>>Every August of the very first Thursday
of every school semester,
there's what's called the Boiler Fest of Black Cultural Center.
And basically what it is is an opportunity
for all the minority students at Purdue to come out and to get
to know all the organizations that they can identify
with where they can find people who look them
and who are interesting and things
that they're interested in.
So my Freshman year, this is definitely the first time
when I walked down, I saw everyone around me
who pretty much looked like me and a whole bunch
of different organizations that I could join [inaudible]
with people every day.
And to be on such a, to be on a campus
like Purdue [inaudible] is really important
and so Boiler Fest definitely was like the stepping stone
to help get me to where I am.
So my first year this is definitely the first time
when I walked down and I saw everyone around me
who pretty much looked like me and a whole bunch
of different organizations that I could join [inaudible]
with people every day.
And to such a, to be on a campus
like Purdue [inaudible] is really important
and so Boiler Fest definitely was like the stepping stone
to help get me to where I am.
I was interviewing for a job
and they asked me what university I came from
and I let them know I was from Purdue University and, you know,
they got real excited.
Like Purdue, the Purdue University?
And I'm like, it's just Purdue but for me it was an opportunity
to see outside of Purdue, people really do look at the university
in that very good light and there's,
it's a wonderful university.
And so it me feel really good to know that my education was going
to be from somewhere that, you know,
was looked upon well by the world.
>>Since Helen Bass Williams arrived
in the 1960s a tight knit informal family style faculty
student mentorship has been available to students at Purdue.
>>Minority engineering program here
at Purdue University has attracted me largely.
I was born and raised in Gary, Indiana, end up coming
into Purdue University for computer engineering
and now I've landed a full time job at Microsoft Corporation
in Redman, Washington.
Anytime I want to see somebody on the same shade
as me I would go over to that side of campus
and I really be able to socialize
with people of my same culture.
There's always people there to help me.
Ms. Virginia Booth was there to guide me along.
Anytime of the day that you feel like going in her office
and just release, just relieving stress, letting it all
out she'll listen to you, she'll give you advice,
they'll send you in the right direction.
>>Virginia Booth in the minority in the engineering program,
like that's my, that's my mother.
>>Minority engineering program at Purdue,
I would say that we have created a family kind of an environment
for young people that come here.
Not just engineering students, but any student that might come
into our offices for help.
To be called mama is probably a reflection of that family feel.
Just as I would call Marion mom and a lot of students saw Marion
as the mom away from home, the one that kept you in check even
when your own mother didn't know what you were doing.
Students see that in me as well.
Outside of the fact that I fry a lot of chicken and I have them
over to the house on the weekends and, you know,
they can pretty much come to me
for whatever situation might be going on in their lives.
I keep a box of Kleenex in my office
and when students have an issue or they flunk the test
or they got a 100, we may rejoice or we may cry depending
on what the situation is.
So I think young people need that sense of family
and the fact that they would call me mom is a reflection
that we've established that at Purdue.
>>Being black at Purdue, it's not where it should be
but it is better that where we were.
So we are, we've made some steps but yet we are,
we still have some progress to make.
So we've walked a long journey but the journey is still there.
And so I think what really helps is having people in place
like myself who have gone through the journey
on a different level and a lot of people are coming back
to Purdue to work for Purdue who were here on the other side.
So we can see both sides of the coin
and know how we can make this thing better for the students
and the environment that they're going to face
when they exit this place.
>>It's been over 100 years
since David Robert Lewis first walked onto Purdue's campus.
He must have imagined as we do now in moments of isolation,
that there is indeed a better day coming.
And that the best days for Purdue are yet to come.
>>I am Reverend Doctor Nicholas Hood [phonetic].
I am Purdue.
>>I am Marion Williamson Blalok.
I am Purdue.
>>I am Reverend Eric Duke [Inaudible] and I am Purdue.
>>I am Roger [Inaudible].
I am Purdue.
>>I am Tony Harris.
I am Purdue.
>>I am Erica Elizabeth Mills.
I am Purdue.
>>I'm Heather [inaudible].
I am Purdue.
>>I am [inaudible].
I am Purdue.
>>I'm [inaudible].
I am Purdue.
>>I am Liz Thompson.
I am Purdue.
>>I am Thomas [inaudible].
I am Purdue.
[ Music ]