Auburn University to commemorate 50 years of integration in yearlong celebration

AUBURN UNIVERSITY – Throughout the 2013-2014 academic year Auburn University will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its integration with a series of programs, lectures and performances designed to educate and inspire the Auburn Family.

Events will recognize Auburn’s first African-American student Harold Franklin as well as the impact of other pioneering faculty, staff, students and alumni.

“Integration is an important milestone in the university’s history,” said Paulette Dilworth, assistant vice president for access and community initiatives in the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs. “It allowed a quality college education to be accessible to more people, and in doing so, made the Auburn Family experience richer for everyone.”

On Jan. 4, 1964, at 2:20 p.m., Franklin, an aspiring history professor from Charleston, S.C., arrived at the library at Auburn University to register for classes in the graduate school. Despite the tension surrounding the event, Franklin’s enrollment did not create the controversy and discord on campus or in the community that occurred previously with earlier desegregation attempts at other Southern institutions.

Franklin later completed his graduate studies at the University of Denver. In 2001, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Auburn University.

“Commemorating 50 Years of Integration at Auburn University: Honoring the Past, Charting the Future” will officially open in conjunction with the Women’s Philanthropy Board fall luncheon on Oct. 4. A colloquium led by Marybeth Gasman, professor of higher education in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, will be held before the luncheon and will feature Auburn alumnus Thom Gossom Jr. ’75 and his wife, joyce gillie gossom.

Thom Gossom Jr., an actor, author and athlete, was Auburn’s first African-American walk-on football player and the first African-American athlete to graduate from the university.

“Over the course of 12 months, faculty, staff, students and alumni will organize events aimed not only at celebrating 50 years of diversity and inclusiveness on campus, but also focused on the future,” Dilworth said. “The commemoration is an opportunity for us to reflect on the past and plan for the future. We want everyone to be involved to ensure that Auburn continues to be a place where people of diverse backgrounds can engage in a community of mutual respect to tackle the great challenges of an increasingly diverse world.”

For more information about Auburn University’s commemoration events, go to the website at http://wp.auburn.edu/diversity or the “Fifty Years Diversity” Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/fiftyyearsdiversity2013.

(Written by Carol Nelson.)

Contact: Carol Nelson, Office of Communications and Marketing, (334) 844-9999 (nelsoc4@auburn.edu), or Mike Clardy, Office of Communications and Marketing, (334) 844-9999 (clardch@auburn.edu)