COLUMBIA — The Lincoln University Alumni Association inducted Columbia centenarian Carl Connor into its Hall of Fame for his role in advancing education for black students in southern Missouri.
Connor's first cousin Charles Allen accepted the award Saturday on Connor's behalf at Lincoln University's 71st annual alumni convention in Columbus, Ohio. Allen said about 100 people were in attendance.
“I'm really enjoying the words from people, especially my former students, ” said Connor, who turned 100 on Jan. 20.
"I was honored to be receiving this award on behalf of him," Allen said. He said the fact that there were only four Hall of Fame inductees this year makes the award that much more special.
Connor also has received civic acknowledgment from several Missouri school districts, as well as state legislative proclamations. Most recently, Connor was recognized by the city on his 100th birthday.
Connor wanted to be a teacher after graduating from Douglass High School in 1929. He hoped to attend MU, where his parents worked, but was turned down because of the color of his skin. Connor instead attended Lincoln University, where he received a bachelor of arts degree in 1934.
After graduation, Connor became a teacher at Hayti Negro High School, and two years later he became the school's principal. During that time, Connor advocated a four-year curriculum for African-American students and later gave the school a new name — Hayti Central High School.
Connor continued his career in education after moving from Hayti to Boonville in 1942. Connor moved in 1953 to Kansas City, where he served as an administrator and educator until retiring from Southwest High School in 1980.
Fran DeMaster, resident service coordinator at The Terrace Retirement Community, said she respects Connor as a former teacher because despite facing adversity, he found new ways to help others. DeMaster met Connor after she retired from her job as a high school teacher in St. Louis last year. Connor has been living at The Terrace for six years.
"It's heartwarming to see Carl being recognized for his many contributions to make the future better for students," DeMaster said. "That becomes an encouragement and a positive role model not only for young African-American men, but also all people."
Connor said he still keeps in touch with his students, and said that seeing them become people who contribute to society makes him proud.
"I've been happy that I lived long enough to see their accomplishments," Connor said.