The University of Missouri Board of Curators could consider a proposal to name MU’s General Classroom Building after Arvarh E. Strickland, a professor emeritus of history and MU’s first full-time black faculty member, at its January meeting.
Deputy Chancellor Michael Middleton, director of MU’s building naming committee, said the committee will probably make a recommendation at the end of this week, which may be in time for it to be added to the agenda for the curators’ meeting Jan. 25-26.
“We will make a recommendation shortly, and it is our hope that we will be able to name a building on campus after a prominent African-American professor in the history of our university,” he said.
The idea to rename the General Classroom Building after Strickland was proposed on a joint bill passed in early December by the Legion of Black Collegians, Residence Halls Association and Missouri Students Association. The building, known as GCB, is at the corner of Missouri Avenue and Rollins Road.
“This is the first joint bill in MSA, RHA, and LBC’s history, which should make a profound statement to the Board of Curators,” said Dixie Jonathan Mays, MSA senate operation chairman. “We’re all united on this.”
Strickland, who retired in 1996, said he is flattered by the students’ proposal.
“I would feel honored if it happens,” he said.
Legion of Black Collegians president Jabari Turner said the legion first came up with the idea of renaming a building after an African-American to recognize the contributions of minorities on campus.
“We felt that in order to truly celebrate Mizzou history it was important to recognize pioneers from all different backgrounds,” Turner said in an e-mail.
Justin Ginter, the president of Residence Halls Association, agreed.
“Diversity is such a big issue on this campus,” Ginter said. He said it’s a good faith effort “on the university’s part to make a move like this, to name a building after an African-American, especially one who has done so much for the campus, as Strickland has done.”
Strickland was hired by MU’s Department of History in 1969. He also helped establish the first black history course at MU, which he taught, and in 2001, he published “History of the Chicago Urban League,” the first scholarly study of a local racial advancement organization.
The Arvarh E. Strickland Distinguished Professorship of African-American History and Culture, which was set up in 1999, was MU’s first endowed chair named after a living African-American scholar. He is co-founder of the Minority Men’s Network, an organization that helps minority men reach out to the community.
Strickland also helped develop new minority hiring practices at MU by encouraging the recruitment of more black professors to MU. He was instrumental in the hiring of Middleton, the first black faculty member in the law school.
If the proposal to rename GCB is approved by curators, it will not be the first time MU has honored Strickland for his contributions to academic study and diversity. His name already graces a meeting room in Memorial Union, and in 1994, Strickland received MU’s Byler Distinguished Professor Award, which recognizes outstanding abilities, performance and character.
“This is not just only about him being an African-American, this is about a man who has done a lot for the campus,” Ginter said. “We are not recognizing him because he gave a lot of money to the campus, we’re recognizing what he gave as a person through his cleverness, his intellect, his talent, his skill and his sweat and blood that he put into this campus.”