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Donated catalogues provide glimpse into DSU's early years

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Male students were organized into two Cadet Corps companies and required to spend two hours a week in military tactics and drills, according to the 1907 catalogue. The group pictured is from 1911. For the first time, the current generations of those studying the history of Delaware State University have the direct testimony of an early president, William C. Jason, concerning the successes and challenges that faced the then-State William C. Jason College for Colored Students (SCCS) in its first three decades. Until recently, words that came directly from Jason, the institution’s longest-serving president (1895-1923), had been largely lost in the annals of time. The only known evidence of his statements and thoughts were found in a few rare letters and legendary sentences passed down from unknown original sources. In December, William C. Jason III, the grandson of the former president, and his wife Carol presented a $10,000 endowment check to the William C. Jason Library on campus. During the presentation ceremony, Mrs. Jason produced a rare bound-book collection of catalogues and prospectuses of the SCCS covering the period of 1893 to 1918 that had been in the library of President Jason. In addition to containing a wealth of previously unknown information concerning the number and identities of students, faculty and Board of Trustees members, as well as costs, revenue sources and amounts, most of the catalogues from Jason’s tenure contain an annual President’s Report (20 out of 26 catalogues and prospectuses). The first two catalogues in the collection (1893 and 1894) were produced under the tenure of the first SCCS president, Wesley Webb. While providing the list of faculty and Board of Trustees members, and beginning in 1894 the list of courses offered, neither contained a President’s Report. The first President’s Report under the Jason era appears in the 1896-97 catalogue, giving more details as to the nature of life on the SCCS campus in those early years. In reporting on the total enrollment of 54 students during 1895-96, the challenges of college attendance become a bit clearer. Only 12 of those students attended the entire eight months of the school year, 18 attended between five and seven months, and 33 attended four months or less. In subsequent reports, he attributes the inconsistent attendance to deficiencies in the educational commitment of students as well as competing work opportunities and inadequate housing on campus. Jason’s first report also expressed his belief in co-education (men and women attending school together) — not a widespread belief in those days. He noted the enrollment of three full-time female students and two part-time women during the 1895-1896 school year. The vulnerability of the sparse campus building infrastructure is also revealed, as Jason shares in that first report that a “severe storm” in May 1896 wrecked the workshop and did damages to other buildings and crops; he estimated the damage from the storm was between $1,500 and $2,000. Because of the neglect of the state of Delaware in making provisions for education of African-Americans in the decades following the 1865 end of slavery, the SCCS found it necessary to establish a preparatory school in 1893 in addition to the College offerings. By the start of the Jason tenure, the College’s 17 students were outnumbered by the Preparatory School’s 35 students. “The College is embarrassed greatly by the fact that most of our pupils have had little previous training. A tendency to pursue studies for which the proper preparation has not been made is quite marked. This a difficulty from which there is no escape except through an improvement in the public schools. Special attention has been paid in the lower classes to laying good foundation,” he wrote. The uphill challenge of education for a largely uneducated black populace notwithstanding, Jason expressed optimism about the education possibilities offered by the SCCS: “No one has said in my hearing that Negroes cannot learn. That old idea is dying. But there is a widespread opinion that there are some things which it is better for him not to know. Many people interested in ‘Negro Education’ mean  by that term what has become popular under the name Industrial Education, and are bent on teaching the black man how to be a good workman above all things. I was very glad to discover that the gentlemen who comprise our Board are not narrow or one-sided, and that you have decreed that a boy or girl trained in our school shall be instructed in what is and has always been understood to be fundamental to an education for any man, and be also furnished with the special advantages of having a trade.”  Teachers To shoulder the teaching load, the SCCS began with three instructors in its early years and later grew as high as 11 in 1913. In those days, both Presidents Webb and Jason served as instructors, as the former taught agriculture and biology. Jason was relatively prolific as compared to his predecessor, as the catalogue noted between 1895 and 1918 that he taught Greek, Latin, mental and moral sciences, English, rhetoric, oratory psychology, civics and political economy. Government funding support The catalogues’ records of government appropriations reveal an inconsistent pattern of state funding support for the SCCS. After the initial 1891 outlay of $8,000 to purchase the property on which the SCCS was established and a workshop and president’s cottage was built, between 1892 and 1896 the state allocated only $1,000 during that entire five-year period. Another $4,000 in state funding was provided in 1897, but then the College did not receive another state allocation until 1901, when $6,000 was provided for the construction of Lore Hall as a female dormitory. Between 1902 and 1912, there were only two separate state allocations in 1907 and 1911 of $5,000 and $3,000, respectively. Beginning in 1913, the state began providing an annual allocation of $3,000; in 1917, that increased to $8,000. The SCCS also received federal funding ranging from $4,000 annually in the early 1890s to $10,000 a year by 1917. While it appeared to be much-needed funding to keep the institution afloat in its fledging years, the money could be used for only certain aspects of the school’s operations. The College’s revenue from tuition and fees ranged from just over $1,300 in the 1897-98 school year (the first year such revenue was documented) to as high as almost $8,200. Factored into those revenue figures was “credited labor,” which was the estimated value of the labor put in by students on campus. In addition to their classroom attendance, all students were required to roll up their sleeves and put in two hours of work daily in various areas of the campus such as the farm, building maintenance and cleaning, food service and other assigned tasks. Campus chapel President Jason, who was also a Methodist minister, also required students to attend 8 a.m. religious exercise daily during weekdays as well as a Sunday service. Those services were probably held in the Main College Building (which survives today as Loockerman Hall), until a chapel was built circa 1905. While previous DSU history has long claimed that Jason obtained more than $1,100 in pledges to support the chapel construction in the early 1900s, his President’s Report of 1903-1904 reveals that only $533 was actually received. He noted that funds had to be borrowed from the board to complete the chapel’s roofing and pay the lumber bill. That chapel would later become the campus library circa 1930. The building now survives as the Thomasson Building. Enrollment and infrastructure According to the catalogues, the SCCS enrollment exceeded 100 students for the first time in 1904-05, bringing increased pressure on the modest building infrastructure of the College. To meet those challenges, the SCCS used its meager resources and increased its physical plant from the original three buildings of its inaugural year to reflect a campus that possessed by 1906 a Main College Building, two dormitories for men and women, a chapel, the President’s Cottage, a workshop and a few farm structures. The most recent construction completions of that period (a men’s dormitory, an expansion of the Main College Building dining room and a 10,000-gallon water tower) were presumably made possible by Joshua Parker, a prominent African-American in Kent County who died in the spring of 1905 and willed his entire estate (valued between $6,000 to $8,000) to the SCCS, according to the President’s Report for that school year. By the time the College celebrated  its 20th year in 1911, its enrollment exceeded the enrollment of its Preparatory School by 79 to 50 students, respectively. By 1912-1913, the Preparatory School would be done away with. The education deficiencies in many students did not disappear, however, and SCCS was forced to re-establish it in 1916-1917 as a graded school from the 4th grade to the 8th grades. ‘Abundant reason for hope’ As the SCCS proceeded into its third decade of existence, the realities of being a school with a population of Delaware youths deficient in fundamental education, that received inconsistent state funding support and that possessed an inadequate physical plant to accommodate a proper college program began to clearly show the shortcomings of the institution. Jason’s report for the 1914-1915 school year notes the discouraging evaluation by the U.S. Commissioner of Education, who deemed the SCCS academic courses to be of high school grade. While other historical sources note that in 1916 Jason attempted to resign amid criticism over the lack of progress at the SCCS, there was no President’s Report for the 1915-1916 school year in that catalogue, perhaps as a result of that controversy. Jason would nevertheless remain as president for another seven years. His 1916-1917 report would be the last one of this catalogue collection (no report appeared in the 1918 catalogue). He noted in the report that in the 26 years since the establishment of the SCCS, 171 students completed their course of study, while 629 were also enrolled for varying amounts of time. He added that 60 percent of the SCCS graduates had become colored teachers in the state. Yet compared with the sum total of the other President’s Reports from that era, the 1916-1917 account from Jason reflects a bittersweet tone colored by the accumulated frustrations of his tenure while at the same time being still adamantly determined to maintain some semblance of optimism. The below excerpt from that report no doubt reflects Jason’s strength — the ability to hold his head up and work to sustain and move the institution forward in the face of the daunting difficulties and challenges imposed by the segregation era that was in reality separate and especially unequal. “There is nothing in this record of which to boast. Much more might have been done. On the other hand, we are not ashamed,” Jason said in his final report in the collection. “Considering the difficulties there is some occasion for a feeling of satisfaction, and even of pride. Certainly there is no room for discouragement, but abundant reason for hope.” -- Story by Carlos Holmes   CATALOGUE TIDBITS TUITION The cost to attend the State College for Colored Students remained unchanged from 1893 to 1918. During 1911-1912, the school year changed from three terms to two semesters. -- Delaware students: Free  |  Out-of-state students: $20 a year -- $2 matriculation fee  |  $2 per week for room and board TELEPHONE CONNECTION In suggesting certain improvements to be considered by the Board of Trustees in his President’s Report for the year ending 1901, President William C. Jason notes, “Another improvement which would be an economy rather than an expense is suggested by the frequent need of a telephonic connection between the school and Dover.” The installation of service was complete by 1904. MASONRY AND COOKING In his report for the year ending 1903, President Jason notes the addition of masonry as a new area of the industrial work due to the arrival of Nathan Green on the faculty. He also reported a cooking class had been added, as instructor Helen W. Anderson was furnished to the College by the ladies of the Century Club in Dover. GOVERNOR AT COMMENCEMENT The 1911 Commencement marked the first time the chief executive of the state was in attendance, as Gov. Simeon Pennewill gave an address during the ceremony. SCHOOL NEWSPAPER In his report for the year ending 1912, the president announced the establishment of the school newspaper The Echo, which published its first edition Nov. 24, 1909. TOP ACHIEVEMENTS The State College for Colored Students’ top two achievements reflected in the 1893-1918 catalogues are arguably the establishment of teachers’ education at the College and the development of the farm operations on campus. TEACHERS’ EDUCATION Teachers’ education began in the 1897-1898 school year with the establishment of a Normal School on campus. Lydia Laws, the namesake of a current DSU women’s residential hall, was the initial instructor in teacher education and served in that capacity until 1912. Beginning in 1908, the College also became a focal point for established colored teachers in the state, as many began attending an annual Summer School of Methods, which provided workshops on different teaching topics. FARM OPERATIONS The SCCS’ success in converting the inherited inactive fields into a productive farm operation was instrumental in sustaining the College. Much of the foodstuff consumed by the College community came from the diverse crops of wheat, corn, tomatoes, bean varieties, potatoes and fruits. The SCCS farm operation also raised chickens and pigs to add meat to the food diets. In addition to feeding the SCCS population, surplus crops were also sold on the local Kent County market, becoming an additional source of revenue for the College. The crop yield cited in the President’s Report for the year ending 1901: • 564 bushels of wheat • 694 bushels of corn • 175 bushels of white potatoes • 40 bushels of sweet potatoes • 202 bushels of apples • 5 bushels of white beans • 20½  tons of tomatoes • 4,872 quarts of strawberries • 4,454 quarts of plums • The report also noted 1,591 pounds  of pork was used by the school.

Isaiah Nathaniel '04 honors a hoops legacy through documentary

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Class of 2004 alumnus Isaiah Nathaniel, who showed his new documentary 16th and Philly at DSU in February, stands on the court at 16th Street in Philadelphia. Alumnus Isaiah Nathaniel has combined his love for basketball and his diverse vocations in information technology, photography and videography to produce a documentary on a legendary Philadelphia-area pickup basketball league. A class of 2004 graduate, Nathaniel made his alma mater a part of the premiere tour of his new documentary 16th and Philly on Feb. 11 at an almost capacity-filled Longwood Auditorium in the Bank of America Building on campus. Nathaniel, who also played basketball for Delaware State University from 2000-2004, has done a documentary on the famed North Central Philadelphia Basketball League — known commonly in Philly as the 16th Street League, because its outdoor courts are located on the corner of 16th Street and West Susquehanna Avenue in North Philadelphia. During its prominent years of the early 1980s to the early 2000s, it was considered one of the top pickup leagues on the East Coast. The league produced a number of players who went on to compete in college, overseas, in professional leagues and in the NBA such as Hank Gathers, Bo Kimball, Doug Overton, Lionel Simmons, Ronald “Flip” Murray, Cuttino Mobley, Aaron “AO” Owens, Rodney “Hot Rod” Odrick and many others. Nathaniel said the documentary was made to honor the memory and legacy of the 16th Street League and preserve some of the stories. “Anytime people talk about basketball in Philly, there’s always some who remember and talk about the 16th Street League,” Nathaniel said. “Whether you witnessed it as a player or a spectator, it never leaves you.” In addition to DSU, the film has also premiered in Philadelphia. The filmmaker is also working toward a New York City screening sometime in the spring and is exploring distribution options. Nathaniel is the CEO of his own information technology consulting business in Philadelphia — Calcom Technologies — which among himself and the seven technicians he employs does full-service IT support work in the tri-state Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware region, including web and graphic designs, branding, marketing and disaster recovery. He is also a co-partner in Diamond Eye Sports, a sports media firm that includes photography and videography services. It is the latter business through which Nathaniel made the film. With two businesses to tend to, as well the production and promotion of his film, Nathaniel said his years as a DSU student-athlete majoring in information systems served him well. “Having to juggle sports and academics at DSU prepared me for the juggling I have to do now in different pursuits,” Nathaniel said. “I have a great respect for what DSU did for me.” -- Story by Carlos Holmes 

Meeshach Stennett '98 connects younger alumni with each other, their alma mater

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When Meeshach Stennett was soon approaching the day he would receive his Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting, all he wanted to do was get his diploma, get off the DSU campus and begin the next chapter of his life. Meeshach Stennett '98 reunites young alumni through The DSU Circle. He said it wasn’t that his experience on campus was negative; he was just anxious to get his accounting career started. But it wasn’t long after his 1998 graduation that he began thinking about the DSU family that had been part of his undergraduate years. Once he was separated from them, he found that he missed his Hornet friends and wanted to see them again. He returned to campus during the subsequent Homecoming to be reunited with his DSU contemporaries, only to find out that many of the younger generation alumni didn’t come back for that weekend. “I would ask some of my DSU friends, ‘Are you going to Homecoming?,’ and many of them weren’t,” said Stennett, 39. “Where Homecoming was concerned, one option was to go to the student party, which was too young a crowd; or the other option was the DSU Alumni Association (DSUAA) event, which was a much older crowd.” That void of Homecoming activities for the younger alumni generations is what gave birth eventually to The DSU Circle. In the summer of 2004, Stennett organized a cookout at Lums Pond for the younger alumni. The success of that led to annual summertime cookouts being held. Jamal “Swat” Perkins, Class of 1998, affirms that Stennett was the one who started reuniting the younger alums. He began assisting Stennett during those early years; Perkins notes that the “Circle” name came from the place outside of Evers, Jenkins and Conwell halls where a lot of students would hang out. “We coined it The DSU Circle because that is what everyone knew.” In 2006, Stennett and his Circle “co-founder” Perkins began establishing Homecoming events geared toward the classes of DSU graduates from the 1990s and 2000s and has kept them coming back ever since. They started a Thursday happy hour event in Wilmington, Del., where there is strong contingent of DSU alumni. They followed that by establishing what has become an annual Friday night Party Forever Young event held at the Duncan Center in Dover. They began to hold a tailgate State Day Party on the grassy area next to DSU’s main gate during the Homecoming Game. For the first few years of their event planning, they held a Saturday night event at the then-Loockerman Exchange in downtown Dover. “The difference in DSU’s Homecoming is now 180 degrees different,” Stennett said. “Now all my people are down here for Homecoming.” In 2011-2012, Stennett served as the vice president of the DSUAA. That led to programming a Saturday night Homecoming weekend event in conjunction with the Alumni Association. The DSU Circle’s success in bringing the younger alumni together has been textbook networking. “You can’t pull something like this off by yourself,” Stennett said. “There are influential alumni in their own right from New York to D.C. and we incorporate them. All the tickets move through them.” DSU years and career Event planning, however, was not Stennett’s aspiration when he left Bronx, N.Y., to attend then-Delaware State College. To understand his background, one must know that he is a product of a determined mother of Jamaican heritage — Beverley Dyce.  “My mother had plans for me, and that was education,” he said. “When I was growing up, that was the crack era in New York City, and my mother wasn’t going to let me be a part of that cycle.” Stennett noted that his formative teen years were also the years of the television show A Different World  and the Spike Lee movie School Daze, both of which were based on life at a historically black college. Between what he had learned from that aspect of pop culture and what he and a friend saw when they visited DSC, Stennett knew Del State was the place for him. In attending DSU in the mid-1990s, he sees the institution’s change in higher education status as a metaphor for his own corresponding transformation. “I came to Delaware State College in 1992, and when I left it was Delaware State University,” Stennett said. “It also signified my transition from adolescence to adulthood.” Following his graduation, he returned to the Bronx for a season and worked as a temp accountant for a firm in “The Big Apple.” Sometime during that next school year, he came back to DSU to celebrate the birthday of his former roommate Milton Garrick, who was graduating that year. “That is when I met my wife Illyana (then) Green in the parking lot of Tubman Hall,” Stennett said. Meeting his wife gave him all the motivation he needed to come back to Delaware, where he obtained a position with Pioneer Chemical Co. and later with Scientific Games. He and Illyana were married in 2000; 14 years later, their union has produced three children — Izzy, 14; Maaliyan, 10; and Marlee, 5. In 2003, Stennett started to work for his current employer, DuPont, where he began as a fixed assets coordinator and would progress upward to his current post as a senior plant accountant at one of DuPont’s largest manufacturing sites. Passion for The DSU Circle Meanwhile, The DSU Circle has been a primary life passion for him. His success in bringing the younger alums together is all the more remarkable in that, during the first few years, he did it without the use of social media. Today, however, The DSU Circle is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and also has a website life of its own — www.DSUcircle.com. “It started off as a way of just trying to keep us together,” Stennett said. Leland Nelson, Class of 1996 member and the owner of Dirty Dog Hauling (a professional residential and commercial junk hauling firm that he calls a modern day “Sanford & Son”), is one of the “influential alumni” who has helped to keep alumni in the Harrisburg, Pa., area in the loop about The DSU Circle events. “We have had some very good cookouts where we have been able to enjoy good fellowship with each other and our families,” said Nelson, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. “(Stennett) is big on alumni engagement. If he sees anything positive about alums in the news, he will get that information out there through The DSU Circle.” Garrick, Stennett’s former roommate, said that Homecoming parties of The DSU Circle have been “mesmerizing,” as well as “good clean fun.” He notes the benefits of bringing the younger alums together goes beyond partying. “It is important to understand that Stennett has created a family outside of our immediate families,” said Garrick, who earned a 1998 Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and currently teaches mathematics at Postles Community College Borough of Manhattan (N.Y.). “Life can be stressful, but when we get together, we are able to release some of that stress with good people and good energy, all of which is medicinal.” In addition, Perkins notes that a lot of alums have their own businesses and companies, “and the networking allows us to connect and collaborate.” Stennett said he wouldn’t exert so much energy into The DSU Circle if he wasn’t seeing the positive result of the efforts. “When I get alums to come back and say that it was the best Homecoming they have ever been to, and that they can’t wait to come back next year, then it is worth it,” Stennett said. -- Story by Carlos Holmes

Alumni Ambassadors Outreach Day

Alumni Ambassadors Outreach Day and Spring Open House
 

DSU will launch the first-ever Alumni Ambassadors Outreach Day that will be held in conjunction with its Spring Open House from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 12, 2014.

Alumni are encouraged to reach out to middle and high school students and bring them to the DSU campus for the event. The prospective students will attend an academic fair in the Memorial Hall Gymnasium, tour the campus and have an opportunity to visit individual academic colleges to meet with faculty and administrators.

Dr. Maurice Thomasson carried on work during trying times, declined permanent president post

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While Dr. Jerome H. Holland is widely known for being one of the most important presidents in the history of Delaware State University, his status was assured by a decision made by Dr. Maurice E. Thomasson, a sociology professor at the time. When the Delaware State College Board of Trustees offered the president’s job to Thomasson in 1952, he declined the post. His decision left the door open for the College to hire Holland as president the following year. Dr. Maurice E. Thomasson Acting President: 1949-1950, 1951-1953 Nevertheless, Thomasson is credited with filling the leadership void and keeping the College going two different times as acting president during the dark years of its history. Born in 1892 in Drew, Ark., Thomasson’s academic journey included earning a bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University, a master’s degree in Sociology from the University of Minnesota and a doctoral degree from Columbia University in New York City. His doctoral dissertation was titled A Study of Special Kinds of Education for Rural Negroes, which the NAACP magazine The Crisis included in its list of Negro authors in 1837, noting it to be “an accurate and significant contribution to the problem of rural life and education.” Thomasson went on to be a faculty member at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C., prior to his arrival to the then-State College for Colored Students in Dover circa 1941. La Verne Thomasson, his wife, was twice a graduate of Boston University in her native city. Her maiden name and her graduation year are unknown and it is not clear when exactly they first met or what year they married. What is known is that she and her husband would teach sociology as the sole faculty members in that academic discipline at Delaware State College from the 1940s to the 1960s. Thomasson witnessed the ups and downs of Delaware’s only black college in the 1940s, which saw the College obtain its first provisional accreditation in 1944, only to have it revoked in 1949. The College’s enrollment of 132 students in 1942 tripled by 1948 due largely to the influx of black World War II veterans who possessed the GI Bill provision that paid for their education. While the enrollment increased, the institution — renamed Delaware State College in 1947 — was not able to expand its campus infrastructure to accommodate the student population growth. This contributed greatly to significant student dissatisfaction, leading to a 1949 student strike and a subsequent state hearing to investigate the management of the College by the administration of  President Howard Gregg. The hearings ultimately led to Gregg’s dismissal, and Thomasson was tapped in September 1949 to serve as acting president of the College — two months before a visit by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. In the wake of that visit, the accrediting body issued a scathing report on DSC and revoked the College’s accreditation. With the hiring of Dr. Oscar Chapman as president in April 1950, Thomasson returned to his role as the faculty head of DSC’s sociology studies. However, upon the controversial dismissal of Chapman in mid-1951, Thomasson was once again called upon to serve as acting president. It was during that second acting president period that Thomasson was called to testify in the consolidated Delaware integration court cases Gebhart v. Belton and Bulah v. Gebhart, which challenged and ultimately overturned the state’s segregation laws in public school systems. In an excerpt of his testimony in the 1952 state case in the Court of Chancery, Thomasson gave his sociological perspective on segregation and how its hinders black youths from becoming “a good person.”: Thomasson …I don’t think that in a segregated situation it is possible to produce a person who is fully normal, completely satisfactory. There are some conditions inherent in the segregated situation that just simply warp a person’s personality. Now, for one thing a person who goes to school in a segregated school goes to that school by virtue of the fact that the State of which he is a part has said he is inferior. That is, the State has embodied that in the law, and the law has been sustained by the courts. He is told as he goes there in the school segregated by law that he is inferior. Question Doctor, do you mean to say that the law expressly states that a school system set apart for the compulsory attendance of persons of a certain color is inferior, or do you mean that that is the implication of such a law? Thomasson It is the implication. I can see no reason for setting up a separate system of schools unless the persons who set the schools up think that for some reason or other the persons designated for that school are not quite fit to go to the regular schools. Those cases were ultimately appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and consolidated among the other cases that were heard in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case. Thomasson’s testimony was submitted as evidence to the country’s high court in those deliberations. Following DSC’s accreditation loss, there were increasing calls from state officials for the College to be closed down. Others were calling for the institution to be reduced to a junior college. Amid its difficulties — which included a dramatic drop in enrollment — the DSC Board of Trustees looked toward Thomasson as a possible leadership solution in 1952. Not only did Thomasson turn down the permanent president post, he also wanted to step down as acting president and return to teaching. The board granted his request on Jan. 15, 1953, and for the rest of his academic career he would teach sociology along with his wife at DSC. Thomasson retired from teaching  in 1967. Memories of the Thomassons Donald Evans ’59 actually began his DSC studies in 1952 only to be interrupted by a few years of Army service. But during that initial freshman year, Evans was in Thomasson’s class. “He was very soft-spoken man. He taught in a voice that was almost a whisper,” Evans said. “He was a very nice man, but I don’t think he had the personality to be a (permanent) president of a University.” Following his retirement from teaching, his wife La Verne would continue as a sociology professor — including being named head of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology in 1968 — and teach until her retirement in 1974, one year after her husband’s death. She would be named professor emeritus in 1975.  “La Verne Thomasson was a dedicated sociologist and I thought she was a really good teacher,” said Dr. Donald A. Blakey ’58. “She was definitely interested in the expansion of education for blacks in Delaware; a lot of the sociology we studied was about the Negro.” Blakey also recalled that she was very dedicated to her husband. “She spoke well of him and referenced him frequently in class,” he said. Shortly after her retirement, La Verne Thomasson moved back to her native state of Massachusetts and lived in Hyannis, Mass., until her death in 2003. -- Story by Carlos Holmes

The Smiths: Among the 'Coolest' of families, especially on a Greek level

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Delaware State College apparently gave Rosa F. Smith, Class of 1976, a good eye for a business opportunity. In 1983 she discovered the market viability of selling Greek-related items to sororities, fraternities and social organizations, and started her own business that focused on those product lines. Chauntel Smith ’02 and ’05, left, and Rosa Smith ’76 Her passion for the business became a part of her husband Cary and her daughter Chauntel —herself twice a DSU graduate — leading them not only to business success, but also to be recognized by Ebony magazine in its October 2013 online edition as “The Coolest Black Family in America, No. 28: The Smiths.” One could say that two critical parts of the path to being the “Coolest” began in 1973 with Rosa’s marriage to Cary, as well as the fact that she was majoring in Business Education at DSC. Following her graduation, she followed her Air Force-enlisted husband to Okinawa, Japan, where she taught for three years as a Department of Defense teacher before she returned to Dover to live, teach and serve as an administrator in several school districts. After a 30-plus-year education career, she retired in 2008. But by that time, the Smiths were well on their way to being the “Coolest.” The third critical part of the family, daughter Chauntel, was born in 1980. Shortly after Rosa pledged with Alpha Kappa Alpha, she attended a sorority conference in Hershey, Pa., and she was astonished to see the success a vendor of Greek products was having in making sales. “I saw people standing in line, paying money for an AKA umbrella that the vendor had run out of,” Rosa recalled. “He was going to have to ship them the umbrella.” She went home and told her husband that she wanted to use their tax refund to start a Greek products business. “He told me if I lost the money, I would have to put it back in the bank,” Rosa said. She started the business in 1984; in July of that first year she made a believer out of her husband when she set up a vendor table at a Greek picnic. “Out of an investment of $1,000 I made between $4,000-$5,000,” she said. Role expansion As she was building up her business and selling her products at Greek events, her daughter was with her. “When she was 4, she slept under the table, and then when she got a little older I showed her how to bag the products and how to restock the table,” Rosa said. “She did everything that a little kid could do; and as she got older, she did more.” Meanwhile Cary retired as a senior master sergeant in 1991 and became fully involved with the business. “He took it to a whole different level,” Rosa said. “He did more networking and found more job venues for us.” After graduating from Dover High School in 1998, Chauntel followed her mother’s footsteps and enrolled at DSU. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education in 2002 and a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction in 2005. She also taught for seven years in the Smyrna and the Lake Forest school districts in Delaware. Meanwhile, the family established another business — Transportation Unlimited, which provides transportation for homeless and displaced children to school — in 2006. In 2009, Chauntel left the teaching profession to focus full-time on the family business. By 2012, the family elevated Chauntel as the president/CEO of both businesses. “We work for her now,” Rosa said. While it was a family decision, it was not an easy transition. “It was a struggle for Rosa to relinquish control,” Chauntel said as she looked straight at her mother, who affirmed that statement by nodding. The struggles notwithstanding, like her father before her, Chauntel has taken the business to a new level. She introduced new software to sharpen the accounting practices and used social media to assist in the marketing of their products. The youngest in the family businesses also convinced her parents of the benefit of separately incorporating each business. Today, Rosa’s Greek Boutique boasts of serving more than 20,000. The family notes that since Chauntel took over the leadership of the business, sales have increased by 40 percent. Whereas at one time the family had a physical store in downtown Dover, all sales are now done solely online or by selling the products at Greek events or other venues. Sometimes the family is split up between several simultaneous events in different states. While working together as a family can give rise to some challenging dynamics, the Smiths make it work. “We have always had a strong family,” Chauntel said. Rosa’s Greek Boutique website can be found at www.rosasgreekboutique.com. -- Story by Carlos Holmes

For alumnus Adisa Bakari '95, a career touchdown

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Never mind that DSU did not yet have a sport management academic program when Adisa Bakari was a Del State student in the 1990s. Once Bakari decided he would earn a law degree and then go on to represent professional athletes as a sports agent, he would have it no other way. Adisa Bakari '95 chairs the newly formed Sport Entertainment Group (SEG) of the law firm of Kelley Drye & Warren in Washington, D.C. The 1995 Delaware State University graduate has made his aspirations a reality as a veteran sports  and entertainment attorney who recently joined the law firm of Kelley Drye & Warren in Washington, D.C. The firm acquired Bakari to become the chair of its newly formed Sport Entertainment Group (SEG). The SEG represents 34 NFL players — including Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Antoine Bethea of the Indianapolis Colts, Matt Forté of the Chicago Bears and Le’Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers — as well as six professional boxers and one NBA player. Most of the players were represented by Bakari when he was with Dow Lohnes, another Washington law firm where he began his legal career 15 years ago. A merger between Dow Lohnes and another firm prompted Bakari to start a new chapter elsewhere, and when that ended up being at Kelley Drye & Warren, his sports clients followed him there. Bakari has established a reputation as a sports agent who is not only there to represent his clients in salary negotiations and product endorsements, but also in getting his athletes to take a long term view of their futures. “Many NFL players’ careers do not extend beyond that first three-year contract,” Bakari said. “Eighty percent of NFL players end up broke or in financial disarray after their football career is over.” Bakari said he works to drive home the point with his athletes that they are more than just entertainers. “I tell them that being an athlete is their job, but it is not who they are,” he said. “It is important that they understand the athletic business of which they are part.” To put his sports clients in a position to provide for their family in their post-professional sport years, Bakari annually holds a three-day “Life Retreat” that focuses on how they can succeed as athletes and businessmen. Bakari has made his mark in Washington, where he was born as Clinton Tucker and raised, and with the exception of his academic years at DSU, has lived and established his career. Later on during his DSU years, he would permanently change his name to Adisa Bakari as a way of commemorating his ancestry and heritage. “Bakari is Swahili and means the promise of nobility,” he said. Raised in Northwest Washington by his grandmother Evelyn Pitts, Bakari said she was adamant in her belief that he would go to college and become an attorney. “She is a remarkable woman who raised her children and her children’s children,” Bakari said. “She didn’t have a degree or a lot of money, but we always knew that we were going college.” Time at DSU It was playing football for Calvin Coolidge High School that led him to DSU. “Some of my coaches, most notably Robert Sanders, were graduates of DSU,” Bakari said. “Coach Sanders drove me to DSU and introduced me to (Hornet football coach) Bill Collick.” While he performed well as a defensive back in high school, once he arrived at DSU and began competing at the next level, it became crystal clear to him that an NFL playing career would not be in the cards. Nevertheless, Bakari played on the Hornet football team during his first three years at DSU. Soon after he arrived on campus his freshman year, another momentous event took place — he began dating Josephine Carter, who would be his future wife. “I wasn’t doing a lot of dating at the time,” said Josephine, who graduated in 1995 from DSU with Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. “I knew he had my attention, and because of that, I knew he had something.” Bakari, who majored in political science at DSU, believes he made the most of his experience and he reserves his highest praise for a group of professors — Dr Baruti Kapano, Dr. Akwesi Osei, Dr. Demas Kenjyatta and Joyce Breasure — who all impacted him deeply. “It was my experiences with these professors that make me talk reverently about DSU,” Bakari said. “DSU literally saved my life.” Bakari credited Dr. Kenjyatta with challenging him intellectually and showing him the flaws in his arguments without being condescending. He notes that his legal writing skills are what they are due to the tutoring of Dr. Kapano. He points to Dr. Osei as a mentor and considers him a good friend to this day. And in an Art of Argument class, Ms. Breasure helped him to think analytically about his arguments. With warm fondness he recalls being the only student from a Historically Black College or University in 1994 to serve as a summer intern at the United Nations, and also competing in the Harvard University Debates, where he was honored with the “Best Delegate Award.” Upon receiving the honor at the podium, he said in loud and deep voice “D-S-U!!!” “Everything I have been able to do can be traced back to my years at DSU,” Bakari said. “My analytical ability, my view on life is all attributable to DSU.” He stepped away from Hornet football after his junior year to concentrate on preparing himself for law school. Following his cum laude graduation, Bakari went on to earn a law degree at the University of Wisconsin in 1998. Career start and family Before he finished studying law, he was already thinking about becoming a sports agent and broached such possibilities with Len Baxt, chairman of the Washington-based law firm Dow Lohnes, who responded by telling Bakari to get a job with the law firm and maybe such a venture would be possible later. That is exactly what he did. Bakari began at Dow Lohnes as an executive compensation lawyer. After he proved himself with the firm, in his third year he brought up the sports representation idea with his bosses. He was allowed to use one-fifth of his required billable hours toward developing the sport agency pursuit. Zamir Cobb, a former wide receiver and most valuable player awardee with Temple University, became his first client. “He had grown up two blocks from me in Washington, and used to come to Dover to see me play at DSU,” Bakari said. With Bakari representing him, Cobb went on to be a NFL player for two years for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals. Cobb is now a manager with the NFL Players Association and remains a client of Bakari. From that point on, Bakari has accomplished exactly what he set out to do. That bodes well for his clients, as it has become his passion to help the athletes he represents to transcend their sport personas and secure long-term inter-generational wealth. As his wife and the mother of their four children, Josephine said she is not surprised by his success, nor by their success as a family. “(At DSU) we knew we were going to be together and because of that, we knew we had to make each other better people,” said Josephine, who originally came to DSU on a track scholarship  but who actually excelled even more on the Lady Hornets volleyball team. Right after their DSU graduation, Adisa and Josephine were married. She would go on to teach biology in a junior high school in Washington for a couple of years. But then, while her husband continued to build up his sport representation work, she became a stay-at-home mom to tend to her growing family. Bakari said Josephine is the anchor of their family. “She maintains the order and stability of our family,” he said. “I would not have been able to build this practice but for her.” -- Story and photo by Carlos Holmes

From the Drew family, a long line of DSU graduates

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Dr. Martin A. Drew, Class of 1965, is truly challenged as he tries to recall all the members of his family who have graduated from or are attending Delaware State University. Just when he thinks he has covered everyone, another one comes to mind. “There are a number of us who have been at Del State,” said Drew. The family of Dr. Martin A. Drew ’65, professor of English at DSU, has an extensive legacy. Among the graduates or current students are, seated from left, Dr.  Drew, Loretta Drew Chowdhury ’54 and Theresa Johnson ’02. In the back, from left, are sophomore Brittany Currie, Lisha W. Gist ’89, Robert Johnson ’03, Tywanna Currie ’88, Nika Drew Reid ’94, Chiara Fox ’05 and freshman Tashana Sprattling. The Drew family legacy at DSU began with Loretta Drew Chowdhury, who graduated with a degree in Home Economics from then-Delaware State College in 1954. Martin said that his father Orlando, who was born in 1915, outlived most of his 17 siblings. As such, he became the patriarch of the family and sent his younger sister — Loretta — to DSC. She would be the first of 14 Drew family descendants who would earn degrees at Del State. Loretta would work as a dietician at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan,N.Y., and then she served as a teacher in New York City for 35 years. As the second in the family to earn a degree, Martin also took his DSC diploma in Elementary English to New York City, where he would teach junior high and high school, as well as serve as an assistant principal and principal. Along the way, he would earn two master’s degrees (Education Administration and Philosophy) and a doctorate in Education (Curriculum and Instruction). Martin is also the author of three books: The Chronology of African-American Families of Southeastern Sussex County, Del.; The History of the Blackwater Colored School in Clarksville, Del.; and The History of the Drew Family — A Family Reunion. Currently, Martin is a professor of English at his DSU alma mater. His oldest daughter, Monique Drew Woodley, graduated from DSC with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education in 1990. She is currently a teacher in Dallas, Texas. Anthony Mosley Jr., Monique’s son and Martin’s grandson, graduated from DSU in December 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications. Loretta and Martin also have a litany of nieces and nephews who have graduated from Del State: • Darryl Drew, who earned a 1990 Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. He later completed studies at the University of California Law School in Sacramento, Calif., and currently is a lawyer in Oakland, Calif. • Gregory Drew, who earned a 1994 Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. He is currently in graduate school at Wilmington University. • Patrick Drew, who earned a 2011 Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. He works at Delaware Legislative Hall in Dover. • Natasha Pratt Sprattling, who earned a 1988 Bachelor of Science in Business. Her daughter Tashana is currently a DSU freshman majoring in business marketing. • Lisha Walters Gist, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Computer Science in 1989. She now works as a financial professional. • Nika Drew Reid, who earned a 1994 Bachelor of Science in Psychology (and later a master’s degree in Education from Wilmington University). She is a teacher in the Indian River School District. • Tywanna Currie, who earned a 1988 Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. She works for SCI Services at Delaware Express. Her daughter Brittany Currie is a DSU sophomore majoring in biology and pre-health. • Chiara Fox, who earned a 2005 Bachelor of Science in Psychology. She works in the Delaware Children’s Department (of the state of Delaware) and as an instructor at Delaware Technical & Community College. • Robert Johnson, who earned a 2003  Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications. He is a test proctor and education laboratory specialist at Delaware Technical & Community College. • Theresa Johnson, who earned a 2002 Bachelor of Science in Accounting. She currently works in the Finance Department at the Delaware Department of Transportation. Loretta said when she first started her college studies, she didn’t realize that she would be the first in a long line of college graduates in the family. “It is absolutely beautiful,” Loretta said. “I didn’t really realize it until today when some of us came together for this picture.” -- Story and photo by Carlos Holmes

Class of 1974 40th Anniversary Reunion...and Beyond!

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Dover, DE  19901
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KaLonna Maull

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KaLonna D. Maull  Supervisor, Perdue Farms Inc.'s Further Processing Department BS in Food and Nutritional Sciences, 2010 MS in Food Science, 2012   DSU: What made you decide to major in Food and Nutritional Sciences? KALONNA: I was interested in that major because (a younger family member) was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. My whole family’s focus was on that. At that time, diabetes wasn’t discussed as much, and we as a family had to learn about it. My mom was kind of devastated and I wanted to help her learn how a child with diabetes should deal with it. The biggest challenge is the monitoring of your diet, and that is a lot for a little kid.   DSU: What was your experience like once you started in the College of Agriculture and Related Sciences? KALONNA: I had a great experience as an undergraduate. I was senior class president, and I wanted to work hard to help our students be involved. … Because we were at the back of the campus, and because some of our students commuted, sometimes we weren’t always as well-connected with what was going on with the rest of the campus. So I tried to make sure other students knew about things going on outside of the college. I had a great time in my college and my department.  One of my main goals was to give us more exposure. Many people on campus didn’t know we had a nutrition program in the college. DSU: What other activities were you involved in outside of your college? KALONNA: In addition to being senior class president, I was – and still am – a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. I was also a member of the Alpha Pi Honor Society, Food and Nutrition Club (FAN Club), DSU Chapter of the NAACP, as well as Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS). DSU: How would you describe your overall experience at DSU? KALONNA: Overall, it has not only given me two academic degrees, but also a degree in perseverance. It prepared me for life. As a result of my experience at DSU, I make sure I have all my things in line, especially concerning money. I learned the importance of saving documentation, which some students had a problem with. DSU has prepared me for the real world. It was also interesting to be a part of the then-new master’s degree program in Food Science. We were the first graduating class to do our research on campus (we previously did research at a USDA facility in Pennsylvania).  

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