Family affairs, NCCU shares
Published: Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 09:03
Thinking of the "roaring 20s" conjures mental images of jazz legends like Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong.
As the good times came to an end and the Great Depression loomed just around the corner, at the North Carolina College for Negroes, a family tradition was being born.
The Williams' clan boasts eleven NCCU alumni including aunts, cousins, and great-aunts.
The first of the clan was Beulah "Gigi" Luvenia Kearney-Williams who arrived in 1928.
She established a family tradition that continues to this day.
Kearney-Williams, now 99, is one of N. C. Central University's oldest living alumni. She graduated 75 years ago with a degree in accounting.
Tuition, room and board then cost $300.
Born in 1910, Kearney-Williams grew up in the rural town of Franklinton, N.C. where she spent most of her childhood helping her father in the field with sharecropping. Her mother was the cook for white plantation owners.
Although Kearney-Williams' parents did not have an education, they had dreams for their children to attend college and receive a higher education.
At the age of 18, Kearney-Williams arrived at North Carolina College for Negroes in Durham where she and her father were greeted by founder and president James E. Shepard.
Kearney-Williams said she could remember Shepard's approach as "kind and heart-warming."
"He was a nice looking man," said Kearney-Williams. "He was a good man in many ways to me, the students and his faculty."
Once Kearney-Williams told Shepard of her family's financial situation, Shepard was able to provide her with jobs on campus to pay for her tuition, room and board.
Some of those jobs consisted of washing dishes in the dining hall, ironing, cleaning residence halls and cleaning and catering for the Shepard home.
Next in line to attend NCCU was her daughter Kaye Rogers.
Kaye Rogers, Kearney-Williams' youngest daughter was one of the first African American students to integrate Durham High School, now known as Durham School of the Arts.
She came to NCCU to earn her master's degree in education because it was convenient after her pregnancy and after her marriage. Rogers is a graduate of the 1975 class.
"My mother influenced my decision to come to NCCU," said Kaye Rogers.
"The small campus, the small town atmosphere and the professors here are truly concerned with giving the students the best education," she said.
"My graduate school experience was wonderful, the professor were inspiring and motivating to me, and I really enjoyed my experience there." said Kaye Rogers.
Although she praises NCCU on some subjects, she raises a few
concerns about the campus today.
Rogers said that she believes the administration should focus more on students and less on "politics."
" They must be reminded that they have jobs here because of these students," said Kaye Rogers.
"We need to focus on graduating more graduates from HBCUs. A lot of the time students get frustrated with all the extra things from the administration and they end up leaving."
Today Gigi's granddaughter, Jean Rogers, is a graduate student at NCCU working on her master's degree in speech pathology who transferred here after a year at Howard University.
"When I arrived at Howard University, I was very unhappy," said Rogers. "The people weren't that friendly. I decided to leave and come NCCU."
"Coming to NCCU meant a lot to me," she said.
"When I transferred here my grandmother was so happy with my choice. I had to leave to get an appreciation for it."
"My grandmother was smart and very good in math," said Jean Rogers.
"She spent a lot of time helping her father read documents and helped him with math so he wouldn't get cheated by the white landowners," she said.
Another family member, Jean Rogers' cousin, Amura Cameron, also joined the family tradition and graduated in 2007 with a B.A. She is currently working on her master's degree in psychology and will graduate this year.
"For me NCCU, has been a stepping stone and has branched together new friendships, cultural and social experiences that I would not have received anywhere else," said Cameron.
"There's security in feeling like it is home because it is a familiar place."