Remembering the March on Washington

Today Webster University joins the entire nation and the world as we remember the March on Washington that took place 50 years ago today. It was one of the largest political rallies ever held in Washington D.C. Thousands of people united in a call for civil and economic rights for African Americans.

As often with history, wisdom comes with reflection. We now know that the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I Have a Dream speech and subsequent events were much more than speeches and rallies. These events marked a pivotal time in history as it began to open minds and hearts to a new vision of reality, an inclusive reality in which all people of all races could begin to see the future of acceptance and success.

That heart-wrenching vision inspires us today and is truly representative of Webster's core values of diversity as we embrace inclusiveness in all of its wonderful color of race, sex, age, sexual orientation, abilities or socioeconomic background.

Thanks to our founders, the Sisters of Loretto, who blazed the bold path of providing higher education to women in 1915 (virtually unheard of at that time), Webster has embraced diversity since its inception. Indeed, our first African American student graduated from Webster College in 1950.  

The bravery of our founders continued as we became more inclusive and co-educational in 1962 and lay (no longer solely affiliated with the Catholic Church) in 1967. Beginning in 1991, we began to receive recognition from Diversity Magazine for our outstanding track record in educating diverse graduate students. We are proud to be recognized as:

  • First among traditional non-profit universities in Total Minority and African American master's degrees, all disciplines combined.
  • Twelfth in Hispanic master's degrees, all disciplines combined.

Starting in 2005, we partnered with the St. Louis Business Journal as the major sponsor for Diverse Business Leaders, an annual event in which we celebrate diverse leaders in the St. Louis region. We are pleased to report that so far, we have recognized 215 diverse business leaders, including several from our own Webster University community. On Sept. 13, Provost Julian Schuster and Interim Associate Vice President and Director of Online Programs Thao Dang Williams will be recognized for their contributions to our region.

And of monumental importance to students, faculty and staff and community, we recently named our University's first Associate Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and Senior Director for Community Engagement. Nicole Roach assumes the inaugural position on Sept. 30.

As we write this message, the Webster University story is ringing across Africa as we become one of the first U.S. universities to offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in  Sub-Saharan Africa. Ghana's Ministry of Education has accredited Webster University's long-awaited new campus in Accra, Ghana, following a rigorous review. The University is now in the process of securing approval for the Ghana location from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

In addition, in the coming weeks, more good news will be coming regarding Webster University's commitment to diversity in higher education.

As we look to the future, we look forward to continuing to advance Dr. King's vision in providing higher education opportunities for African Americans and in that same spirit, Webster University looks forward to providing the same inclusive environment for our immigrants who come to St. Louis and all of Webster's communities and add to the economic prosperity of their regions.

Today, let us celebrate the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the vision that resides in all of us to make the world a more diverse and inclusive community of humankind. Let us work together to invite a diverse and inclusive faculty, staff and student body to unite our regional businesses, civic, economic development and academic leaders in every Webster University community around the world.

Elizabeth "Beth" J. Stroble                                           Julian Schuster
President                                                                        Provost

 To learn more about this historic event, here are some helpful links:

Text of Dr. King's speech

Full speech as recorded by news cameras

The March on Washington Newsreel

The March on Washington – a look at preserving the photos

Life Magazine Photos

Smithsonian Photos