Wednesday, February 18, 2009

African-American firsts at TCU

Dr. Jennifer Giddings Brooks '71 and Yendor Reese '06 are separated by 35 years of Horned Frog graduating classes, and yet tonight, they sat at the same table and flashed knowing smiles at the other.
They're both TCU pioneers.
Brooks was the school's first African-American Homecoming Queen, a moment she herself didn't believe would happen. Reese was chosen by his peers as the first person of color to be selected Homecoming King, one of the highlights of his college experience.
They each shrugged off claims of individual importance, saying they were typical students wanting to fit in and make the most of their college experience. The two were guests of the Inclusiveness and Intercultural Services African-American Firsts Dinner.
Joining them were a trio of surprise honorees not on the program: Mildred Martin Sims '69, the first president of the African-American Alumni Association; Anthony Cregler, the first African-American participant in Army ROTC; and Ronald Hurdle '71, the first African-American cheerleader.
"I remember the [Homecoming] elections and bonfire and being on stage as one of the three finalists," Brooks recalled. "They called for the second runner-up and I walked over, and they said, 'No, not you.' And then they called for the first runner-up and I walked over, and they said, 'It's not you.' Then it hit me that I was the queen. My mom has a photo of me with my hand covering my mouth.
"I don't think they voted on the differences. They just picked who they wanted, not because someone was black or white."
Reese urged students in the audience to step out in boldness and get involved in campus life.
"We felt there was a need for an NAACP chapter on campus, and I'm proud that TCU has its own chapter," he said. "This is your time to make an impact. Every time you have a chance to soak up culture, take advantage."

Added Brooks: "I was a joiner. Find your niche and don't be afraid to participate. Be a part of the experience."

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