Miami U’s Civil Rights award goes to alumnae association

Credit: Photo by: Ricardo Treviño Jr.

Credit: Photo by: Ricardo Treviño Jr.

OXFORD – More than a half-century after the historic Civil Rights voter registration in the then-segregated American south, the president of Miami University presented the school’s annual freedom award to the Western College Alumnae Association (WCAA).

In 1964, 800 volunteers trained on the Western College for Women campus adjacent to Miami’s main Oxford campus as part of the Freedom Summer initiative to register Black voters in the south.

The WCAA was formed a decade later, the same year the then all-women’s college graduated its final class.

This year’s “Freedom Summer of ‘64″ award honors both the Civil Rights movement and the memories of Freedom Summer participants James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, three civil rights workers who were murdered in Mississippi while registering Black voters.

Miami officials described the award ceremony as a “a full circle moment” as Miami President Gregory Crawford presented the Freedom Summer of ‘64 Award to the WCAA during a ceremony held June 7 on the grounds of their beloved institution, near the campus memorial that bears the award’s namesake.

According to Miami officials, Western College was founded in 1853 as the Western Female Seminary and renamed the Western College for Women in 1904, the school was renowned as a forward-thinking institution on the forefront of international and multicultural education.

When Western closed in 1974, Miami purchased the land. It became part of Miami’s campus and home of the university’s oldest residence-based learning community and division, the School of Interdisciplinary Studies/Western College Program.

“Western College was more than a place,” Crawford said during the dinner and ceremony held at Western Dining Commons. “Western College was more than a curriculum. And Western College was much more than a degree. Western College was the garden that nurtured young students with solidarity, truth, and passion to change the world.”

Established by Miami in 2018, the Freedom Summer of ‘64 Award honors champions of America’s Civil Rights movement and subsequent, similar efforts.

Past recipients of the Freedom Summer of ‘64 Award include Mt. Zion Methodist Church, Western College alumna Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins, radio host Joe Madison, Wayne ‘58 and Teresa Embry ‘60, director Reginald Hudlin, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and Wil Haygood ‘76.

Ann Walton, a 1966 Western graduate and president of the WCAA Board of Trustees, accepted the award on behalf of the alumnae association. This year, the WCAA will be welcomed as part of the Miami University Alumni Association.

“Since our founding in 1974, our success has hinged on the support of Miami University,” Walton said of the WCAA. “Without them, we would not have had 50 years.”

“The alumnae value relationships we have established with Miami University and the Oxford community. We thank each of you here for collaborating with us on so many meaningful projects and events over the years,” said Walton.

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