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OSU to celebrate inaugural Nancy Randolph Davis Day

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Oklahoma State University’s Black History Month observance will begin Wednesday with a 2 p.m. celebration honoring one of the university’s foremost civil rights pioneers.

Nancy Randolph Davis will be recognized during a 2 p.m. ceremony and reception inaugurating Feb. 1 as “Nancy R. Davis Day” at OSU. The official commemoration and presentation of a university resolution follows the Jan. 18 passage of a Student Government Association bill.

The event in the OSU Student Union Atrium is open to the public and sponsored by SGA, the SGA Multicultural Affairs Committee, the African American Student Association and the Multicultural Student Center.

Davis was the first African American admitted to Oklahoma A&M College. A 1948 graduate of Langston University, she taught one year in Spencer, Oklahoma, before opting to pursue a master’s degree in home economics.

Initially told that “blacks were not ready to go to school with whites,” Davis nevertheless was allowed to enroll in three courses in summer 1949. It was still illegal for black and white students to gather in the same classrooms, and state law imposed fines on university administrators who admitted black students, instructors who taught mixed classes and even the students who attended mixed classes.

“In two classes I had to sit in the back of the room, and in the third I had to sit outside in the hallway. I had to look in through a window and listen through the door,” Davis said in a 1997 interview. “I was segregated for about a week and a half. After our first test (I made the second-highest score in the class), my classmates said that the laws were unfair, and they wanted me to sit in the class with them.

“When they invited me to sit with them, they made me feel important instead of different."

Davis worked on her master’s in the summer while continuing to teach high school during the school year. She completed her degree in 1952.

She spent 43 years as a high school teacher, including 33 years at Star-Spencer High School in Oklahoma City, educating students on more than home economics. Nurturing their self esteem and serving as a strong advocate when any stood up for their rights, she taught both black and white students how to respect and appreciate each other.

Motivated by a belief that education is the key to success, Davis continued after her retirement in 1991 to assist community programs and efforts to improve the lives of young people, insisting that they, too, can make their dreams come true and providing inspiration.

“I didn’t care what anyone said,” Davis said. “I didn’t let it discourage me — even if I did have to sit in the back of the classroom.

“I knew that if they gave me a chance, I was going to make it.”

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