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Calvin Davis, Nancy Randolph Davis' son

College of Education and Human Sciences hosts Nancy Randolph Davis celebration

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Media Contact: Christy Lang | Manager, Marketing and Communications | 405-744-9740 |

The Oklahoma State University College of Education and Human Sciences hosted a celebration honoring Nancy Randolph Davis, the first African American to enroll at what was Oklahoma A&M College in 1949, marking the 75th anniversary of her revolutionary enrollment.

Dr. Darius Prier, associate dean of inclusive excellence and community engagement, proudly presented the program themed Inspired Leadership for Engaged Citizenship. More than 100 students, faculty and staff attended the event. 

“In engaged citizenship, we want our students to play an active role in civic life,” Prier said. “We want them to pursue meaningful service to local communities and the society at large. We want them to be able to advocate for policies that positively impact communities, and we want them to embrace differences in new ideas as a part of this concept of engaged citizenship.”

Prier recognizes these traits of the ideal OSU graduate as part of Davis’ legacy as an active member of her community and a pursuant individual of civic life. 

President Kayse ShrumOSU President Kayse Shrum gave opening remarks and reflected on Davis’ legacy.

“Today, with the inspiration of Nancy Randolph Davis, we work each day to make everyone at OSU feel welcomed and valued, regardless of their background or their geography,” Dr. Shrum said. “There are times in life when I think we should pause and think about those who came before us, those that made it possible for me to be here today in front of you as a female president.” 

The keynote speaker for the event knew Davis better than anyone. Her son, Calvin Davis, Esq., shared a wealth of knowledge about her life history, ongoing legacy and the lessons we can learn from her experiences.  

Calvin recounted how listening to OAMC’s impressive agriculture reports on the radio with his grandfather, Ed Randolph, inspired Nancy’s academic goals from a young age.

"He said, 'That is an amazingly wonderful university,'" Calvin recalled. "Whatever Papa Randolph said, you believed it. All of his kids believed it."

Ed Randolph was confident African American students would one day attend OAMC, including Nancy.

Upon enrolling, the Jim Crow laws mandated that Davis attend classes from the hallway, segregated from her white peers. However, her exceptional performance on an exam, securing the second-highest score, demonstrated her intellectual prowess. Recognizing her talent, her white classmates advocated for her inclusion, marking a shift where Davis went from being viewed as a threat to an asset whose contributions could enrich academic discourses.

Calvin challenged the audience to consider pursuing an education while isolated from classmates due to racial differences.  Calvin Davis

Although Nancy’s circumstances were difficult, Calvin said OSU’s institutional legacy is that the students leaned into inspired leadership, standing up in the face of adversity for another student who lacked similar opportunities.

“I say congratulations to you for doing that, for standing up and continuing to stand up against bullying … sexism, racism. We have to speak up, stand up,” Calvin said.

Calvin ended his speech with one last challenge — we are all called to serve, but who or what purpose are we serving?

“Are you providing a good service? Are you leading with love and serving with sincerity? Are you simply resume building …or are you doing it for the right purpose?” Calvin said.

Nancy led with love and served with sincerity as a home economics teacher and community member. Calvin shared a poem he wrote, lauding his mother “who sought no fame or glory, never stopped encouraging, uplifting, teaching and blessing others to create their own story.”

In addition to the keynote presentation, Dr. Donnie L. Nero Sr., past president of Connors State College, and Dr. Gloria Pollard, civil rights advocate and educational leader, shared personal reflections on the education, leadership and civic life of Nancy.

A panel of faculty, community members and students from a variety of backgrounds and academic units also engaged in dialogue on the historical implications of Davis’ pioneering efforts for equity-based practices in our local community.

The panel, moderated by Dr. Jenn Sanders, included Uwe Gordon, superintendent of Stillwater Public School; Dr. Justin Quetone Moss, department head of horticulture and landscape architecture; Dr. Shanedra Nowell, associate professor of social studies education; Ashley Peterson, student body president; and Alane Zannotti, president of the Stillwater Chamber of Commerce.

Davis' pioneering role helped pave the way for greater inclusion at OSU. While more progress remains, the university continues honoring her memory by striving to create an environment where all students can flourish academically and personally, regardless of background.

For more information about Nancy Randolph Davis, visit

Story By: Jillian Walker |

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