A-State Dedicates The Circle to Honor Historic African-American Faculty
JONESBORO, Ark. – The Circle, a new residential facility designed primarily for graduate students and medical students, was officially opened Aug. 7 at Arkansas State University with a ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony.
The individual buildings in the 196-bed complex are named for the first four African American faculty members at A-State in recognition of their historic roles in campus desegregation.
Dr. Calvin Smith, the first African-American faculty member at Arkansas State, as well as Dr. Wilbert Gaines, Dr. Mossie Richmond and Dr. Herman Strickland formed a mutual support group they called "The Circle" as they and their families made Jonesboro their home in the 1970s.
Gaines and Strickland, as well as Mrs. Richmond and Mrs. Smith, briefly addressed the large crowd that had gathered for the historic occasion, expressing their joy and excitement to see The Circle come to fruition. Other speakers included Dr. Kelly Damphousse, chancellor; Dr. Rick Stripling, vice chancellor for student affairs; Haley Stotts, president of the Student Government Association; Dr. Lonnie Williams, associate vice chancellor for student affairs; and Garrison Rice, second-year medical student at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at A-State.
The location of The Circle along Aggie Road, just west of the Military Science Building, is where the four families lived in faculty housing along what was then called East College Circle and West College Circle. Because the proximity of their residences helped the families provide mutual support, the site is considered significant in A-State's history.
The university Board of Trustees last year approved naming the complex as The Circle, and the buildings are Gaines Hall, Richmond Hall, Smith Hall and Strickland Hall.
Dr. Wilbert Gaines is emeritus associate professor of physical education. During his tenure at A-State, 1972-2005, he taught countless numbers of students and helped guide them to success through his work in the classroom and with campus organizations. He and his wife Herschel live in Jonesboro.
Dr. Mossie Richmond, who came to A-State in 1973, served as dean of University College then vice president for Student Affairs. He also served briefly as interim president of the university in 1994, but died the following year. His wife, Velmar, received a gubernatorial appointment in 1996 to serve on the university Board of Trustees.
Dr. C. Calvin Smith became the first African-American faculty member at Arkansas State when he moved to Jonesboro in 1970. In addition to teaching and advising student organizations, he also wrote two books on Arkansas history. He retired in 2002, and was emeritus professor of history until his death in 2009. His wife Earline lives in Jonesboro.
Dr. Herman Strickland was a faculty member from 1972 until retirement in 2008. He is emeritus associate professor of teacher education and dean of University College. During his career he helped numerous new graduates get off to a good start with a career in education. He and his wife Maxcine are Jonesboro residents.
The project is part of the university’s first public-private partnership to construct campus housing.