When Fr. Norman DuKette (’22) was accepted into Loras Academy and later Columbia College (now Loras College), he was the first African American man to attend and subsequently graduate from both institutions.
Upon his graduation, Fr. DuKette wrote, “As I stand now on the threshold of my graduation morning, I can truthfully say that never was a boy received more wholeheartedly by his professors and fellow students than I was.”
Following Fr. DuKette’s graduation, African American men attended Loras College in small numbers up to 1971, when women started attending the college. Rhonda Wallace (’75) was the first female African American to graduate from Loras.
Over the next three decades, the number of students of color stayed low, making up less than two percent of the student body in any given year. It wasn’t until the turn of the century that the numbers began to grow. In 2009, students of color made up 4.7 percent, while this past academic year the number was over 13 percent.
No matter the percentage, the experience of African American students on campus is a combination of similar and unique stories, both positive and negative. The growing number of African American students has resulted in an increase in the sharing of more diverse experiences across campus, spearheaded by a rekindling of the Black Student Union.
Loras has also refocused its commitment to supporting students of color with the addition of Steven Parker as assistant director of the Center for Inclusion & Advocacy (formerly the Intercultural Programs Office) to provide additional guidance to first generation students and other marginalized groups, including African Americans.
What follows are some experiences of Duhawks past and present as we look back on what African American students encountered on campus and how current Duhawks are looking to build upon that history.