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MU Names Building After its First African-American Professor

Oct. 19, 2007

Story Contact:  Bryan C. Daniels, (573) 882-9144,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Teaching history was Arvarh E. Strickland’s passion. Making history – particularly at the University of Missouri-Columbia – became his reality. Today, school administrators and state education leaders celebrated the accomplishments of MU’s first African-American professor by naming an academic building in his honor.

The former General Classroom Building (GCB), located in front of the Brady Commons Mall, is now Arvarh E. Strickland Hall – the first building on campus named for an African American. Humbled by the occasion, Strickland said the recognition is the result of pursuing his life-long passion – teaching students.

“As far as I was concerned, I was doing what I was here to do – that was to teach and add to our historical knowledge and understanding,” he said. “I was simply trying to get historical knowledge to my students.”

 Strickland arrived at MU in 1969 as a full tenured professor of history in the College of Arts and Science. In addition to teaching, he helped create the Black Studies Program, for which he twice served as interim director. He also served as associate vice president of academic affairs and as a special assistant to the chancellor. After 26 years, Strickland retired in ‘95 and was honored with an endowed professorship.

  Among his fondest memories are the students. Although he arrived during a time of racial tension in the United States, Strickland said he was well received by the students.

“The students are what made it a good place. I came at the height of the Civil Rights Movement and the students at Missouri, like in other places, thought they could make the world a better place,” Strickland said. “They were a joy to teach.”

The initiative to make Strickland Hall a reality was approved by the Curators of the University of Missouri in April. Numerous student organizations, including the Missouri Students Association (MSA), Residence Halls Association and Legion of Black Collegians, led the effort. Strickland said that he’s most proud of the fact that students started the campaign to have a campus building named in his honor.

 “They wanted something tangible to symbolize the presence of African Americans on campus. I think of myself really as being symbolic of that purpose,” he said. “I’m a symbol of something a bit larger than anything I’ve accomplished.”

 Achievements by Strickland have been widely recognized at MU. A room in Memorial Union also is named after him. During his tenure, Strickland received MU's William H. Byler Distinguished Professor Award, the Mizzou Alumni Association Distinguished Faculty Award and service awards from the State Historical Society of Missouri and Phi Alpha Theta Honor Society in history. In 1999, he was the recipient of the Carter G. Woodson Medal from the Association for the Study of African-American History and Culture.
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