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ASU student expelled in '61 awarded honorary doctorate

Bernice Johnson Reagon

Bernice Johnson Reagon

ALBANY -- The Board of the Regents of the University System of Georgia last week awarded an honorary doctorate to former Albany State University student Bernice Johnson Reagon, who was thrown out of school a half-century ago because of her participation in the Civil Rights Movement.

But that single recognition was far short of the 38 honorary degrees ASU was seeking to bestow next month, and Reagon says she will not accept hers if the others are not forthcoming.

ASU had petitioned the Board to award honorary baccalaureate degrees to 38 former students who were expelled from the university in 1961 for participating in protests during the early days of the Albany Civil Rights Movement. The honorary degrees were meant to coincide with ASU's celebration of the 50th anniversary of The Albany Movement.

The Regents instead approved just one degree -- an honorary doctorate to Albany native Reagon.

ASU Associate Professor of History Racquel Henry and the Student Government Association had led the recognition effort. She expressed disappointment at the failed effort.

"We are saddened that the board chose to issue just one honorary degree," Henry said. "The decision is now up to the chancellor (Hank Huckaby) and we are asking him to issue an executive order."

Reagon, who entered then Albany State College in 1959, is professor emerita of history at American University in Washington, D.C., and holds the title of curator emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. She was the 2002-04 Cosby Chair Professor of Fine Arts at Spelman College in Atlanta.

Reagon could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

She was one of 40 students who were expelled from ASU for taking part in protests and civil rights marches. The school located 38 of the students, 13 of whom had passed away.

After asking for the unusually high number of honorary degrees, ASU hit an immediate snag. The school was originally on the Regents' agenda, then was suddenly disappeared.

Regents spokesman John Millsaps acknowledged then that the ASU request was on the agenda but then removed after several questions were raised about the honorary degrees.

Specifically, Millsaps pointed to section 3.8.4 in the Board of Regents' Policy Manual regarding honorary degrees. That section reads: "Relatively few awards should be given. ... The recipient must be present to receive the degree."

With the Regents not scheduled to meet again until January, it appears hope is slim for the honorary degrees to be awarded. All ASU and Henry can do now is wait and see if the chancellor issues an executive order.

Comments

supersquawker 2 years, 8 months ago

Laughing my ass off.........HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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VSU 2 years, 8 months ago

Why not name a bridge after her? That doctorate is about as worthless as any other degree you get from Albany State. You could have a 0.0 grade average at ASU and get a degree.

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mafowler 2 years, 8 months ago

Is that how you got yours or do you have one?

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coachjohnson42 2 years, 8 months ago

WHAT A WORTHLESS COMMENT BY VSU! DESPITE HIS IGNORANCE, HE DOES NOT REPRESENT THE CLASS OF PEOPLE THAT GO TO VALDOSTA STATE. SOME PEOPLE WHO GO TO VSU ARE DECENT PEOPLE, SO PLEASE EXCUSE HIS STUPIDITY.

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VSU 2 years, 8 months ago

Don't hate me for telling the truth. The fact that you have popped a blood vessel only confirms I am telling the truth. Speaking of stupidity, who said anything about me being associated with Valdosta State? VSU is just letters I use. Guess you could say I fooled the fool.

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bubbavet 2 years, 8 months ago

The only thing worthless is you and your ASU mentality

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TrixibelleBento 2 years, 8 months ago

My hubby calls it 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th grade. LOL

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43cop 2 years, 8 months ago

Well, well. Another Honorary Degree for some "activist" that has done absolutely nothing but stirr up trouble since the '60's. Why don't the Board of Regents just give them all a degree, the degree is worth nothing in the real world. In Albany, they get anything they want, but outside of the area, NOTHING is what it means.

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mafowler 2 years, 8 months ago

Really? Stir up trouble? Have you read the history of the 50s and 60s or is this your pure intellectual comment?

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tocar 2 years, 8 months ago

Enough said regarding racial issues. The Indians were the first settlers in American or the cavemen. I am certain they received honorary awards too. A school of academics presents awards of excellence or because an individual excels in an area of education - not because outside personal preferences. I guess many could have participated with the hippee generation.

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Citizen_A 2 years, 8 months ago

You have the correct tense...received...when was the last time you heard of a Native American being honored? I can can speak for myself...being Native American doesn't get you near what African Americans get.

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mafowler 2 years, 8 months ago

Then the Native Americans need to get leaders who care about their history and make something happen....that is why the African-Americans get what they do--which is not enough for what they endured--the leaders are constantly working on their behalf.

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mafowler 2 years, 8 months ago

read your info again...you are incorrect.

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rock 2 years, 8 months ago

Having earned all my degrees from BS to Phd from all over the world, I have seen many Honorary Degrees bestowed. Rember when Bill Cosby received his? No! Then remember this will be old news tomorrow and will be replaced by something else. This degree does give her anything more than something to be placed on a her I love me wall and she knows the degree is not earned. As for this war between ASU and VSU in Albany, again does it matter. VSU can be considered a white school, ASU can be considered a black school, but all in all people will go where they choose. Good or Bad people will always go to where they are welcome and comfortable. In all venues in life, people go to whatever group the feel a belonging to, Blacks with Black, White with White, Doctors with Doctors, hard hats with hards, it has been this way and will always be this way. Which University has the better academics is well documented, but neither school is a Calpoly,MIT, harvard or Notre Dame.

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YDoICare 2 years, 8 months ago

Just for the record: I am Caucasian, have a PhD from a university which is in the Southeastern Conference and have worked at both community colleges and four year universities. Many responding are correct in that an honorary degree such as the one bestowed is worthless in an academic sense. Honorary degrees are a merely a symbolic recognition. With that written, try taking a non biased look at the individual being recognized. She earned the rank of Distinguished Professor of history at American University in Washington, DC. After retiring in 2002, the university bestowed the recognition as one of its Professors Emeriti of History.

http://www.american.edu/cas/history/faculty/emeritus.cfm.

She earned a PhD from Howard University; served as a curator at the Smithsonian Institution; and produced numerous highly regarded academic publications and presentations. Besides Albany State, other schools, ones she probably has no first-hand academic experience at whether as a student or teaching, previously gave her recognition by bestowing honorary doctorates for her service to academia and her communities. Perhaps people in Dougherty or Lee County may have heard of these schools which would be more comparable to UGA or Georgia Tech than any in South Georgia. Among others these schools which have recognized this person who earned a PhD from a highly respected academic institution with honorary doctorates include the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and Princeton University.

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YDoICare 2 years, 8 months ago

With no disrespect intended for any of the professionals at Darton, nobody on that campus, from the school president through the many feral cats running amock has a curriculum vitae comparable to that of Professor Bernice Johnson Reagon. You can find it in a number of places online because of the many projects upon which she has worked in her career. While one may not agree with her positions, the Professor has many accomplishments and earned the respect of many outside of Albany, GA. What’s really sad is that many of positive things in both academic and economic growth her work brought to other areas might have taken place in Albany. Instead the denial of opportunity which forced her to leave years ago is still prevalent and perhaps stronger today. Someone from Darton or at least a supporter of that institution should have been typing this reply, but it is all about competition instead of cooperation for those in the area. That might work in business, but in education it dilutes the substance. Look at the elementary and secondary teachers caught in the scandal. Many may have bachelor’s degrees from ASU, but many of the same individuals also hold associate’s degrees from Darton. Likewise, many with bachelor’s degrees from schools like GSW and VSU have also taken classes at Darton. Look at all the Darton faculty who only have the credentials to teach at the college level because they hold master’s degrees awarded from ASU. Saying that you can get an ASU degree with a 0.0 GPA is actually revealing the quality of Darton instruction since you teach what you have learned. Criticizing the quality of the city and county school systems is not just a reflection on ASU but on Darton as well. Just count the degrees of those involved. Even the new 4 year degree at Darton will be from the work of many with their master’s degree from ASU or from one of the many diploma mill colleges. Lucky for Dougherty and Lee County people such as Professor Bernice Johnson Reagon had their rights taken from them years ago and are still available to be the scapegoats for the academic and economic troubles in the area today.

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YDoICare 2 years, 8 months ago

I have never met the Professor, but I find it remarkable that she took the time to go back to Albany. I found it appalling how many Americans treated Vietnam veterans when they returned. In reading the news reports and seeing video on the bestowing of these honorary degrees, it’s just as appalling to read of a place where I once chose to live treats a local who has more than made a positive mark through dedication and hard work in other cities. To read that this individual has done “absolutely nothing” by readers in a city that once said you aren’t the type of person we want living here because you support change is a sad state. Perhaps Albany, GA, should look to the past of another Albany and the Albany Plan of Union. As separate entities you will continue to deteriorate, but if you are able to join together the hope of not just survival but of progress is there. Yes, others may refer to me as racist for this response judging from other comments. Regardless of whether this individual’s skin color is black, white, chartreuse, or polka dotted, this honorary doctorate given by ASU will probably be lost under the degrees and awards she earned as a student and professional. Wouldn’t it be great for young people of all races in the area to see how someone not only made their life better through dedication and hard work, but also overcame many obstacles and has given back much more in all the communities where she has been allowed to work? Unfortunately, that seems to be frowned upon regardless of your race.

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ittybittyme 2 years, 8 months ago

Ok...YDoICare...we get it...put a sock in it!

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mafowler 2 years, 8 months ago

People in this area are ignorant...You can't really enjoy reading the paper online because of the ignorance. I have a Phd and I attended Albany State for a bachelor's degree and two master's degrees and they were not given to me...I worked my tail off to achieve my success...Are you people really this ignorant?

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ameek86 2 years, 8 months ago

Don't read the comments then.

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mafowler 2 years, 8 months ago

Dont post unintelligent info online...I have the freedom to read what I want...thanks.

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