Texas Tech University has come a long way since 1964, when the first African American to receive a bachelor’s degree graduated. Since then, Tech has increased its resources, representative employees and opportunities for African Americans.

Brenda Peters is a Tech graduate from the 1970s. Before Peters arrived at Tech, she was moved to an integrated, predominantly white high school, she said. This movement was challenging for Peters at first, but it helped her transition to Tech.

“I wanted to work really hard, as people had high expectations for me,” Peters said.

Peters’s experience at Tech was a little lonely and challenging at times, she said. These feelings were due to her being one of few African American students on campus.

Back in the ‘70s, there were not as many resources as there are now for diverse students, Peters said. First Generation Transition and Mentoring Programs, the Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Mentor Tech were all unavailable.

Peters attributes her success to the mentors she had in her corner, such as  Herschel Mann, a former professor in the Rawls College Business, she said. Peters also received a scholarship that contributed to her success. 

Peters forced herself to be a part of a few student organizations for the black community, she said.

Peters is now a part of the alumni association and national board member, she said. Peters established a scholarship for students coming out of Jack Yates High School and works with other high schools to get more African Americans to Tech.

Peters noticed  the school has grown in its resources, employees, buildings, and there are more diverse publications and representatives on campus, she said. 

Gwendolyn Titus, an African American graduate from 1971, received her bachelor’s degree in home economics education.

Titus’ transition from Dunbar High School to Tech was overwhelming at times, Titus said. She remembers congregating with other African Americans when and where she could. There were around 200 African Americans on campus when Titus attended Tech. Titus recalls being the only African American in some of her classes such as chemistry and english.

Titus received a $250 scholarship that paid for her fall and spring semester, she said. Tuition has grown tremendously, as her younger daughter’s tuition was $6,000 a semester.

Titus thanks her parents and educators from Dunbar High School who always pushed her towards excellence, she said. Titus would always receive help from her old teachers when she would take her English papers to them.  

Titus is thankful to have been a product of integration to help influence a change at Tech, she said. Titus got to see opportunities open at Tech for her past educators including Hazel Taylor and George Scott. 

Titus is proud of the athletics Tech now has and the athletes who have come from Tech, she said. Titus is now very involved in Tech, as she is a part of the black alumni chapter and was a part of the president minority advisory council and the chancellor’s minority advisory.

Titus is thankful there is now greater representation of a diverse staff and faculty, she said. She is thankful for Mentor Tech, as it offers opportunities for students to take advantage of something that wasn’t offered to her.

“Students need to see instructors and faculty that look like them,” Titus said.

Cory S. Powell, co-founder of Lauro Cavasos & Ophelia Powell-Malone Mentoring Program, has been at Tech for over 19 years.

Powell has seen the campus change in various ways over the past years, he said. There has been greater access for African Americans to be included in things such as Student Body President and homecoming court. There is a greater acceptance the world has changed and people are also more mindful of the responsibility to include everyone, he said. 

“There was once a time where blacks were not welcome on campus because of fear,” Powell said.

Black history isn’t just black history, as it is a part of American history and impacts the world, Powell said.

“It’s important to acknowledge the past, because there are radical effects to pain and injustice," he said. "This acknowledgement allows us to move forward.” 

The first African American administrator was George Scott and the first African American graduate was Ophelia Powell-Malone, Powell said.

“Everyone after ‘the first’ are important to help propel us to our destiny,” Powell said.

Everyone is connected; history is connected to the present, and the present is connected to the future, Powell said. The more people work together, the more that can be accomplished.        

“It is not solely our division’s responsibility to channel the diversity,” Powell said. “It is every faculty member, student and dean’s responsibility.”

When Powell was in school, he did not have the same struggles as the first African Americans at Tech did, he said. His struggles differ from the past and future generations.

“Behind every story, is a struggle. These stories will become more and more important,” Powell said. “It was these struggles that helped me get to where I am today.”

In the future, Powell hopes to see more scholarships for African Americans, a building named after an African American, and more African American faculty, he said.

“Hopefully one day there won’t be just a month to celebrate black history, but it will be celebrated yearly,” he said.

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