UE African American Career Stories

Bettye Poole '02 M '06 has accepted an assignment with NAEHCY and is nominated for the 18th annual Celebration of Leadership award ceremony!

Poole, currently the Homeless Liaison with the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation, has accepted the assignment as The Board of Directors National Conference Co-Chair with NAEHCY (National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth). Prior to this assignment, Bettye served on the Board of Directors as an At-Large Member of NAEHCY, representing the state of Indiana. Her assignment this year will be to job shadow the retiring NAEHCY Conference Chair in Atlanta, GA. She will officially take the reins in 2014 for the Conference which will be held in Kansas City, MO.

Bettye holds a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies and Master of Science Degree in Public Administration, both from the University Of Evansville.

Michael D. Woodard '69 earned a Masters Degree in 1979 and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1984. He provides technical assistance to Federal and state governmental agencies for equal employment opportunity program evaluation, compliance assessment, and alternative dispute resolution. At UE he was a member of the Epsilon Iota Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. He played professional football with the Indianapolis Caps of the Continental Football League after starring in football at UE during his collegiate years. He was inducted into the UE Athletic Hall of Fame in 1978.

David Shaheed '69 graduated with a B.S. in business administration, and then went on to receive his juris doctorate degree. Shaheed served as the magistrate of Marion County Superior Court in Indianapolis. Shaheed was elected judge in 2001 and served until 2014. He is now a senior judge. Learn more about David’s miracle basketball shot for Evansville.

Ronald Glass '68 graduated with a B.A. in theatre. He acted for years in the long-running television special "Barney Miller" and the television series "Mr. Rhodes".

Dr. Rose Mays '67 earned a B.S. in nursing. Dr. Mays retired from teaching at the Indiana University School of Nursing located on the IUPUI campus in Indianapolis. She currently serves on the University's Board of Trustees.

Talmadge Vick ’58 was the Chairman of the Really Concerned Citizens Organization, which filed a federal law suit and sued the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation in 1971 to integrate all of its schools. As a result, The Federal District Court put the EVSC school system under jurisdiction until it was integrated and ordered a desegregation plan to be adopted. Their efforts assisted the increase of Affirmative Action and Federal Programs benefiting Blacks and minorities in Evansville, along with providing and opening more job opportunities for Blacks in the EVSC, credited to this groups efforts and the decision handed down in 1972 by Midwest District Judge S. Hugh Dillon.

Based on his actions and efforts as Chairman of the (RCC) - Mr. Vick was (Black Balled) by the EVSC for many years in his career. He had more secondary educational licenses, experience and credentials plus numerous hours of post graduate work. However, for the majority of his career with the EVSC he was overlooked for promotions and positions he qualified and applied for.

Mr. Vick also played an important part for getting an Open Housing Ordinance passed in 1968 by the Evansville City Council, this Ordinance was to prevent and no longer allow the accepted practice in Evansville of “Redlining” prior to this “Open Housing Ordinance “African Americans could not live pass Kentucky Avenue. After the Open Housing Ordinance was passed it gave Blacks the first opportunity to buy a home, rent an apartment and live where the wanted Mr. Vick wrote, developed, and taught Black History studies courses for EVSC.

Mr. Vick was selected and honored for his service in Evansville with numerous educational and community service awards.

Don Ricketts ‘55 graduated valedictorian from Evansville’s Lincoln High School in 1950, and continued his education at Evansville College where he received his bachelor's in electronic engineering and a certificate in cooperative engineering. Subsequently, he was awarded bachelors and masters in mathematics from Boston University and Northeastern University, respectively.

He was an internationally recognized expert on piezoelectric polymer transducers. He was named author of the year at Raytheon SSD in 1980, 1985, and 1986 for his papers on piezoelectric polymer transducers that were published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. He has published 14 technical papers and holds two patents for polymer transducers. In the year 2000, Donald received the University of Evansville Distinguished Alumnus Award.

In 2012 The Donald Ricketts Scholarship was established in conjunction with the Evansville African American Museum. The scholarship is for students enrolled in a full-time accredited college or university majoring in science, math, or technology.

Donald Ricketts was born January 23, 1932 to the late William A. Ricketts and Marie Osborne Ricketts in Evansville, IN. Donald accepted Christ as his savior at an early age. He departed his life on January 20, 2015 in Boston, MA.

Donald was married to the late Shirley Williams of Kenosha, Wisconsin and of that union was born three daughters: Donna Ricketts Henderson, Carol Ricketts, and Sharon Ricketts Adeeyo. After the death of his wife, a longtime companion, Lois Harvey, shared with him the love of classical music, ballet, and opera in his reclining years.

Mr. Ricketts was beloved by many in the arena of education. He gave his tutorials at every level, mentoring family, friends, and colleagues in a vast number of areas, lifting them all to follow their dreams. He taught with gentleness and by example.

Contributions to the memory of Mr. Ricketts can be made to the Evansville African American Museum in care of the Donald Ricketts Scholarship Fund.

Vera Shane Thompson ‘39 was the second "4 year" black student to graduate from Evansville College.

Born January 19, 1919 in Evansville, Indiana, Vera was the 8th of 9 children born to Alvin and Fannie Shane. Vera attended historic Liberty Baptist Church in Evansville and graduated as Salutatorian from Lincoln High School in 1935.

Vera recalled that she and Sara were both "counseled" before attending Evansville College regarding what to expect and what to do, and what not to do.

During Vera's college years, students attended assemblies where the college choir sang. Attendance was taken so you were expected to be there. Vera told me that on one occasion she went to the Dean of Evansville College to complain about a song that had negative lyrics in reference to black people. The Dean agreed and that song was not sung at future campus assemblies.

Vera Shane graduated from Evansville College in June 1939 with a Bachelor of Science Degree, majoring in Sociology with a minor in Education. After graduating from Evansville College, there were not many jobs available for Vera as a black woman in Evansville in the field of sociology. After working a year as a social worker, Vera went to Chicago. Vera worked as an Industrial Field Representative for the Chicago Urban League. She was responsible for coordinating numerous activities that helped black women to be hired by national companies in Chicago. She was "excellent" as defined by management in opening doors during an extremely challenging time for black people in these United States of America. Vera had her fingers on the pulse of all the available jobs in the Chicago area.

It was in Chicago where she met her future husband. Colonel William R. Thompson. Thompson was part of the Civil Aviation Pilot Training Program at Harlem Airport. Thompson became one of the first pilots of the 99th pursuit Squadron, one of the first Tuskegee Airmen.

Vera and Thompson were married in Montgomery, Alabama in September 1942. After getting married, Vera dropped her graduate work for a while to get a full time job. Once her husband returned from service in World War II, Vera continued her education at Chicago Teacher's College, where she earned her Masters of Education degree. During that period most teachers in Chicago were white. Vera ventured into special education as a field in the Chicago Public School system. She worked in several positions in her career. Teacher, guidance counselor, acting assistant principal and Special Education Department Chairperson. She worked at several schools in the Chicago area to include Du Sable High School. Vera retired in 1986 after 30 years of service. Vera felt that she could have become a principal at a school, but she enjoyed the contact with students more than administrative work.

Vera had two children, William and Kenneth. After retirement she worked to help preserve the history and legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. Her husband passed away in the year 2006. Vera was honored by UE black alumni at a dinner reception in 2008. She received the UE Medal of Honor at the 2008 Commencement ceremony.

Fred Duncan ‘49 was a charter member of the first interracial fraternity at Evansville College, Pi Kappa fraternity serving as Vice President the initial year. He was a veteran of World War II. Mr. Duncan was active in the Student Council and the Glee Club.

Mr. Duncan was also active in the Evansville community. In 1949 Mr. Duncan helped to get approval for Evansville's Lincoln High School (an all-black school at the time) to play contact sports with all white schools in the area.

Mr. Duncan was also instrumental in having racist "Reserved for Colored" signs removed from the local Greyhound bus station. Finally, Mr. Duncan led the effort to end racist, discriminatory policies that prevented blacks from playing on public tennis courts in Evansville.

William Bell ‘49 majored in Secondary Education. Born in 1925 in Clarksville, Tennessee to Gilbert and Minnie Bell. He was a veteran of World War II serving in the Marine Corps. At Evansville College he was on the Dean’s list several times and achieved the prestigious title of a Campus Notable, likely one of the first black students to be recognized in that campus category. He was also chosen as a Big Wheel on campus and selected twice as one of the representatives of Evansville College in Who’s Who, again likely the first black male to be recognized in that category at Evansville College.

Mr. Bell was President of the Glee Club, played piano and composed music. Despite his impressive credentials in college, the racial discrimination policies in the United States in the 1940s served as a barrier for Mr. Bell to fully utilize and gain recognition for his skills. Mr. Bell worked several years as an educator in the Evansville public school system at Lincoln High School. He would later move to Gary, Indiana where he retired from the Gary School District in 2003. He taught for 59 years. He passed away in February 2004 at the age of 79. In 2019 Mr. Bell was awarded posthumously the UE Distinguished Alumni award for his campus achievements and his long-time career as an educator.

James Barbee ‘49 completed the Big 3 of the first known black male graduates of Evansville College. Barbee was also a charter member of the interracial fraternity Pi Kappa at Evansville College. He served as Treasurer during one year. A Secondary Education major, he was also voted as being a Campus Notable during his tenure at Evansville College. Mr. Barbee was also active in pursuing the civil rights of black people in the Evansville Community.

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