Pioneering a legacy
Courtesy / Michele Coffill
James Moore, the first African American man to graduate from Grand Valley State University in 1967, came back to campus as a part of the “Pioneering Pathways for Students of Color” event put on by the Division of Inclusion and Equity.
“I hope that (students) have the opportunity to appreciate the rich history of diversity and inclusion that GVSU has had, and I hope they take away the idea that they should try and find ways to create their own pathways and legacies here,” said Sean Huddleston, assistant vice president for strategic implementation in the Inclusion and Equity Division.
Moore graduated from GVSU with a political science major and an intent to go to law school afterwards. These plans changed after he got married and served in the Vietnam War.
Currently, Moore is semi-retired — now working on a part-time basis in the security, parking and transportation department at Spectrum Health — after serving many different places such as the 126th Michigan National Guard Band, the Urban League, Smiths Industries, Grand Rapids Community College, Davenport University, GR Job Corps, Goodwill Industries and Jubilee Jobs.
“GVSU is today much larger,” he said. “In comparison, we started with 226 students, one building and an unpaved parking lot. I was one of five African American students in that first class of 226.”
Moore still remembers his earliest days on campus.
“My favorite memory from GVSU was the first day on campus when I saw for the first time all 226 members of the Pioneer Class, along with the faculty, staff and our brand new building as we all began this exciting trip to our future,” he said.
Upon reflection of his time at GVSU, he had some advice for current students.
“My advice to the current students would be to seek a career for which there is current demand with prospects for future growth for which you have a passion and the pay will provide you with a good lifestyle,” he said.
The idea for the event stemmed from an award being given out for the first time this year — the Burch, Jacobs and Moore Diversity Teaching Excellence Award. The faculty member who receives the award is “recognized for fostering awareness about diversity issues, promoting cultural competence and helping to advance a campus environment that is welcoming and supportive of differences through his/her teaching,” Huddleston said.
The award is named in Moore’s honor along with two of his other classmates.
“He made history here at Grand Valley,” Huddleston said. “We wanted students to have the opportunity to hear from him and have access to him.”