UMKC’s ‘Newest Graduate’

Photo credit: Janet Rogers, Strategic Marketing and Communications

Conella Coulter Brown Receives Diploma at Black Alumni Reception

Conella Coulter Brown was celebrated as one of the first students of color to integrate the University of Kansas City (now UMKC) at the inaugural Black Alumni Weekend.

Admitted to UKC in 1949, Coulter Brown, who turns 90 years old this month, was the special alumni guest at the reception and was presented a University of Missouri-Kansas City diploma by UMKC Chancellor Leo E. Morton.

“Mrs. Coulter Brown, we are honored to have you here with us today,” said Morton. “When we talk about trail blazers and thanking those who paved the way – you are at the top of our list.”

Chancellor Morton told Coulter Brown that even though she graduated from the University of Kansas City, “she is an original Roo.”

“This evening, we would like to present you with your UMKC diploma,” said Morton.

He presented her with a bouquet of flowers and the diploma. Through her tears – and in the midst of a standing ovation – she accepted them.

Approximately 70 alumni attended the reception and thanked her for leading the way.

In 1948, Clarence Decker, who was then chancellor of the UKC, challenged the Board to admit students of color. Coulter Brown read in the Kansas City Call that UKC was accepting Negroes and applied. While she felt high school had not properly prepared her for the rigors of college, she fought hard for her grades.

Graduating in 1953 with a degree in history and unable to get a teaching position in Kansas City due to her race, Coulter Brown moved to Cleveland, where she served as a classroom teacher, assistant principal, assistant supervisor of human resources and retired as assistant superintendent of the Cleveland Public Schools.

In 1964, she received the UMKC Alumni Achievement Award.

Also recognized during the reception were three past Alumni Association Governing Board presidents – Angela Bennett, who served from 1997 to 1998 and was the first African-American to do so; Damon Bryant, who served from 2008 to 2011; and Pat Macdonald, the immediate past president, who served from 2013-2015.

The goal of the UMKC Black Alumni Weekend Committee was to create an event for Black Alumni to connect, network and engage with each other, as well as meeting the next generation of Roos – our current students.

In addition to the reception, a fish fry, campus tour and BBQ on The Quad were held for the alumni.

|Wandra Brooks Green, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications


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