WWU Opens Center to Uplift All Races, Ethnicities and Cultures

June 21, 2016 | Kim Strobel

Walla Walla University held a dedication ceremony in April for the newly formed Donald Blake Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Culture. The mission of the center will be to promote research, to provide educational resources and to encourage acts of service as they relate to race, ethnicity and culture.

The center is named in honor of Donald Blake, a member of the faculty in the Walla Walla College Department of Biological Sciences from 1962 to 1969. When Blake accepted the position at WWC in 1962, he was one of the first black tenure-track faculty members to be hired at a predominately white Seventh-day Adventist college or university. Blake taught general biology, anatomy and physiology, ornithology, mammalogy, herpetology, and freshwater ecology.

Blake has held numerous teaching positions and administrative positions in higher education. In addition to holding a bachelor’s degree from Oakwood College, Blake has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Michigan State University, a doctorate from the University of Rhode Island, and an honorary doctorate from Briarwood College.

The Donald Blake Center will promote research through an annual conference featuring a keynote speaker who is a leading scholar on subject matter related to the study of race, ethnicity and culture. The center will offer workshops on curriculum inclusiveness and multiculturalism and will encourage student-led involvement in inner-city missions and social justice campaigns. These acts of service will benefit community groups, government agencies, businesses and nonprofit organizations that address social problems connected to racism and its effects on social and cultural life.

"In an increasingly divided and divisive cultural milieu, it can be all too easy for us to forget the values of cultural literacy and diversity that should be deeply embedded in our institutional and missional DNA," said John McVay, WWU president .

"We need the Donald Blake Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Culture to foster the campus-wide conversation and pedagogical innovation that are essential in this challenging yet opportunity-laden moment," said McVay. "If Walla Walla University is to have a robust future — and by God¹s grace, it shall — it will be a diverse future. The Donald Blake Center will help us in the pivot toward that future, and will help us thrive in the days to come."

Reflecting recently on the new center named in his honor, Blake said, “My employment at Walla Walla College led to the integration of higher education in the Adventist education system. Whoever thought that a simple phone call on Memorial Day in 1962 would result in this center being named for me or the center being set up? Since Walla Walla College took the initiative to integrate Adventist higher education, this center is a natural follow-up.”

Timothy Golden, WWU professor of philosophy, has been named director of the Donald Blake Center.