African-American alumni, including the first African-American male to attend the University of Richmond, gathered on Feb. 25 in the Robins Arena to discuss their experiences as Richmond students. This event was part of the University’s Black History Month celebration.

Barry Greene, R’ 72, Nadine Marsh-Carter, W’ 86, Travis Williams, R’ 91, and Kim Dean, ’97, talked about being minorities on campus, the perceptions of classmates and professors at the time, and what helped them have a positive experience at Richmond, in a panel discussion moderated by English professor Bert Ashe.

As the first black male at Richmond, and only black student on campus during his first year, Greene said he faced some discrimination.

“Going into the classroom you could tell there were certain professors who didn’t want you in the room,” he said.

But Greene realized he had found a caring community when tragically, his father was killed his junior year. University President George Modlin wrote him a letter urging him to return to campus despite the circumstances and offering his support, Greene said.

When Greene missed a chemistry exam after his father’s death, the support was unanimous among classmates to let him retake it, he recalled.

Marsh-Carter, who was one of five black females on campus during her time at Richmond, said she too, found compassion among classmates at Richmond, where she shared laughter and formed lifelong friendships with the women in her dorm.

But she still faced stereotypes as the 65 black males on campus were divided between the football and basketball teams, she said. “People asked me what sport I played and I [joked], ‘I’m the quarterback of the football team.’ ”

Williams dealt with a similar misconception. “Five of us weren’t athletes,” he said. “The general perception was if you’re here, you’re an athlete.”

But Williams said he was determined not to let stereotypes define his experience at Richmond. “From the moment I got accepted I felt I was as good as anybody else,” he said.

Dean, who now works at the University as the Richmond Families Initiative and UR Downtown program director, called her undergraduate experience, “overwhelmingly positive.”

What truly helped her were the pre-orientation program and Office of Multicultural Affairs, she said. “It really boosted my confidence to go outside the circle of African-American students.”

Marsh-Carter praised these types of programs that are a step forward in Richmond’s efforts to welcome and encourage diversity.

All panelists agreed there was still work to be done to make the community more inclusive, but that Richmond had come along way since Greene attended.

Dean said: “I wouldn’t work here if I didn’t think it was a positive place. We continue to grow into our commitments of diversity and inclusion.”

The alumni panel was one of many events hosted during the University’s celebration of Black History Month, including a screening of the film Dark Girls, the Connecting Women of Color Conference, and the Black Arts Festival and Open Mic Night. For a list of events and feature stories visit multicultural.richmond.edu.

Photo (from left): Kim Dean, Travis Williams, Barry Greene and Nadine Marsh-Carter.