More than the curriculum changed in the late 1930s, when the Academy in Princess Anne transitioned to a four-year institution of higher education. Expanded academic offerings at Princess Anne College attracted more students. Those changes created the need for a more stimulating campus environment, which in turn met not only students' academic needs, but their cultural and social needs as well.
Jeffrey Ekoma, left, Student Government Association vice president, and SGA President Valarie Matthews (2011-2012)
For example, the Bird Lyceum, named for the Academy's founding principal, Benjamin O. Bird, was a student cultural group established in the early 20th century to offer lectures and performances for the campus community.
Meanwhile, extracurricular activities such as football and basketball provided additional outlets for students. Yet, there also was a growing desire to lend their voices to more serious discussions regarding school improvement and campus needs, as well as to broader issues affecting society, including the segregated educational system through which many matriculated.
The departments of agriculture, home economics, liberal arts and mechanic arts worked together in the early 1940s to create The Student Forum of Princess Anne College, which provided a medium for free-wheeling discussion. Charles C. Jacobs, the college’s public relations director, promoted the forums on campus and in the Princess Anne community. Held Sunday evenings in the (old) Kiah Hall Auditorium, attendees discussed timely topics concerning the school and society.
The Student Council of Princess Anne College soon emerged as an outgrowth of those gatherings to serve as “the governing body and agency by which students may promote the interests and welfare of the university community, encourage participation in the solution of student life problems, and cooperate with the faculty and administration in the regulation and promotion of student activities.”
By remaining steadfast in support of student organizations and intercollegiate athletics, the Student Council – now the Student Government Association – preserves the customs and traditions of the institution left to them by generations of alumni.
Over the years, elected student leaders have played an instrumental in bringing about change to their alma mater. From sit-ins and marches to protest civil rights injustices, to pushing for improvements to the physical campus and equitable funding, to demanding upgrades for technology and shuttle bus transportation, students were agents for change.
Perhaps the collective voices of students across the years can be summed up by Charles Richardson, the 1969 Hawk yearbook's editor-in-chief, who described the tumultuous year in which student protests hastened college President John Taylor Williams' decision to retire in August 1970.
“We know that if we walk as several hundred individuals unlinked by common goals that our cries will not be heard . . . because of the lack of impact that will be carried by individual voices. Let us, instead, unite as one . . . and continue the fight.”
Today’s student government at UMES, like so many who served before, remains committed to the students and the institution, ever believing that through collective work and action, they can soar like the mighty Hawk.
-- KIMBERLY CONWAY DUMPSON, who gratefully acknowledges the help of alumna Devenia P. Wallace ('43), an assistant professor emeritus in home economics.