Fifty years ago, Lula Morton enrolled at Transylvania University, becoming the school's first black student.
By that time, the University of Kentucky had lost a court battle and enrolled its first black graduate students in 1949. Five years later, black undergraduates were allowed to enroll.
But Morton, the daughter of Betty and the late Robert F. Morton of Lexington, and a graduate of Bryan Station High School, chose Transy because of its small size.
Her enrollment at Transy occurred during a very turbulent time for race relations in this country. In 1963, four black girls were killed while attending Sunday school when a bomb exploded at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham.
Gov. George Wallace tried to block two black students from enrolling at the University of Alabama, and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was grabbing headlines that would resonate throughout history.
Fortunately, Morton's time at Transy was far more pleasant.
"It was a wonderful experience," she said Wednesday. "It was an example of a peaceful transition in a very tumultuous time."
Now Lula Morton Drewes, she will discuss those years in a speech at Transylvania's fall convocation Sept. 15 in Haggin Auditorium.
Her address, "A Journey of Healing: The 50th Anniversary of Desegregation at Transylvania University," will be the kick-off of a year of events and discussions of diversity at the university. The celebration is called "Still Overcoming: Striving for Inclusiveness."
Additional speakers, music and artistic programs, discussions and presentations will focus on related issues in America as well as the Transylvania experience.
Drewes' life has been an adventure in diversity. She joined the Peace Corps after graduating from Transy and served in Chad.
She then married a Berliner and lived in Erlangen, Germany, while traveling throughout Europe, Africa, Brazil and Mexico.
The couple also lived in the U.S. for a few years, where Drewes earned a doctorate from Vanderbilt University, before returning to Germany where they raised their two children.
Drewes has been a clinical psychologist and wellness coach in Berlin, and has worked in private practice, in family counseling, at a mental facility and in academic settings in Germany and the United States.
Eduardo Nino-Moreno, Transy director of diversity and inclusion, a position and department created two years ago, said the university wants to have an "open dialogue on diversity including race and ethnicity."
Faculty and staff, he said, have embraced the opportunity to give students a global experience which must include diversity of all kinds.
Transy's freshman class has 65 students from "all walks of life other than white," a record for the school's diversity efforts, he said. Of the 305 entering freshmen, 12 are black and 21 are Hispanic. In total, 36 black students are enrolled there, or 3.32 percent.
Those numbers are not where the university wants them to be, Nino-Moreno said. "We have a long way to go," he said. "That's the reason for the name, still overcoming, striving for inclusion. It is not only about race and diversity; it is about difference."
The work has begun in appreciating those differences by highlighting the 50th anniversary of the school's desegregation, he said.
"I am gratified that it has taken root."
Nino-Moreno wants to share that appreciation with everyone, starting with Drewes' address.
The convocation starts at 7 p.m. and is free.
IF YOU GO
Transylvania University is hosting a yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of the enrollment of its first black student.
Schedule of events in September:
Sept. 15: 7 p.m. Haggin Auditorium. Lula Morton Drewes, the first black to enroll in Transylvania's degree program, presents "A Journey of Healing: The 50th Anniversary of Desegregation at Transylvania University." A reception will follow in Carrick Theater.
Sept. 16-Oct. 22: 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; 1-8 p.m. Sat., Sun.
William T. Young Campus Center Lounge. An exhibit of Robert Shetterly's portraits of Americans Who Tell the Truth: Models of Courageous Citizenship.
Sept. 22: 3 p.m. Haggin Auditorium. American Spiritual Ensemble with Everett McCorvey, director of University of Kentucky Opera Theatre.
Information and other scheduled events: Transy.edu/diversity/still_overcoming.htm.
Merlene Davis: (859) 231-3218. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog: merlenedavis.bloginky.com.