Jewell Establishes Racial Reconciliation Commission

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On Monday, April 12, William Jewell College announced the formation of a Racial Reconciliation Commission. The official email announcement is printed below.

Hello, Jewell Family:

Today, with the endorsement of the William Jewell College Board of Trustees, I am launching an initiative that I believe will be among the most significant—and generative—in the College’s history.

It is important to me and the Board that our Jewell Family be the first to hear of this important endeavor, which will be shared broadly later today.

As you know, our Jewell community is working with intent and purpose to create a diverse and equitable culture at Jewell.  Our aim is to advance the shared prosperity of our Region by educating and graduating diverse, critical thinkers who are devoted to creating opportunities without barriers for everyone in Kansas City.  I recently hired Dr. Rodney Smith to lead these efforts as the founding Vice President for Access and Engagement.

As part of this work, the Board of Trustees and I recognize that it is time we address and speak to our history, and in particular our founding in 1849.  Accordingly, today I am founding a Racial Reconciliation Commission at William Jewell College, Chaired by Dr. Rodney Smith, and guided by experts within our faculty, our Liberty and Kansas City communities, and the Black Archives of Mid-America Kansas City.  Use this link to access our press release and video announcing the launching of the Commission

To be clear, this endeavor will include acknowledging that many of our founders were slaveholders; the Commission also is likely to uncover evidence that enslaved people worked on our campus.  These are historical facts we cannot change.  But we can give voice to our past and then allow that past to inform our future.

The work of the Commission will not be undertaken lightly—nor will it occur in haste or be influenced by any one perspective—because the predicate of our effort is simple:  Facts aren’t frightening.  It is our duty to tell Jewell’s story deliberately and thoughtfully over the course of the next year with the aim of finding and expressing both an historical and moral truth about the racial history of William Jewell College spanning the years of our founding until today.

I am grateful to Commission members and community advisors for giving of their intellectual energy to this vital initiative, including the following individuals:

Commission Membership

  • Dr. Rodney Smith, Commission Chair and Vice President for Access and Engagement
  • Dr. Donna Gardner, Chair of the Education Department
  • Brynesha Griffin-Bey, Student Representative
  • Moses Harper, Assistant Football Coach
  • Marcus Jones, Student and Treasurer of the Black Student Alliance
  • Dr. Anthony Maglione, Director of Choral Studies 
  • Chris McCabe, Head Men’s Basketball Coach
  • Mark Mathes, Distinguished Alumnus and Liberty Historian
  • Hayley Michael, Student Participant in “Slavery, Memory, and Justice” Course
  • Clark Morris, Vice President for Advancement
  • Hunter O’Connor, Student and Kappa Alpha Order Number One
  • Keith Pence, William Jewell College Trustee
  • Dr. Andy Pratt, Dean Emeritus of the Chapel
  • Eileen Houston-Stewart, William Jewell Trustee Emerita and Alumna                    
  • Dr. Vernon Howard, Distinguished Alumnus and President, Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City   
  • Dr. Cecelia Robinson, Professor Emerita and Historian of Clay County African American Legacy, Inc.

Advisors to the Commission

  • Vincent Paul Gauthier — Kansas City Community Advisor
  • Dr. David Sallee, President Emeritus of William Jewell College — Liberty Community Advisor
  • Dr. Chris Wilkins — Faculty Expert Advisor on Slavery, Memory, and Justice
  • Dr. Carmaletta Williams and The Black Archives of Mid-America Kansas City — Research Advisor

As the work of the Commission unfolds, Dr. Smith and I will serve as spokespeople for the Board, sharing our William Jewell story with the larger community in the days and months ahead.  Please forward any inquiries from community members or media to Cara Dahlor at dahlorc@william.jewell.edu, and she will coordinate communication on behalf of the College.

I’m proud to serve as President of an institution of higher learning that embraces this opportunity with transparency and authenticity.  The Board and I see the upcoming work of the Commission as a driving force for good on The Hill and beyond.  I know you join us in being open to what we will discover, honest about its impact, and hopeful for the vibrant future of William Jewell College and our Region.

With my best,

Elizabeth MacLeod Walls

Catherine Dema

Catherine Dema is the page editor for Features & Investigations on The Hilltop Monitor. She is a senior majoring in Oxbridge: History of Ideas and physics.

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