"A Great Light"

"A Great Light"

“A Great Light: The Office of African-American Affairs at the University of Virginia, 2006-2015”

An overview commemorating its fortieth anniversary by Professor Ervin L. Jordan Jr., Research Archivist, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library

The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. —Matthew 4:16 (New King James Version)

The history we share should give you hope. The future we share should give you hope. Your generation is poised for success unlike any generation of African Americans

 that came before it.

—Barack Obama

This essay, derived from a forthcoming history of African-Americans at U.Va., is copyrighted  © 2015 by Prof. Ervin L. Jordan Jr., and reproduced here by permission. No part of this work may be reproduced or stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without his written permission. All Rights Reserved.

On the eve of its fortieth anniversary (2016), the Office of African-American Affairs (OAAA) at the University of Virginia can look back on a praiseworthy record against the backdrop of two recently notable examples of racial and gender-based change in America and at the University: the 2008 election of Barack Obama as the first African-American president of the United States, and the 2010 election of Teresa Sullivan as the University’s first female president—events unimaginable a decade ago.

This essay is a 2006-2015 historical overview of the OAAA and supplements my previous piece, “The First Generation: Thirty Years of the Office of African-American Affairs at the University of Virginia.” More than merely a cultural refuge, the OAAA facilitates solutions to issues of university concern as a substantial intellectual resource whose forty-year journey on stony paths intermittently potholed with controversies has not always involved only race matters.

Among its most impressive aspects are stability and leadership as exemplified by currentdean Dr. Maurice Apprey, professor of psychiatric medicine and neurobehavioral sciences, former associate dean for diversity at the School of Medicine, and member of the university faculty since 1980. In furtherance of his work in social change management, Dr. Apprey received a second doctorate, in executive management, in the spring of 2006. Named interim dean in August 2006, he became the OAAA’s fifth dean in his own right in June 2007; since then he has been (and is) a steady hand at its helm, perceptively navigating it and the university community through racially troubled waters. Dean Apprey’s nine-year deanship is the second longest in OAAA history, and he has proven an imperturbable and influential leader whose very voice, presence, and character inspires confidence. Individuals and institutions are well-served by his experience in minority student recruitment and retention, and as an international authority on ethno-national conflict resolution.  

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