Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences will honor its first African American graduate, Ernest Boyd, at a luncheon April 7. The milestone celebration of the school’s 40-year history of diversity will be held at 11:30 a.m. in the conference hall of the school’s building. Invited guests will join in the celebration.
Boyd, a native of Tuskegee, graduated in forestry in 1976. After graduation, he served in the U.S. Army for 18 years and then became an elementary and intermediate school teacher. He says he feels race relations have improved since he graduated.
“What my classmates and the instructors at Auburn learned is that you have to find out where the other person’s values lie,” Boyd said. “They came to find out that my values were the same as theirs. I wanted a good education and livelihood for me and my family. Once they found out where I was coming from, they looked at me and said what’s the difference? Nothing but the color of our skin.”
Boyd says he sees parallels today with issues of immigration, that just as it had been for blacks and whites in the 20th century, he feels the basis of migrant relations is common ground. He says he’s learned over a period of time that in order for people to tolerate each other, they have to learn to talk to each other. He says if we open that dialogue and learn to communicate, hatred will start to disappear.
The collegiate spirit of Auburn University is a unifying force for Boyd. He likes to see and use the phrase, “War Eagle,” because it breaks the ice with other people. “I can talk to anybody; people open up once you break that ice.”
“In that spirit of unity and shared experience, the school is proud to celebrate Ernest Boyd, the school’s First African American graduate,” said Heather Crozier, director of development for the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.
At the luncheon the school will also recognize Ken Day ’81 and Dana Little ’79, who spearheaded the school’s African American Alumni Scholarship Endowment along with 10 others who contributed to the effort.
“The goal of this scholarship is to foster a campus environment that respects differences and encourages inclusiveness, as well as to increase the recruitment, retention and representation of minorities and other groups within the school,” Dean Janaki Alavalapati said.
Originally published April 1st, 2016.
(Written by Jamie Anderson)