Sunday, May 21, 2017

Wiley College Honors Convocation

On Monday evening, April 10, I was on the campus of Wiley College in Marshall for the Annual Honors Convocation. More than 140 students were designated to receive certificates recognizing their academic achievements as President's Scholars (3.80 to 4.00 GPA) or Dean's Scholars (3.79 to 3.50 GPA). I was present at the invitation of Dr. Bernadette Bruster, Academic Dean and Chair of the Honors Convocation Committee. Dean Bruster asked me to address the Convocation, and a full page of the 12-page program was devoted to the credentials and a color photograph of the State Historian.

The event was held in the Julius S. Scott, Sr., Chapel. We entered the auditorium in a formal processional, accompanied by organ music played by Dr. T. Bernard Clayton, Professor of Music. Following an invocation, we were entertained by a magnificent organ selection from Dr. JuYeon J. Lee of the music faculty.

I was introduced by Dr. Raquel Henry, Assistant Professor of History. My remarks related highlights of Wiley College, which was established in 1873 and is the oldest African-American college in Texas. The students were unaware, for example, that the Wiley Wildcats won three national football championships, one each in the decade of the 1920s, the 1930s, and the 1940s. More familiar was the triumph of the Wiley debate teams under English professor and poet Melvin B. Tolson, portrayed by Denzel Washington in the 2007 motion picture, The Great Debaters. Along with anecdotes and facts about their institution, I told the honorees about my admiration for higher education students who are academic achievers.

A professional photographer was present to record the moment when, as each honoree, having been presented his or her certificate, ascended the stage and shook hands with Dr. Bruster. As the first student walked toward Dean Bruster, I was surprised when I was summoned from my chair to help welcome each student. I was informed that the honorees wanted the Texas State Historian to shake their hands and offer words of congratulations and pose with Dean Bruster and each fine student. I was immensely proud to be included in the ceremony in this unexpected manner.

Afterward we repaired to the nearby Freeman P. and Carrie E. Hodge Building, where refreshments and a reception had been prepared. Wiley College could take pride in the memorable occasion that had been staged to honor their best students.   

Dr. Bruster presented a plaque to me commemorating the State Historian's participation in the 2017 Honors Convocation.


In 1907 Wiley President Matthew Dogan obtained a Carnegie Grant to erect a public library on the Wiley campus. Thirteen of the 33 Carnegie library buildings in Texas still stand, and four are still used as libraries. During the 1970s the Carnegie structure on the Wiley campus was converted to an administration building.

Following the devastating campus fire of 1906, a new President's Home was built, utilizing student labor.



  1. The honorees at Wiley College were treated to the engaging storytelling of Dr. Bill O'Neal. They listened with rapt attention to historical facts they never heard about their Alma Mater. Sincere thanks for distinguishing this important event with meaning and personal congratulations to every honoree.

  2. Good post, it has everything one needs to know about Texas Civil War Museum, going to give it a visit soon. Thank you for sharing it with us