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Around the Columns

Building honors pioneering professor

stricklandStudents successfully lobbied the Board of Curators to rename the General Classroom Building in honor of Arvarh Strickland, Mizzou’s first black professor. Photo by Rob Hill.

In April, the General Classroom Building (GCB) became MU’s first academic building named for an African-American when the University of Missouri Board of Curators voted to rename it Strickland Hall. “I have no problems with being the first,” says pioneering professor Arvarh Strickland, “but I certainly didn’t want to be the only.”

He taught history from 1969–98 and knows GCB well. “I taught on every floor of that building,” he says.

Strickland, who was honored upon his retirement with a named endowed professorship, says he is particularly proud that students lobbied for the building’s name change. “I think that the students wanted to say that there ought to be something on the campus that would symbolize that black people have been here and have become an integral part of this institution,” he says. He is honored that colleagues see him as worthy of becoming that symbol. “That’s a marvelous role to play,” he says.

Strickland is proud of his students and their accomplishments. The ones who weren’t prepared to work hard avoided his classes. “I taught a special course when [the miniseries] Roots was aired on television. My wife took that course with me, and there was a rumor that I flunked her,” he says with a hearty laugh. Word was he also flunked his son. “Although they were without foundation,” he says, “I never did dispel those rumors.”