Hundreds celebrate the legacy of Towson University's diversity pioneer
Julius "Dean" Chapman was like a proud father. He looked out over a sea of people, many of whom were alumni of Towson University and people he impacted with his mentorship. He was in awe.
The feeling was mutual for the hundreds of people gathered outside TU's Media Center October 19 for an unveiling of a bronze bust in the likeness of Chapman, the University's first Dean of Minority Affairs. The bust was funded through the generosity of the brothers of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., Iota Epsilon Chapter. Chapman was the father of the group during his 1969-1981 tenure at what was then-Towson State. The bust is located just feet from a bench designated for Chapman last year.
"I'm just honored that you have honored me," Chapman told the crowd. "I hope that the time I spent with you at Towson was one that was motivating, that helped you achieve your goals, not mine."
Paul-Sean Gray, Sr., a 1988 graduate who is the Towson University Foundation Board Director and a Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. Iota Epsilon member, served as the emcee.
He called Chapman a "remarkable person who accepted an impossible task to change the racial composition of this university."
During his 12-year career, Chapman recruited and mentored African American students while helping to establish the Black Student Union, the Black Faculty and Administrators Association and the Black Cultural Center. Several of those groups are celebrating their 50th anniversary.
TU President Kim Schatzel said that less than one percent of the student population then was African-American. Now, students identifying as African-American make up a quarter of the student population and minority students account for 41 percent of the student population. Forty-eight percent of new students registered as under-represented minorities.
"To just stand here and hear 41 percent, I will tell things have changed in a positive direction," Terris Andre King, 1984 and Omega Phi Sci member, said.
TU was recently named one of the nation's most diverse college campuses by U.S. News & World Report.
"Historically, this is the story of how Towson State College grew from a segregated, traditional white institution to the culturally diverse, multi-ethnic, comprehensive Towson University," Zaynes Cypress, Jr, '79, an Omega Psi Phi Iota Epsilon Chapter line member, said. "More importantly, it's the story of the man who showed us, Towson University's African-American students, its inclusion and diversity stance."
The landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 impacted TU and the challenges Chapman and the few African-American students faced in 1969, and the years after. were many.
"That was an interesting time in our history in this country," Chapman told his mentees. "Voices and ideas went in so many directions and we had to make sense of all that. Through it all, you graduated. That was the most important thing."
Cypress said the post-Jim Crow period in America led to many African-Americans looking for mentors, safety and an opportunity to share their voices in the community.
"His accessibility was exceptional and his calming efforts created an academic environment that assured that each student had the best opportunity to graduate with a degree from this fine and great institution," Cypress said.
Schatzel told Chapman she stood on his shoulders and carried his work forward.
"The legacy that you left, that you started as a foundation, I hope you realize that you put lots of wind on the wings of everybody that stands here today," Schatzel said. "Your legacy is not just in buildings and not just busts. It's in all the people whose lives you influenced and touched and who love you so much."
Towson University has grown so significantly in the last 38 years, Chapman said, that he jokes he needs a map when he arrives on campus. One of the biggest topics of discussion throughout the ceremony was Towson University's recent success with students who identify as minorities. There is a zero percent achievement gap between African-American students and the rest of the student population in terms of graduation.
"The leadership Towson has is unbelievable," Chapman said, singling out the work of President Schatzel and Leah Cox, TU's vice president of inclusion and institutional equity.
Cox said Chapman was so ahead of his time that he created a tutoring program for African-American students at a time when there wasn't a campus-wide program for all students.
"Without you, I probably wouldn't have the position I have today," Cox said. "While TU is trying to move in a direction that creates a more inclusive environment, we have you, Dr. Chapman, to thank for laying the groundwork. You're an inspiration to me and to so many who are here to continue the work you've done."
The honors for Chapman do not end with the bench and bust. President Schatzel made a surprise announcement during in the ceremony. She pointed to the nearby Stephens Annex, which is scheduled to be torn down this year.
"It's going to be a park/quad that's going to be right across from the bust," she said. "This is going to be the Dr. Chapman Quad. So forever and ever, we're going to have students hanging out, sitting, enjoying, learning, talking, being friends and enjoying a gorgeous day like today. And they will be in the Dr. Chapman Quad for the rest of the time."
Chapman appeared to wipe away tears as the crowd rose to their feet to cheer and applaud. The affection for the man they call their father was real.
"I love you more than you'll ever know," Cypress told Chapman. "I know each Omega man within the sound of my voice and those that are to come feel the same way."
This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland, Diverse and Inclusive Campus, Culture of Philanthropy and TIGER Way.