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Gloster, Hugh(1911–2002) - College president, Founds College Language Association, The Hampton Institute Years, Chronology, Becomes College President

morehouse atlanta university gloster’s

Historically black colleges and universities praised Hugh Morris Gloster as one of the celebrities among their college presidents. President of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, for twenty years (1967–87), Gloster, affectionately called “Hugh” by the student body, touched the lives of thousands of students who later held prominent positions around the country. However, in a nationwide survey conducted by the Exxon Education Foundation, peers named Gloster one of the 100 most effective college presidents in the United States. College and university English and foreign language teachers also acknowledged Gloster as the founder and first president of the prestigious association of black teachers, scholars, and writers, the College Language Association, and his outstanding achievements as author and scholar. Hugh Gloster was a visionary, a creator, and an originator. He pioneered his way to success in all areas of his career by his foresight, imagination, and bold decisions.

Gloster was born in Brownsville, Tennessee, on May 11, 1911, to John R. and Dora Gloster. Near the end of World War I, lynchings of African Americans in Brownsville forced John Gloster to move the family to nearby Memphis, Tennessee, to provide a safer environment for his family. Hugh, the last of three boys and a girl, was essentially reared as an only child. His sister, Alice, died in her teens, and his brothers, Clarence and Claudius (also known as Claude) were many years his senior.

According to the census, Gloster’s parents were born during the slavery era; nevertheless, they became educators. At the end of the nineteenth century, Gloster’s father attended Roger Williams University, one of Nashville, Tennessee’s four colleges founded for freed slaves. The university merged in 1929 with How Institute of Memphis (subsequently Lemoyne-Owen College) where John Gloster later served on the board for several years.

Hugh Gloster later appreciated the importance his parents placed on excellence in learning. Following their parental model, all of the Gloster children pursued an education. They may be identified as Morehouse men, having all graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. After Morehouse, Clarence continued his studies at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, and practiced medicine for many years in Tuskegee, Alabama. Claudius studied music and performed and taught private lessons in Chicago. Hugh remained in Atlanta to complete a M.A. at Atlanta University.

Founds College Language Association

Gloster began his teaching career at Lemoyne College in 1933. Four years later, the need for a venue in which to discuss issues pertaining to blacks and engage in research and scholarly discussion inspired the creation of the Association of Teachers of English in Negro Colleges. By 1941, the association had enlarged its scope to include foreign language teachers and the teaching of literature. Eventually in 1949 the group became known as the College Language Association. In the document, “The College Language Association Collection,” scholars acknowledged the following about the organization: “The rich tradition of Black intellectual history is incomplete without the records of the CLA. The debates, the studies, scholarly works … is [sic] testament to the ongoing conversation intra-internationally about the value of literature and language in the African American community.” As first and fifth president of the organization and a board member for sixty-five years, Gloster served the organization with distinction. CLA honored Gloster with the President’s Award in 1997 and established the Hugh M. Gloster Endowed Scholarship in 1999. CLA returned in April 2002 to Lemoyne-Owen to celebrate the sixty-fifth year of the organization and to honor its founder who unfortunately died on February 16, two months before the conference.

Gloster’s creation of and work to develop CLA signaled his dedication to the profession, but his plans to do much more uprooted him from Lemoyne College. With the nation at war, Gloster left in 1941 to pursue a doctorate in English at New York University. In spite of his Ph.D., Gloster then faced military service. Leaving New York University in 1943, Gloster reported to Fort Hauchuca, Arizona, as United States organization program director at the all black military training facility. He ended his military service as associate regional director in familiar territory, Atlanta, Georgia, in 1946 to begin work at Hampton Institute.

The Hampton Institute Years

Gloster accepted a teaching position at Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia, culturally, professionally, and personally stimulated by the interaction with writers, artists, and intellectuals in the atmosphere of the Harlem Renaissance during his studies in New York and with experience in administration and deepened otherwise by three years of military service. At Hampton, Gloster distinguished himself as teacher, scholar, and administrator during his twenty-one years (1946–67). Gloster’s authorship of numerous articles on African American literature included his groundbreaking work (the result of his dissertation) in black literary criticism, Negro Voices in American Fiction , published by University of North Carolina in 1948. A reviewer, Alexander Cowie, hailed the work as an “illuminating survey of little-known territory.” Gloster’s work as co-editor of The Brown Thrush , an anthology of student verse, and a college textbook, My Life-My Country-My World (in print since 1948) define his career as a scholar. Gloster also lectured in Hiroshima, Japan, as a Fulbright lecturer traveling extensively in Asia with his first wife, Louise, and their two daughters.

Chronology

1911

Born in Brownsville, Tennessee on May 11

1931

Receives B.A. degree in English at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia

1933

Receives M.A. degree in English at Atlanta University

1935

Founds Association of Teachers of English in Negro Colleges at Lemoyne College, Memphis, Tennessee (subsequently College Language Association)

1941

Enters New York University for doctoral studies in English

1943–46

Completes doctorate and begins work with USO as an administrator

1946

Begins teaching career at Hampton Institute

1948

Publishes Negro Voices in American Fiction

1967

Leaves Hampton Institute to become president of Morehouse College

1987

Selected as one of the 100 most effective college presidents in the United States

1987

Retires from Morehouse College at age of 75

2002

Dies in Decatur, Georgia on February 16

As an administrator at Hampton, Gloster pioneered a pre-college program in 1952. He was director of the summer session from 1952 to 1962. His success in administration prepared him for his role as dean of faculty. Gloster’s success in fund raising ($21 million) contributed to his selection as president at Morehouse College in 1967. Hampton honored him with the Centennial Award in 1968 and an honorary degree, doctor of Humane Letters, in 1999.

Becomes College President

As recorded in the Gloster papers at Atlanta University Center Library, in his inauguration speech as seventh president of Morehouse, Gloster declared his vision for the school: “I did not come to Morehouse to maintain the status quo but to work with all in developing it as a first class institution … [It] will never become a mini-college with a mini-curriculum, a mini-faculty and a mini-student body.” Given the typically short terms for university presidents, it is remarkable that in nearly five decades (1940–87) only two presidents, Benjamin E. Mays (1940–67) and Hugh Morris Gloster, helmed Morehouse College, a private liberal arts college and the only college for black males in the United States. Even with his outstanding credentials, many feared Gloster might lack the ability to step out of the large shadow cast by his predecessor although Gloster knew Atlanta and Morehouse well from the vantage point of a student and teacher. As reported in the article, “Morehouse Gloster: Man on a Mountain Top,” Gloster recalled a barber telling him to quit because he could not replace Jesus. Nevertheless, Gloster, the first graduate to become president, transformed Morehouse College from a regional college of teachers and preachers to an internationally known academic institution.

Gloster’s arrival in Atlanta from Hampton, Virginia, came within two months of the death of Morehouse’s most famous alumnus, Martin Luther King Jr. Starting a new career amid a politicized and stimulating environment, Gloster challenged Morehouse men, as quoted in an article in the Atlanta Daily World , “to learn as much about American Negro literature and history and the race problem and race relations as I know.”

After twenty years of presidential service, campus organizers celebrated him, as the recognition banquet program booklet states, “For Two Decades of Progressive Leadership.” Listed among his major accomplishments was the establishment in 1976 of the Morehouse School of Medicine, the first medical school planned and opened by blacks in the United States. The School of Medicine graduated its first class two years before Gloster’s retirement in 1987. Other impressive accomplishments were increasing the number of majors in the Department of Business, doubling student enrollment and faculty, quadrupling the college endowment to $20 million and overall raising more than $100 million for the college. As quoted in The Atlanta Journal Constitution , the president of the Robert Woodruff Foundation stated, “One always knew that an investment made in the college during his tenure was an investment well made.”

Upon his retirement from Morehouse College in 1987 at the age of 75, Gloster declined numerous offers of college and interim presidencies. Instead he spent most of his fifteen years in retirement not writing books as he thought he would but consulting with major educational organizations, serving on boards such as UNCF and Lemoyne-Owen. Until September 11, 2001 curtailed his trips, Gloster traveled extensively around the world with his third wife, Yvonne King Gloster, a lawyer, who was his executive assistant at Morehouse College. Being a family man, he also enjoyed the family gatherings, which included his three children, Alice and Evelyn (by his first wife Louise), and Hugh Junior (by his second wife Beulah), four step-children and numerous grand and great-grand children.

“I wish I could have done more. But where would we be if we did not have wishes and dreams,” reflected Gloster in a Chronicle of Higher Education interview at the end of his career. Always striving for excellence, Gloster lived a life of superlatives. He influenced the lives of many through his excellent teaching and his bold administration work. Retiring president of Tennessee State University, James Hefner, referred to Gloster in an interview with the Tennessee Tribune : “I have tried to adhere to the philosophy of President Hugh Gloster, who I worked for at Morehouse College. He believed that your work should speak for you.” Gloster demonstrated his commitment and dedication to the education of African Americans. By all standards he met the challenge of the students at Morehouse whose letter in 1967 to the in-coming president stated: “We challenge you, Dr. Gloster, to provide powerful and dynamic leadership.”

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