Architect of Desegregation
Honoring the late Dr. Eugene E. Eubanks
Educators from around the country gathered in Kansas City recently to honor the man known as “the intellectual architect of school desegregation”: the late Dr. Eugene E. Eubanks, longtime dean of the School of Education at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Through a program entitled “School Desegregation Cases: The Life and Legacy of Dr. Eugene E. Eubanks,” a group of accomplished educators and civic leaders paid tribute to Eubanks, noted as both a courageous leader and a distinguished scholar.
Eubanks was the first African-American dean of the UMKC School of Education, a post he held from 1980 to 1988; he spent a total of 29 years in the department. He served as a consultant to the United States Commission on Civil Rights and distinguished himself as a consummate scholar, having published numerous journal articles. He served as editor of the Journal of the National Alliance of Black School Educators, receiving the W.E.B. Dubois Award from that organization in 1997. He served as both president and board chair of the American Association of Colleges of Teachers in Education (AACTE) and was presented with that organization’s highest honor, the Pomeroy Award. He also earned the U.S. Department of Education’s John Stanford Education Heroes Award.
And he touched lives: many directly, many more indirectly.
“His efforts made it possible for me to serve,” said Leo E. Morton, UMKC chancellor. “”Someone had to pave the way. I am just standing on his shoulders.”
Dr. Bernie Oliver, a professor at the University of Florida, was one of many who traveled long distances to attend the event. Oliver said Eubanks produced “historic” scholarship that “changed the face of education as we know it.”
Eubanks was as strong and courageous as he was brilliant, Oliver said.
“He was a true warrior. He was one of the first black deans in the country. He was a mentor, he was a leader. And Gene Eubanks was brilliant. To know that, all you had to do was engage him in conversation about his work.”
Dr. David Imig, a professor at the University of Maryland - College Park and president emeritus of the AACTE, talked about the connections between Eubanks’ local work and national progress on urban education. Eubanks was well known locally as chair of the Desegregation Monitoring Committee, the court-appointed body overseeing the desegregation of the Kansas City, Missouri School District.
“You knew him for his efforts to make the Kansas City schools more equitable and fair to all students, but Gene made substantial contributions to the national conversation about quality teaching and teacher and principal preparation,” Imig said. “He challenged his fellow deans to confront the enormous inequities that plagued our schools. He ruffled some feathers along the way, but he earned the enormous respect of his colleagues in Missouri and across the country.”
Dean Wanda Blanchett of the School of Education concluded the program by calling on the audience members to pick up Eubanks’ legacy and carry it forward.
“Dr. Eubanks had a mission; a dream. From the stories today, Dr. Eubanks most assuredly continues to be a role model to all of us who labor to create educational systems that are not only relevant but also socially and morally just,” Blanchett said. “Our responsibility is to carry on Dr. Eubanks’ work with renewed vigor for the benefit of our children first and foremost, but for the underlying well-being of urban communities in Kansas City and throughout this great country.”