Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

Black Firsts, May 2008: Joshua Packwood

May 18th, 2008 by Ajuan Mance

Joshua Packwood, Morehouse College valedictorian for 2008

Each May, Morehouse College, the historically Black all-men’s institution in Atlanta, honors as its valedictorian the graduating senior with the highest G.P.A. This year, for the first time in the school’s 141-year history, that student is white.

Joshua Packwood, the valedictorian for the Morehouse College class of 2008, is reported to have turned down institutions like Columbia University and Stanford to attend the historically Black men’s college.

A Rhodes Scholar with a 4.O G.P.A., Packwood took advantage of all of the opportunities that Morehouse had to offer. He did summer internships in New York with Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, and he studied abroad in London and Costa Rica.

Far from being ostricized, has been embraced by his Morehouse brethren. A popular student on campus, he was elected dorm president during his freshman year. These statements by his friends and classmates, from a feature article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, speak to his full acceptance as a true Morehouse man:

“Josh Packwood is Morehouse,” the college’s president, Robert Franklin, said in his inauguration speech in February. “He happens to be Euro-American and brings much appreciated diversity to our campus.”

Wendell Marsh, a junior English and French major who is black, said talking to Packwood as a high school senior helped make up his mind to come to Morehouse.

“Right now we live in a time where people say the black institution is obsolete, that you can get a better education at a majority institution,” Marsh said. “To see a white guy who had declined Harvard for Morehouse, I figured it was good enough for me.”

Packwood raised “the bar for everyone,” said Stanton Fears, a senior economics major.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

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One Response

  1. 2Serenity

    Stories like his make my heart smile. I’m a graduate of Spelman College and I don’t recall any white American students on our campus during the time I was there(1992-1996). I do recall international students from European countries and Asian countries who told me that they didn’t feel like they fit in at the HBCU. However, with those particular students I felt they were like me building their self confidence and growing into the young women they are today who are secure with who they are and their abilities to compete anywhere.

    When I read stories like Joshua it reminds me of how I was embraced by my high school (a predominately white school). Like Joshua, I graduated at the top of my class. However, the weird thing with me is that though there were few black students at my school, they didn’t embrace me too well because I was a transfer student but the white students did embrace me. Strange!

    Thank you for sharing!

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