Thursday, November 12, 2015

oh me, oh my.., how did the real concerned student 1950 ever make it?!?!?!?

mizzoumag |  His master’s degree in economics at MU was supposed to take two years — 1950–52 — but Gus T. Ridgel, who had graduated magna cum laude the previous spring from Lincoln University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, told his adviser he could do it in one.Well, we have problems because I don’t have enough money,” Ridgel, MA ’51, DS ’96, said. “I only have enough money for two semesters.”

Ridgel took his case to the department chair, who saw no harm in letting give it a try. Ridgel would go on to be MU’s first African-American student to earn a graduate degree.

All he had to do was take four semesters’ worth of courses in two and turn in a master’s thesis at the end of it. That’s the plan he started with, says Ridgel, now 87, and it’s the one he ended with.

It was a seven-day-a-week-job,” he says. “There wasn’t a lot of time for social events.” Between classes and thesis writing, he had little time to enjoy Columbia, and, being African-American, many options weren’t available to him. After the dining halls closed for the evening, there was only one place near campus — a coffee shop near University Bookstore — where an African-American student could get something to eat. When he and a few friends sat down for lunch at a different nearby restaurant between classes, his white friends were told they could be served, but Ridgel had to leave. They all walked out.

Ridgel says he was aware he was one of the first black students on campus, but he didn’t focus on it. His objective was just to graduate. “My ‘first’ was purely coincidental,” he says. He didn’t imagine at the time that he’d be coming back decades later to be honored and interviewed.