, Walla Walla University, with Adventist Review staff
Walla Walla University has opened a race and ethnicity studies center that will organize an annual conference and encourage student-led involvement in inner-city projects and social justice campaigns.
The Donald Blake Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture will promote academic research through the annual conference featuring a keynote speaker who is a leading academic on subject matter related to the study of race, ethnicity, and culture.
The center also will offer pedagogy workshops on curriculum inclusiveness and multiculturalism, and it “will aim for excellence in thought, generosity in service, beauty in expression, and faith in God through the promotion of research, the provision of pedagogical resources, and the encouragement of student-led acts of service that relate to race, ethnicity, and culture,” said the the center’s director, Timothy Golden, philosophy professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Church-owned university in College Place, Washington.
Walla Walla University president John McVay described the Donald Blake Center as vital for the campus.
“In an increasingly divided and divisive cultural milieu, it can be all too easy for us to forget the values of cultural literacy and diversity that should be deeply embedded in our institutional and missional DNA,” he said Tuesday.
“We need the Donald Blake Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture to foster the campus-wide conversation and pedagogical innovation that are essential in this challenging yet opportunity-laden moment,” he said. “If Walla Walla University is to have a robust future — and by God¹s grace, it shall — it will be a diverse future. The Donald Blake Center will help us in the pivot toward that future, and will help us thrive in the days to come.”
The center, which opened on April 24, is named after Donald Blake, a member of the faculty in the Walla Walla College Department of Biological Sciences from 1962 to 1969. When Blake accepted the position, he was one of the first black tenure-track faculty members to be hired at a predominately white Seventh-day Adventist college or university.
“My employment at Walla Walla College led to the integration of higher education in the Adventist education system,” Blake said, reflecting on the new center. “Whoever thought that a simple phone call on Memorial Day in 1962 would result in this center being named for me or the center being set up? Since Walla Walla College took the initiative to integrate Adventist higher education, this center is a natural follow-up.”
Encouraging student participation in inner-city missions and social justice campaigns will be a key part of the Donald Blake Center’s program. The target groups for those acts of service will be community groups, government agencies, businesses, and non-profit groups that address social problems connected to the problem of racism and its devastating effects on contemporary social and cultural life.
Other than Walla Walla, Blake has taught at Oakwood College, University of Rhode Island, Ohio State University, Mississippi Valley State University, Southern Illinois University, University of Kentucky, Kentucky State University, and the University of Hartford. He also has held administrative positions in higher education, including vice president for academic affairs at Kentucky State University and dean of instruction at Mississippi Valley State University.
Blake has a bachelor’s degree from Oakwood College, a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Michigan State University, a doctorate from the University of Rhode Island, and an honorary doctorate from Briarwood College. He has extensive experience in corporate management, organizational consulting, and strategic planning with companies such as ITT Hartford Insurance Group, Agappe Consulting, and the Center for Personal and Professional Excellence, where he continues to work past his 84th birthday.