Education Symposium Honors Retiring Earl Ingram

Posted: April 21, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Sharon Taylor

Earl Ingram, vice president and university equity officer, is retiring on May 9 after 15 years at George Mason. Ingram has shepherded the Equity Office steadily toward its goal: to create and maintain a nondiscriminatory environment in which faculty, staff, and students can thrive. A symposium honoring Ingram, his commitment to equity, and service to the university is held in Mason Hall, Room D23, today from 1 to 2:30 p.m., followed by a reception in the Concert Hall. The symposium panel will focus on issues of access and equity in higher education

“The symposium occurs on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Brown versus Board of Education, and it is a fitting tribute to Earl Ingram’s contribution to George Mason,” says Frank Matthews, publisher of Black Issues in Higher Education and EEO officer when Ingram came to Mason. “It is an opportunity to reflect on the important issues of access and equity in higher education.”

The symposium, “Education: A Question of Access and Equity,” is moderated by Roger Wilkins, Robinson Professor of History and American Culture, and Board of Visitors Rector Edwin Meese provides the introduction. Panelists are Toni-Michelle Travis, Public and International Affairs; Marilyn McKenzie, African American Studies; Anita Taylor, Communication; and Charles Thomas, Graduate School of Education.

Speakers at the reception include Daniele Struppa, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; President Emeritus George Johnson; William Smith, U.S. Department of Education; and Provost Peter Stearns.

Ingram was brought to George Mason by Johnson in 1988. Not unlike universities nationwide, Mason, a young university, was grappling with the effect on university life of lingering discriminatory policies and behavior in recruiting students, faculty, and staff. Johnson had a powerful commitment to equity, Ingram recalls, and he wanted Ingram to move Mason quickly toward equitable policies for all university operations.

Ingram had fought for equity and equality of opportunity in education since signing on as a teacher in the Jim Crow South in 1959. He brought 30 years of experience dealing with the resistance of administrators and institutions to implementation of the 1954 desegregation in education decision of Brown v. Board of Education. Ingram’s life’s work has been the pursuit of access, equity, and affirmative action in education.

“Earl is the most consistent voice at Mason on the importance of diversity,” says Ron Sinacore, affirmative action/EEO planning compliance coordinator, who has worked with Ingram for 12 years. “Every appointment of women, African Americans, and other diverse staff and faculty members has his fingerprint on it.”

As the Equity Office has evolved and changed, so have the challenges it faces. Ingram says sexual harassment and race were the dominant issues during his early years at Mason. As the landscape of equity issues changed, to include sexual orientation and disability, strong leadership from the President’s Office was critical to the Equity’s Office success. Ingram is partial to Merten’s adage, “What gets measured, gets better.” He agrees that setting goals for affirmative action and other issues of equity and equality requires an organization to benchmark its position and set a direction for accountability. Of his tenure at Mason, Ingram says, “It’s been a hell of a ride. It’s also been an unusual challenge, having had responsibility for all controversial decisions regarding hiring and signing off on all faculty appointments.” He designed and instituted a five-stage procedure to eliminate barriers to equity in hiring policy.

Although counseling organizations on effective equity policy has dominated Ingram’s career, he remains deeply committed to education. “Education is about changing behavior, not just the acquisition of knowledge. Universities are cultural laboratories in which we strive to produce global students for a global society.” Further, he believes it is enlightened self-interest for a university to create an environment where students experience other viewpoints.

“Earl combines burning integrity with unfailing civility,” says Wilkins. “It’s a wonderful combination that’s enabled him to be extraordinarily successful and deeply appreciated and loved.”

For more information on the symposium, contact Yolanda King at (703) 993-8730.

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