University of Nebraska Renames a Building to Honor a Trailblazing Black Scholar

The College of Education and Human Sciences at the Univerity of Nebraska-Lincoln is renaming the Human Sciences Building on East Campus after longtime faculty member and administrator Gwendolyn Newkirk.

Dr. Newkirk came to Nebraska in 1971 as chair of the department of home economics education in the College of Home Economics. It is believed she was the first faculty member of color in the college and was its only department chair of color. Dr. Newkirk led the department at a time when the home economics education major was losing momentum across the nation. As a result, Dr. Newkirk facilitated major revisions to the curriculum to enhance its relevance and impact, while overseeing the renaming of the department from home economics education to consumer science and education.

In 1975, Dr. Newkirk was elected the first African American president of the American Home Economics Association. This is a significant achievement, especially considering that when Dr. Newkirk began her professional career, she was not permitted to join the organization because of her race.

Dr. Newkirk retired from the university in 1991.

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