A legacy of advocacy for African American students
During his tenure at Appalachian, Dr. Willie Fleming ’80 ’84 made a difference in the lives of African American students. As the first advisor for minority students, he helped hundreds of students successfully navigate their undergraduate academic careers. He founded and directed Appalachian’s Gospel Choir, advised the Black Student Association and helped bring several Black fraternities and sororities to the university. After years of service in student affairs, Dr. Fleming served as a faculty member in the Hayes School of Music and the Reich College of Education.
Dr. Fleming’s former students recall a generous mentor and father figure who would buy meals for those whose meal cards had run out, or make sure they could get home over break, even if he had to drive them himself. Now alumni, the students whose lives Dr. Fleming touched are excited about the growth and development of the university, but they are also concerned about the lack of corresponding growth in the number of African American students. They want to honor Dr. Fleming by helping to increase minority student enrollment at Appalachian.
Recently, several of these alumni, led by Gary Henderson ’92 ’94, started a scholarship in Dr. Fleming’s name. “Dr. Fleming was a confident and vigorous advocate for African American students,” says Henderson. “We want to see more minority students benefit from the excellent opportunities Appalachian provides.”