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July 16, 2004

Dear Fellow Alumni,

This is a plea for the advice and assistance of all College alumni, but most particularly, those of you who are African American. Fifty-six years after the College made history by voluntarily opening its doors to African American students, making it the first previously all-white institution in the country to do so, it finds itself unable to recruit significant numbers of African American students. The numbers have been embarrassingly small for the last several years, and this academic year only 3 out of 450 students on the Annapolis campus are African American. This is true not because the College’s commitment to maintaining a diverse student body is any less than it was in 1948 or because the College tries any less to attract African American students.

The movement to desegregate the College back in 1948 was wholly internal. It began with students who, with the support of the faculty and administration, persuaded a reluctant Board of Visitors and Governors to join them. Both as the College’s first African American student and as a member of the Board of Visitors and Governors, I would like to see that order reversed, with the initiative for addressing our current problem coming from a committed, concerned and not-at-all reluctant Board. As this Board considers ways in which we might be able to increase minority representation among students on the Annapolis campus, we invite your ideas, and active involvement in our efforts.

Who better than you know your communities and what likely sources of applicants they might contain? Who better than you, as alumni of the College, know what the College is all about? Who better than you can promote St. John’s as providing an education appropriate for all regardless of what their life’s work may ultimately be? Who better than you can address the concerns that would-be students might have?

How can you help? These are some of the ways:

• Let the Admissions Office know of schools which are likely to be good sources for recruiting minority students. John Christensen, the Director of Admissions, can be reached by e-mail at, telephoned at 410-626-2523, or sent written communications at the Annapolis campus.
• If you are a teacher or counselor at a high school, make direct contacts with student candidates you think might be appropriate, tell them about the College’s program, let them know of the College’s interest in attracting minority candidates, answer their questions and invite them to contact the Admissions Office.
• Tell me, as a member of the Board of Visitors and Governors, of any ideas, suggestions or concerns you may have about this effort. I can be reached by e-mail at or by telephone at 410-664-0392.
• If you are among the African American alumni of the College, let the Admissions Office know what ideas you may have about how the College can address the oft-repeated concern of African American students at the College about being different and isolated.
• Let us know your reactions to suggestions that the College do such things as prepare publications targeted to minority students or hold receptions, with alumni participation, specifically for minority students.
• Inform the Admissions Office of how you believe the College’s Web site and written publications could be used more effectively to attract minority students.
• If you are among the African American alumni of the College, let us know whether you believe testimonials from black alumni in College publications or on its Web site might be at all effective in increasing minority interest in the College. If you believe they might be effective, consider whether you might contribute such a testimonial.

St. John’s, like other colleges, calls upon the help of its alumni in many ways. Most of all, however, we depend upon you as our advocates, advisors, assistants and links to the varied communities from which our students come. The College desperately needs your help, and we are confident that we can count on you.


Martin A. Dyer
Class of 1952



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