Baylor honors legacy of their first African-American math professor

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Dozens of people showed up at Baylor on Tuesday for the unveiling of a bronze bust of the university’s first African-American math professor.

Speakers at Baylor and speakers from near and far came to honor Dr. Vivienne Malone-Mayes, who has a story of trials and tribulations – and also made history at other schools in the state of Texas.

Dr. Mayes’s daughter attended the ceremony to accept the bust in her mother’s honor, along with other faculty members who all spoke at the event.

Dr. Malone-Mayes – Waco native, mathematician, activist, and pioneer.

“But now I can truly say that Baylor University has stepped up, showed out and made us proud,” says Patsy Mayes-Wheeler, daughter of Dr. Malone-Mayes. “Hopefully this will inspire and give those students the encouragement they need to reach out and explore this field.”

Guest speakers spoke about her struggles as the first African-American student at the University of Texas, and also her perseverance and love for teaching mathematics.

“Vivienne was also the fifth African-American female to earn her Ph.D. in mathematics in the U.S.,” says Dr. Lance Littlejohn. 

“I think I’m especially touched by her bravery and her courage through extremely challenging times to stand up for what she believed in,” says Dr. Linda Livingstone, Baylor’s President.

Dr. Malone-Mayes retired in 1994 and passed away in 1995 – but not before becoming a noteworthy figure of achievement in the face of institutionalized racism and a positive inspiration for the future.

“But if we see this as what it could be – as a guide, as a goal, as a spur to us, that this will not stand. That we will work harder and harder to make sure that we have a representation of the African-Americans and the Hispanics and other minorities that we haven’t done a good job of, so that Baylor University becomes a light on a hill instead of always having to apologize that we’re not better than we are,” says Professor Robert Darden.

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