Dr. Frank Hale, a pioneer in making graduate education accessible to African Americans, was remembered in a seven-hour funeral service last week in Columbus, Ohio. Some 36 speakers — including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Samuel DuBois Cook, president emeritus of Dillard University — lauded Hale, the charming visionary whose 60-year career left a bold, bright stamp on higher education and progress for people of color. Hale, 84, died July 27 of pancreatic cancer.
Other prominent speakers were E. Gordon Gee, the president of Ohio State University, and Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman. Hale was Ohio State University Graduate School's first black associate dean, and in 1971 he became the university's second black vice provost.
The university's Frank W. Hale Black Cultural Center, named to honor his achievements benefiting blacks, women and minorities, is one of the most visible symbols of his legacy there. In 1971, at Hale's urging, the university committed $15 million — then a very large sum — for minority graduate fellowships. At least 1,200 awards were made to minorities, of whom 80 percent earned master's degrees and/or doctorates.
Under his leadership, the university became a national model for successful racial inclusion. In the 1970s and '80s, according to the Ohio State News, it attracted the highest number of minority Ph.D. students among America's four-year colleges and universities.
Hale, who retired after a 54-year career at Ohio State, also distinguished himself at two African-American colleges: Oakwood College, in Huntsville, Ala., as president from 1966-1971; and Central State University, as chair of the English department, before that appointment.
Inducted into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2010, Hale was noted for his uncanny vision and belief in the gifts possessed by everyone he met. Gee said Hale was a "remarkable man and a remarkable life lived in service to the cause of opportunity and equality, who opened the doors to underserved students through sheer force of his intellect and determination."
Cook, 82, who became the first African-American professor to join the faculty of a predominantly white Southern university when he accepted a position at Duke, was interviewed by The Root. He recalled Hale's "great contributions to American higher education, made through enormous sacrifices."
Hale's abiding strength and fundamental genius, said Cook, who was the first black president of the Southern Political Science Association, "was his vision, through which he saw blacks and whites as part of the same humanity and rooted in the same Divine creation."
G. Michael Payne, executive director of the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, said, "Dr. Hale's life and death bring to mind the wise words of the late Senator Robert Kennedy: What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but love, wisdom and compassion toward one another and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within or country, whether they be white or whether they be black."
F. Finley McRae is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.