A Cherokee Celebration and Commemoration: President James Ralph Scales and the Cherokee Heritage of Wake Forest University

Friday, November 13th, 2015, Byrum Welcome Center, Wake Forest University, 9:30 am to 6:30 pm

 This symposium honors the rich legacy of President James Ralph Scales, a member of the Cherokee Nation and a champion of Wake Forest University’s commitment to civil rights and inclusivity. Dr. James Ralph Scales served as President of Wake Forest University from 1967 to 1983. As the first and at this point, only minority President in the history of Wake Forest, President Scales was a proud and active member of the Cherokee Nation. His ancestors walked the “Trail of Tears” when Cherokee were removed from their homelands in the Southeast to Oklahoma.  Scheduled at the Porter Byrum Welcoming Center for November 13th, 2015 in honor of American Indian Heritage month, the event will include a series of panel discussions and presentations by notable Cherokee scholars, elders, and community educators, Wake Forest University administrators who worked with President Scales, and a luncheon in honor of President Scales’ legacy with a keynote address by Ms. Jude Burnham. Ms. Burnham, who generously donated archival materials related to President Scales’ life and accomplishment to Wake Forest University.  A student panel with reflections on President Scales and the meaning of his legacy for today’s diverse student populations at WFU will complete the day of celebrations.

There were many outstanding accomplishments during the Scales’ administration on our campus.  As the first President inaugurated on the “new campus” in Winston-Salem, Dr. Scales was responsible for the building of the outstanding “Scales Fine Arts Center” and the purchase of Wake Forest houses for unprecedented study abroad programs in Venice and London respectively.   Dr. Scales was President when the Office of Minority Affairs was founded at Wake Forest in 1978.  This office is regarded as the first of its kind established in the Atlantic Coast Conference universities of which Wake Forest is a member.  Dr. Scales assumed the presidency just five years after the integration of African-American students at Wake Forest.

 WFU Presenters

  • Edwin Wilson – Provost Emeritus who served under Dr. Scales’ entire administration.  Dr. Wilson is the author of The History of Wake Forest University Volume V 1967-1983 (Dr. Scales’ years as President)
  • Beth Norbrey Hopkins, Director of Outreach for the School of Law who studied as an undergraduate student with President Scales
  • Jude Burnham – First Cousin of Dr. Scales, retired public school teacher and educated at Northeastern State University (originally Cherokee National Female Seminary).  She has the same Cherokee lineage as Dr. Scales and inherited much of his archival materials. She has subsequently donated many of these important papers to the Wake Forest University Library.
  • Reid Morgan – Vice President and Legal Counsel at Wake Forest.  He lived with the Scales’ family as a student and worked in Legal Affairs while Dr. Scales was President.
  • Ross Griffith – Served directly under President Scales as Director of Equal Opportunity 1977-1983.  He worked at Wake Forest in different capacities during President Scales’ entire tenure at Wake Forest.
  • Hayes McNeil – Served as Dr. Scales’ Administrative Assistant during Dr. Scales’ tenure as President Emeritus at Wake Forest.  Hayes received his B.A. and M.A. at Wake Forest during Dr. Scales’ presidency.

 Cherokee Scholars, Elders, and Community Educators

  • Trey Adcock (Cherokee Nation), Ph.D. Assistant Professor. Director of American Indian Outreach, and Coordinator of Social Studies Licensure at UNC-Asheville. His Ph.D. in Culture, Curriculum and Change is from UNC-Chapel Hill.
  • Roseanna Belt (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) has served as the Director of the WCU/EBCI Cherokee Center in Cherokee, NC, since June, 2001. She received her bachelor’s degree in History from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she worked for ten years as a university counselor, and earned her master’s degree in Counseling and Consulting Psychology from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.
  • Tom Belt (Cherokee Nation) is the Program Coordinator for Western Carolina’s Cherokee Language Program. He has developed curricula and taught Cherokee language classes for all ages and levels for over twenty years.  He is also a respected elder, invited all across the U.S.to speak on Cherokee culture.
  • Julia Coates (Cherokee Nation), Ph.D. Coates has a PhD from the University of New Mexico, and for over six years was the Project Director and lead instructor for the award-winning Cherokee Nation History Course, which brought her into personal contact with most of the employees of the Cherokees Nation, along with thousands of Cherokees in northeastern Oklahoma communities and throughout the country.
  • Ellen Cushman (Cherokee Nation), Ph.D. is a Literacy and English Education professor in the Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures Department at Michigan State University. Her PhD is from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Rhetoric and Communication. She has recently published a book on the Cherokee syllabary with the University of Oklahoma Press.  She has also served as a Cherokee Nation Sequoyah Commissioner.

 Wake Forest University Student Panelists: TBA


Office of the President, Office of the Provost, Office of the Dean, Office of Multicultural Affairs, American Ethnic Studies Program, Department of Anthropology, Department of History, Department for the Study of Religions, and the Humanities Institute with support from a major grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities

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