Obit of the Day: The Last Living Female Graduate of Morehouse College
Mary Cecilia Robinson wanted to attend Morehouse College. Located in Atlanta, Georgia with roots dating back to 1867, Morehouse - then and now - was a premiere liberal arts institution for black men in the United States*. But only for men. And yet, for four years, the college allowed women to attend courses through a short-lived extension program.
Ms. Robinson, who later married and became Mary Robinson Spivey, was one of 33 women who matriculated at the college during that time. And even among that small number of women, she stood out. While her female compatriots attended classes in the evening, Mrs. Spivey was the lone female student to have a daytime class schedule.
When asked how her experience was as the only women taking classes on the all-male campus, she replied that they got along fine, “If they had a problem with me, it was probably because I was a good student and made better grades than many of them.”
Mrs. Spivey was also only 15 years old when she began taking courses at Morehouse. Her mother spoke with the college administration and convinced them to allow her teenage daughter attend in the unusual circumstance. Mrs. Spivey graduated in 1933 when she was 19.
Years later, Morehouse College administrators became aware that Mrs. Spivey had had her diploma stolen. In 2011, Mrs. Spivey was invited to attend the commencement ceremonies and was given a new copy of the diploma, 78 years after she received the original.
At the time of her death on February 22, 2014, Mrs. Spivey was the last female graduates of Morehouse College who has accepted no women at its institution since the Class of 1933^.
Mary Robinson Spivey, who spent her career teaching in the Atlanta public schools, died at the age of 99.
Sources: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Cascade (GA) Patch, Morehouse.edu, and Wikipedia
(Image of Mary Robinson Spivey receiving her diploma from Morehouse College President, Dr. Robert Michael Franklin. I could not identify the gentleman on the left, so any help would be appreciated. Copyright Morehouse College and courtesy of hbcudigest.com)
* Morehouse has a long list of honored alumni including Martin Luther King, Jr. (1948), Herman Cain (1962), Samuel L. Jackson (1972), and Spike Lee (1979). You can see a fuller list here.
^ Morehouse is located up the road from Spelman College, which is another legendary historically black college and is all-female. The two institutions have had a long-standing academic and business relationship. Interestingly Morehouse’s “sister school” is Bennett College in North Carolina.