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Academic pioneers among UC alumni

First woman to graduate from UC

Winona Lee Hawthorne Buck (1856-1935) was the only woman in the university's first graduating class of 1878. On June 20 of that year, eight students received degrees in a ceremony at Pike's Opera House, attended by a "large and cultured audience," according to local newspapers. Each graduate was required to read a baccalaureate essay intended to "grapple with social problems," and Hawthorne's essay was titled "A Plea for the Classics." The Cincinnati Enquirer described her as "a talented and highly cultured young lady," adding that "the reading of her very eloquent and masterly production was frequently interrupted by bursts of applause."

Born in the frontier town of Winona, Minn., Winona Hawthorne bears a name that honors the offspring of a Minnesota Indian chief and means "first-born daughter." When she was 5, her family returned to Northern Kentucky, where her mother had been raised and where her parents were married. After her college graduation, she enrolled as a post-graduate student and tutored in Latin and Greek. In 1881, she married an Army lieutenant named William Langdon Buck who graduated from West Point. By 1888, they had three children.

Youngest UC grad at 16

Darwin Turner (1931-91), A&S '47, M (A&S) '49, HonDoc '83, was UC's youngest graduate, earning his first degree at age 16. He had been admitted at age 13, earned his bachelor's degree in three years and earned a master's two years later. He went on to write 20 books while distinguishing himself in academia and heading the African-American World Studies Program at the University of Iowa. He died age 59 of a heart attack.

First African-American woman to earn UC PhD

Jennie Davis Porter (1876‒1936), Ed ’23, M (Ed) ’24, D (Ed) ’28, became the first African-American woman at UC to earn a PhD and the fourth in the nation to do so. She was born in 1876 to a father who was Cincinnati’s first African-American undertaker and a mother who taught school. Following in her mother’s footsteps, she ran a private kindergarten for African-American children in the West Side, became a teacher at Douglass School, then helped establish the Harriet Beecher Stowe School, where she became its principal, the first African-American woman principal in Cincinnati.

First African-American to receive CCM bachelor's

Arthur Herndon (1933-2009), CCM '61, MM '81, was a tenor singer, a conductor and the first African-American to receive a bachelor's degree from UC's College-Conservatory of Music. After serving in the U.S. Army in Korea, Herndon was honorably discharged and returned home to study music at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music (a predecessor to CCM, where he also received a master's degree in choral conducting). Besides teaching music at both the high school and college levels, Herndon was a vocal soloist with the Cincinnati Ballet Company and Orchestra under the direction of Carmen DeLeone. He served as a vocal instructor at CCM and was extensively involved in Mount Calvary Methodist Church and his community. Herndon also received a Fulbright Scholarship, performed solo recitals throughout Europe and furthered his music career at the Rome Opera House and the Hochschule fur Musik in Berlin. (Read more.)

All Famous Alumni categories …

-- page compiled by Deborah Rieselman / updated 4-13