Dr. Eddie V. Easley (November 16, 1928 - January 13, 2010)

Originally submitted by: Erica Skuta, Drake University, Nov 29, 2010


Drake Connections and Significant Accomplishments:

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Eddie Easley - copyright - Drake University

In1957 Drake welcomed Eddie Easley as the first African American faculty member to be hired at Drake. Easley joined the Drake faculty as an assistant and associate professor of marketing. He became a professor of marketing and Chairman of the Marketing Department in 1966 [1].

Easley was adorned with many personal achievements. He wrote Negro Businesses in Milwaukee - Inner Core which was published in 1967 and several other publications. During Easley’s time at Drake he was presented with many honors. In 1968 he was named Drake’s Teacher of the Year. Also in 1968 he received a $1,000 Iowa Realty Company award for Extraordinary Undergraduate Teaching. Recipients of this award are nominated by their fellow faculty members and by students of the University. The criteria for this award included: the recipient should personify the informed mind in inspirational dialogue with students, should symbolize integrity in his personal relationships, must display rigor in all intellectual endeavors, and must communicate a contagious enthusiasm for his subject matter [2]. In 1977 he was awarded the Faculty Service Award. He was given three Ford Foundation Fellowships at various times for summer study from University of Chicago, Carnegie-Mellon, and University of Michigan. Easley is on the list of the Outstanding Educators of America, and Who's Who in American. He also holds memberships in Beta Gamma Sigma (business honorary society), and Omicron Delta Kappa (men's leadership honorary society). He was named Alpha Phi Alpha's Brother of the Year by his Des Moines chapter and received the Jewel Award in 2005 from his Winston-Salem chapter [1]. Needless to say he excelled and stood out in all of the organizations that he was a part of and acted as great leader to all those involved in the organization.

Community Involvement:

Not only was Easley an excellent professor but he was a prominent part of the community. He was involved in numerous activities both in his personal life and on campus. He served as the president for the Iowa Chapter of the American Marketing Association, served on the Des Moines City Board of Zoning Adjustments, United Way of central Iowa, Des Moines School Board, Mental Health Commission, part of the Men’s Leadership Honorary Organization, and was president of the Willkie Housein Des Moines. The Willkie House was established in 1917 and is one of the oldest African-American community based organizations in the State of Iowa. The mission of the Willkie House is to, "Develop character and esteem in young people through the provision of quality, evidenced based programming focusing on academic, social skill building, health and recreational curricula. It is the ultimate vision of the Willkie House to assist young people in reaching their highest potential." [3] On campus Easley was involved in University Senate, advisor to the Marketing Club, and advisor to Delta Sigma Pi and Omicron Delta Kappa.

Early Years & Education:
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1431 41st. Place, Des Moines, IA

Before Easley came to Drake he lived in Lynchburg, Virginia. He was born on November 16, 1928 and he grew up in Amherst County, Virginia. He lived with his mother, Berta Carpenter Easley, and his grandparents after his parents separated. Easley attended the Amherst Country public schools and he graduated as Valedictorian of his high school at the age of 15. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Virginia State Collegein 1948. At Virginia State he was a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and was extensively involved in student government. After graduating from Virginia State he was a civil service employee in the Veterans Administration Agency and the Navy Hydrographic Office, in Washington, D.C. He then came to Iowa State University to earn his master’s degree and Ph.D. in economics and statistics. Also during the time that he was preparing to receive his Ph.D. he served from 1954-1956 in Fort Lee, VA at the Quartermaster Research and Development Agency for the U.S. Army. While in Fort Lee he met Ruth Hortense Burton and just before he came onto the faculty at Drake, they were married on September 1, 1956. Ruth, like her husband, was in the education field but she was an elementary school teacher. They had three children together; Jacqueline, Michael and Todd. They lived in a nice house in Des Moines at 1431 41st. Place, which was only about a mile and a half off campus [1].

Diversity on Campus
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Eddie Easley teaching - copyright - Drake University
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After almost 20 years of teaching Easley was asked about his experience as an African American professor and his views on the diversity of the campus. In 1957 when he was hired he didn’t feel like he was hired because of a special effort to hire blacks. Easley said that, “They needed someone to teach marketing, and I was the naïve college grad.” Easley said that he never felt any opposition at Drake from the students or fellow faculty, he remarks, “The administration was more concerned than I was about my acceptance by the students. I think students are more concerned with the difficulty of the course and ‘what grade am I going to get?’ than the color of the teacher. Drake has fairly sophisticated student body.” Although he was the first African American to be hired to the faculty, during his time at Drake there were other African Americans hired as well Easley said that he was mystified by the small number of black faculty at Drake. But in the early 70s at least half a dozen African American faculty members left. “They all moved on to different schools, they were either unhappy with the community or the working environment; others left for personal reasons” he recalls. Easley said that he stayed because of the opportunities for growth and development that were present at Drake. He discussed the noticeability of the small numbers of African American students on campus, “The black students here were justified in pointing out the importance of a multi-racial faculty. Role models for blacks are important for both races, just as female role models are important for men and women.” The administration also recognized the imbalance in racial representation and vice president for academic administration, Hoke Smith commented, “There are only 3-5 percent black population in central Iowa, and few black communities, so the basic problem is that we don’t get many black applicants for positions.” Even though hiring minority and female faculty members was important, the administration still believed that the first requirement was good qualifications.” Easley shared his views on this topic, "I wouldn’t want to see university standards sacrificed in favor of a mixed faculty but there are many qualified blacks and women who are available. The faculty of an educational institution, at any level, should reflect the kind of world the students are growing up in." [4] The issue of race did not hinder any of Easley’s ability to teach and he focused on what he viewed as the utmost importance, the students.

Death:
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Eddie Easley - copyright - Drake University

After teaching at Drake for 26 years, Easley left in 1984 to move back to Virginia to be close to his mother. He then took a position at the Wayne Calloway School of Business and Accounting at Wake Forest University. He taught marketing classes and in his last year of teaching he developed the school’s first course in sports marketing. He retired in 1999 but continued to teach part-time for several more years. Easley died on January 13, 2010 after a 15 year battle with cancer. Easley’s colleague, Doug Hillman remembers Easley, "He was an outstanding teacher, revered by his students, a true scholar who brought the latest ideas to his courses and a servant to our community. Eddie also was a caring mentor to new faculty. He was a role model for me as I made my transition from student to faculty, showing me what it really meant to be a faculty member at Drake University. I owe much to Eddie as a mentor, colleague, and friend. His students were truly important to him, whether they were currently in his course or had graduated years earlier." Pat Heaston, professor of accounting adds, "When I arrived at Drake I was a new Ph.D., and he was a very impressive senior professor who was very helpful and very gracious toward junior faculty. He really made me feel welcome; he made me feel like Drake was a good place to be. We weren’t in the same discipline, but he went out of his way to welcome me."[5] His funeral was held on January 16, 2010 and now rests in the Forsyth Memorial Park Mausoleum Chapel[1]. Easley was a beloved member of the Drake faculty and of the Des Moines community. He always put the needs of others first and he was determined to do everything he could for his students. Drake was fortunate to have this exceptional man as part of the faculty for 26 years.

References:

[1] Dr. Eddie V. Easley. (2010). Winston-Salem Journal, Retrieved from http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/winstonsalem/obituary.aspx?n=eddie-v-easley&pid=138575655
[2] Office of Public Relations: Drake University. (1968). Drake News Release.
[3] Willkie House, Inc. (2006, September 26). Retrieved from http://www.willkiehouse.org/aboutus.html
[4] Welles, Alison. (1979, January 30). Professor favors mixed faculty. The Times Delphic
[5] Eddie Easley remembered as 'the consummate Drake professor'. (2010). EBlue, Retrieved from http://www.drake.edu/news/dbletter/eblue/index.php?article=5299