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BONUS POST: James Brister Society

March 13, 2012
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In 1881, James Brister became the first person of color to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania. His graduation from Penn’s School of Dentistry blazed the trail for black students, and many would follow in the subsequent years. The Medical School graduated its first black students in 1882, with the College following in 1883, Engineering and Wharton in 1887, Law in 1888, Music and Nursing in 1890, Graduate Arts and Sciences in 1896, Veterinary in 1897, Architecture in 1902, and finally Social Work in 1921. As we can see, Brister is at the root of Black achievement at the University of Pennsylvania.

The James Brister Society (JBS) has worked to promote diversity at Penn for the better part of twenty years. In 1993, the organization was created with the intention to “attract, encourage, and maintain a culturally diverse community of faculty, students, administrators, staff, and volunteers, thus enriching the University community as a whole.” Originally started to be a development initiative called the “Committee for Minority Permanence,” the name was changed in 1995 in honor of Brister. JBS holds general membership meetings, sponsors events on campus that promote diversity and raise the profile of minority faculty, and provides scholarships, both recurring and emergency, to students in need. Members of the organization must exhibit leadership, promote diversity, and support JBS and the University financially at $200 and $1000 per year, respectively. JBS has also served as a network by which members become trustees and overseers to Penn’s various schools.

Current members of the James Brister Society include Dean Henry, Dr. Susan Taylor, and M. Claire Lomax in addition to nearly 100 distinguished alumni.

Ike Onyeador, CAS ‘14

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