Manchester University / Alumni / Youngs help dedicate intercultural center

Youngs help dedicate intercultural center

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A racially charged fistfight between students in 1969 has culminated 49 years later in the dedication of the Jean Childs Young Intercultural Center.

“Out of that regrettable set of events came lasting good,” President Dave McFadden ’82 told the crowd gathered on a picture-perfect Homecoming Sept. 29.

The late Jean Childs ’54 Young was an advocate for education, children’s welfare and civil rights throughout her life. Her husband, Andrew Young, two of their daughters and other relatives attended events surrounding the dedication of MU’s newest building at College Avenue and East Street.

That long-ago fight between students led to Manchester’s first AAFRO House in 1970 and that eventually morphed into the Intercultural Center in a former residence on College Avenue. The new facility, said McFadden is “the current expression of our lasting commitment to inclusion and diversity.”

Andrew Young, 86, was a leader in the civil rights movement, a Georgia congressman, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and mayor of Atlanta. Jean’s experience at Manchester, he said, helped shape her views, which in turn had a profound effect on him, their family and the many lives she touched. “Jean pushed me to understand the implication of nonviolence in everything that we do. And I never forgot those lessons.”

MU President Emerita Jo Young ’69 Switzer called Jean, a former MU trustee, “one of the strongest, most gentle people I’ve ever met.”

And Dzhwar Hamad ’20 of Kurdistan, representing MU students, said, “the new Jean Childs Young Intercultural Center is beautiful and we have already started calling it home.”

MU Trustee Jim Colon ’74, a retired Toyota vice president, helped secure a gift for $250,000 from Toyota Motor North America for the Toyota Round, a circular meeting room that is the new building’s focal point. Al Smith, group vice president and chief social innovation officer for Toyota Motor North America, represented the company at the event.

The Young family gave generously to the project, as did a number of the University’s alumni and friends. “You’re not contributors. You’re investors,” Andrew Young told the donors. The intercultural center will help Manchester students “learn to understand each other and appreciate their differences.”

Young reflected on Frances Smith ’39 Thomas and Cecil Thomas who taught at the Marion, Ala., high school attended by Jean, her sisters Norma Childs ’48 dePaur and Cora Childs ’51 Moore, and Coretta Scott King and her sister, Edythe. “We did change the world,” Young said of the civil rights movement. “And we changed the world with some of the messages and the spirit that Jean learned here.”

But, he added, “We’ve got a lot more work to do.”

By Melinda Lantz ’81