Carter G. Woodson believed that Blacks should know their past in order to participate intelligently in affairs in our country. He strongly believed that Black history is a firm foundation for young Black Americans to build in order to become productive citizens. Known as the “Father of Black History,” Carter G. Woodson holds an outstanding position in early 20th century American history. Woodson authored numerous scholarly books on the positive contributions of Blacks to the development of America. He also published many magazine articles analyzing the contributions and role of Black Americans. He reached out to schools and the general public through the establishment of several key organizations and founded Negro History Week (precursor to Black History Month). His message was that Blacks should be proud of their heritage and that other Americans should also understand it.
“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.”
John Oke-Thomas ’90
John Oke-Thomas ’90 is the President/CEO of Oke-Thomas + Associates Inc., an Architectural and Design-Build Company based here in Springfield, since 1996. John’s experience spans over 35-years in the construction industry. He received his Associates Degree from the Polytechnic of Northern London and a bachelor’s degree from Drury University.
He is a founding member, and past President of Minorities-In-Business (MIB), a local business organization that provides networking opportunities and mentorship programs to the area’s minority-owned businesses. John is also a member of the board directors of Springfield Chamber of Commerce and he is the Chairman-Elect for 2021. He assumes Chairmanship in 2022. In July 2019, John was admitted as a Chartered Member Architect of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA); he is one of three Missouri Architects that has been admitted into the Institute.
He previously received a Minority Business-Person of the Year Award from the Kansas City Region of Small Business Administration (SBA)
John is also a member of the following professional organizations:
In 2012 he was part of the delegation from the Midwest and Kansas City District that was invited to speak on economic issues at the White House in Washington, DC.
Frances Presley Rice ’73
Frances Presley Rice is an Army veteran who retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1984 after twenty years of active duty service. She holds a Juris Doctorate Degree from the University of California, Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, California and a Master of Business Administration from Golden Gate University, San Francisco, California. After graduating from Drury University in 1973 with a Bachelor of Science degree, she was honored as the Distinguished Young Alumna in 1977. Subsequent to her military career, Frances worked for the McDonnell Douglas Corporation, serving first as a member of that company’s “think tank,” and then as a government contract advisor. She later taught Business Law for the European Division of the University of Maryland in Brussels, Belgium. Starting in the early 1960’s, Frances began her independent studies of black history and acquired a depth of knowledge that proved invaluable as she co-founded with Sandra K. Yocum the Yocum African American History Association (YAAHA), an IRS section 501 (c) (3) organization. Frances collaborated on the research and writing of the book, “BLACK HISTORY 1619-2019: AN ILLUSTRATED AND DOCUMENTED AFRICAN-AMERICAN HISTORY. This inspiring and educational book is an in-depth look at the events which shaped the lives and contributions of the African-American American community in America. Frances is the Executive Producer of the epic two-part independent documentary BLACK SEEDS: THE HISTORY OF AFRICANS IN AMERICA, which is inspired by the book. Frances believes that Black History is American History. The book, documentary and lesson plans posted on the YAAHA website advance the goal of YAAHA, which is: Changing Perspectives of Black History in America.