WMU News

Race relations institute named for Lewis Walker

April 24, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- The name of Western Michigan University's Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations was changed to honor a retired faculty member in one of two name change actions approved by the WMU Board of Trustees at its April 20 meeting.

Trustees approved changing the name of the institute to the Lewis Walker Institute for Race and Ethnic Relations. Walker, a former chairperson and professor in WMU's Department of Sociology, joined the WMU faculty in 1964 and was the first black Ph.D. to be hired by the University. A specialist in race relations, criminology, juvenile delinquency and social psychology, he retired with emeritus status in June 1999 after 35 years of service.

The recipient of a the University's Distinguished Service and Alumni Teaching Excellence awards, Walker also is known for conceiving and implementing a special program designed to keep minority students enrolled in the University until they graduate. In 1995, he was tapped by former WMU President Diether H. Haenicke to serve on a task force to clarify issues and facilitate dialogue on race relations at the University. Walker also has been active in the community and has served on the Kalamazoo Community Relations Board.

"Dr. Walker was one of the people who participated as far back as 1989 with President Haenicke and others in the conception of this research center at the University," says Dr. William Santiago-Valles, director of the renamed institute. "He is an expert in race and ethnic relations, and even though retired, is still actively involved as president of our advisory board."

Also during its meeting, the board approved changing the name of the Diether H. Haenicke Center for International and Area Studies to the Diether H. Haenicke Institute for International and Area Studies. Dr. Ronald W. Davis, director of the center and professor of history, requested the change, noting that the center's activities have expanded and are more in line with University guidelines regarding institutes.

Approved by Trustees in 1998, the guidelines define different categories of academic units, including "centers," "institutes" and "schools." Under the guidelines, a center is a unit formed for the purpose of linkage and visibility and focused on a theme or set of skills. Often interdisciplinary in nature, centers do not offer degree programs, but may at times offer courses. An institute is similar to a center, but is a degree-granting unit that may offer course work for a degree.

The Haenicke Center was established in April 1997 to serve as a coordinating body providing an intellectual and academic hub for the increasing number of WMU faculty members with international expertise. According to Davis, the newly designated institute will expand its activities by establishing a new program in global and comparative studies as well as a series of interdisciplinary courses.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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