The hall, which houses first-year students, was previously named the Ernest L. Kurth Hall, after the alumnus, benefactor and longtime trustee of the university, according to the university’s website. The change is in in recognition of Clark’s “contributions to the Southwestern educational community,” the release said.
“As a historian, I know that our understanding of the past grows, and what we recognize as praiseworthy often needs to catch up. This is the appropriate time to honor a particular Southwestern graduate’s courage and accomplishments as well as the turning point in Southwestern’s history that his experience represented,” SU President Dale T. Knobel said in the release. “Ernest Clark was not only the first Black student at our university, but he initially was the only Black student. Our students today deserve to know his story and honor his legacy.”
Clark enrolled in SU in fall of 1965, initiating the school’s desegregation 11 years after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case, the release said. As a student he was a member of the band, the choir and Mask & Wig, the student-run theater organization, it said.
He graduated with a degree in music in 1969 and went on to become a band director and music instructor in Dallas ISD, teaching an estimated 36,000 students during the course of his career, the release said. In 2009, Clark was awarded the Southwestern University Medal, the institution’s most prestigious honor, for charting the path for later Black students and in recognition for his contributions as a long-time educator, it said.