Fifty-Year Struggle

Santa Clara, 1968: looking back at the founding of the Black Student Union—now Igwebuike

Tumultuous 1968 brought protests to campuses nationwide—including to Santa Clara.

One reason, for the late Walter Myles ’70, was that there were too few minority students on campus. Most white students at SCU had never shared a classroom with a black person.

“[He] told the administration in no uncertain terms, not what he’d like for them to do, but what they needed to do,” recalls Alana Myles ’70, his ex-wife. That included a demand for a required black history course; that requirement didn’t materialize, but opportunities opened.

And after the protests Santa Clara felt different, Alana says. What also began, and endures, is the organization Walter co-founded: the Black Student Union, now known as Igwebuike—a name that means “in unity there is strength.”

When the Myles’ daughter, Kimberly Myles ’97, arrived on campus in the ’90s, she focused on empowerment as leader of the National Society of Black Engineers at SCU. And now? “Igwe was, and continues to be, a place of solace,” says Haley Howard ’21, the current co-chair. Diversity training is now part of orientation for students, faculty, and staff.

Yet, as in society at large, here on campus we’re still working on e pluribus unum.

post-image Walter Myles at the microphone during a protest. Photo courtesy of SCU Archives.
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