Vision of University’s initial leadership established and remains preserved

In its inaugural years, the State Normal School for Colored Students was fortunate to have an intelligent and progressive leader in Thomas De Saille Tucker. The book “Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University: A Centennial History by Leedell Neyland,” also known as “The History of FAMU,” indicates that Tucker had a vision of what a school for blacks could be like with the proper resources and the freedom to learn skills beyond manual labor.

Today we have the perspective to study his vision and see those dreams that were realized.

“The abiding hope for this institution is that Florida will have, in the very near future, teachers to the manor born, of the Negro race, who shall be able to teach the young a practical and thorough training fitting them for the essential and useful avenues of life.”

These are the words of Thomas De Saille Tucker, as recorded in “The History of FAMU.” Tucker was the first president of the State Normal College for Colored Students when it was founded in 1887. Neyland tells of a man driven by energy and purpose to see young blacks achieve the dream of an education.

In its first year, the school was home to only 52 students, but even that was a good number for the time and conditions.

According to the Registrar’s office, the preliminary number of students enrolled this semester at the College of Education is 664. This is over 40 times as many students as there were in 1887, all learning the skills necessary to prepare young people for their future.

One can only imagine that Tucker would have been amazed and pleased by the high number of prospective teachers that FAMU is giving to the black community and the world.

Lindsay Thomas, a 20-year-old physical education junior from Sickerville, N.J., said, “They really do a good job of helping us prepare for teaching.”

Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs and the College of Education Janet Sermon said, “The legacy of our founding fathers is firmly grounded in the College of Education, the cornerstone of this university. The FAMU College of Education is consistently acclaimed among the top three institutions for graduating the largest number of African American teachers. Our history is proud, our future is promising.”

According to Neyland, another of Tucker’s desires was for women to receive an education as well and to be allowed into a greater variety of fields.

The book notes that when the school opened, there were no dormitories available and students from out of town were forced to stay with local families. As a result of this, Tucker immediately began to petition the Board of Education to move the campus to its current location, so that there would be space for dormitories.

Tucker wanted the housing so “that students may be drawn to the institution without misgivings on the part of patrons relative to their habits and morals while away from home,” according to the book.

According to University Housing, there are currently 1,365 beds available for women on campus. This accommodates a large number of female students and provides them with the security of a keycard system.

Tucker would certainly be pleased by the size of the dormitories, but perhaps not so much with the environment they create. One can imagine him walking the halls filled with the sound of radios and televisions at full volume and being appalled by the poor study environment.

Neyland says Tucker was also adamant about the development of a nursing school, so women would have one more field available to them.

“It is unfortunate for any class and still more so for sex, to be restricted to only two or three ways of making a living,” he said.

He would be proud to know that not only is there a nursing program available for women, but that all 14 of the schools on campus are open to them as well. He would also probably be happy with the state of women’s rights as a whole throughout the country.

Interim Dean for the School of Nursing Dr. Ruena Norman said, “Since its inception, the school has been preparing nurses both male and female to address the nation’s healthcare needs.”

Contact Mackenzie Turberville at