Terry Kershaw, a leading academic in the field of Africana Studies, died Oct. 28 at his home. He was 63.
“His scholarship has impacted the foundation and methodology of Black Studies,” said Dr. Charles E. Jones, a close friend and colleague of Kershaw’s, in an interview with Diverse Issues in Higher Education. “Terry laid the groundwork for future scholarship. He was always thinking about the ways to improve the position of Black people.”
A trained sociologist and longtime boardmember of the National Council for Black Studies, Kershaw was recruited by the University of Cincinnati (UC) in 2009 to help build its Africana Studies program, including master’s and doctoral degree tracks. In a 2009 profile posted on the university’s website, Kershaw said his dedication to the fields of sociology and Black studies was sparked in college, when he realized his neighborhood on the lower east side of Manhattan was considered a ghetto.
“I was sitting in my sociology class when I learned my hometown was considered a ghetto,” Kershaw said. “I thought, ‘Well, if I’m going to college, what can I do to make things better?’ Sociology attracted me because I want to critique society with the hope of making things better.”
He continues, “What’s the point of me getting educated just to keep things as they are?”
After obtaining his bachelor’s degree from State University of New York at Cortland, master’s in Black studies from Ohio State and a doctorate in sociology from Washington State University, Kershaw set out to make that change through education.
He taught at a number of institutions, including, Antioch College, Temple University, the College of Wooster, and Whitworth College and he held the Mini Lilly Chair at Marquette University. In 1999, he went to Virginia Tech, where he led the Africana Studies program and served as director of the Center for Race and Social Policy for many years before moving to the University of Cincinnati.
During his most recent tenure, Kershaw boosted UC’s Africana Studies department from five to 14 faculty members and was instrumental in establishing the National Council of Black Studies’ headquarters at the school, according to Diverse Issues.
UC President Dr. Santa J. Ono hailed Kershaw’s contributions to the public institution. “My heart goes out to the family and friends of Professor Terry Kershaw,” he said in a statement posted on Twitter. “He was a true institution builder and valued colleague.”
Jones, who followed Kershaw to UC and is now the chairman of the Africana Studies department, said the best way to honor him is for the university to push forward with the PhD program and to continue supporting scholarship in the field.
“He would want his legacy to be the Ph.D. program,” said Jones. “He would want us to continue to train the future scholars of the field.”