Untold Stories Guide

Carrie Halsell, OSU's First African American Graduate

Carrie Beatrice Halsell Ward is Oregon State University’s first known African American graduate. In 2002 the university named a residence hall, Halsell Hall, in her honor. Halsell Hall took two years to complete; it has four stories, is L shaped, and houses about 210 students. (1) The university committee that proposed “Halsell” as the name for the hall was looking for a student from a traditionally under-represented group, specifically a “trail-blazer” that “had to overcome barriers to gain an education and who subsequently opened up opportunities for other students to achieve success.” (2) Carrie Halsell not only met this criteria, she exemplified it.

Halsell was born in Boulder, Colorado, October 26, 1903, to William and Bessie Hall. In 1912, she and her family moved to Salem, Oregon, and in June 1921, she graduated from Salem High School. The next year the family relocated to Portland and in September of that year she enrolled at Oregon State University, then known as Oregon Agricultural College. (3) From 1922 until her graduation in 1926, Halsell averaged 15-19 credits per term and maintained a “B” average. She graduated with a B.A. of Science degree in Commerce. (4) After graduating, she moved to the East Coast and throughout her career worked in various positions at institutions of higher education. She first worked as an assistant to the registrar and later an instructor at Virginia State University (VSU). In 1932, she met and married Louis M. Ward and they moved to Oklahoma where she continued work as a teacher. The couple then moved to Orangeburg, South Carolina, and in 1945 she began a position as a faculty member in Business Administration at South Carolina State University (SCSU), where she worked until her retirement in 1968.

Throughout her career Halsell both continued pursing her educationand gave back to her community. In 1949 she earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from New York University and worked with African-American sororities at both VSU and SCSU. Halsell outlived her husband and lived to the age of 85, passing away in July of 1989. (5) Because of her outstanding commitment to earn an education and share her knowledge, in 2011 President Ed Ray described Halsell as a role model for students when he said, “The challenge to each of us is to demonstrate the kind of courage and fortitude that Carrie Halsell surely did and for us to take up the dream, own it and do all we can to advance its realization.” (6)

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