TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) -After a unanimous vote by Indiana State University’s Board of Trustees, a half mile stretch on the campus will be known as Ambassador Cynthia Shepard Perry Way.
The section of street goes from Fifth Street from Tippecanoe to Cherry Street and is owned by ISU as part of an agreement with the City of Terre Haute.
ISU says appropriate signage will mark the honorary naming, but street addresses will not change because of public safety.
Ambassador Cythia Shepard Perry graduated from Indiana State University in 1968 with a degree in political science.
President Ronald Reagan appointed Dr. Perry, a graduate of ISU, as Ambassador to Sierra Leone in 1986. In 1990, she was appointed as Ambassador to Burundi by President George H.W. Bush.
Reagan had also previously appointed Perry as chief of the Education and Human Resources Division in the Africa Bureau of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
“We’re proud to honor Ambassador Cynthia Shepard Perry, one of the most prominent people to come from Terre Haute and graduate from Indiana State University,” ISU President Dr. Deborah Curtis said. “She spent her career bringing people together in our nation and around the world, and represented our country with distinction in numerous capacities”.
Curtis adds that street signs only offer a small glimpse into the life of a world renown alumni.
“Ambassador Perry has meant so much to this nation and around the globe. Her roots are here and we are delighted to honor her.” Curtis stated.
Perry grew up in a segregated community called the Lost Creek Settlement just outside Terre Haute.
She graduated high school in 1946, married and started a family while working in banking and for computer hardware company IBM.
Dr. Perry later earned a doctorate in international education from the University of Massachusetts in 1972. During her doctoral program, she worked with former Peace Corps volunteers who had served in Africa to develop and test African Studies curricula for public schools to help improve race relations.
She received the ISU Distinguished Alumni Award in 1987 and also received the NAACP President’s Award that same year. Dr. Perry also holds an honorary doctorate and a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Massachusetts.
Local historian, Dr. Crystal Reynolds helped generate hundreds of petition signatures for the streets naming. She describes the support received by multiple city government and ISU officials as “overwhelming”.
“It’s important people know about local history. We wanted to make sure people knew about this history because people just don’t know and it’s unfortunate.” Reynolds added.
Reynolds is continuing to focus on generating more awareness on Perry’s life, including attempting to add a marker about Perry that would give a brief summary on her life. on the campus’ newly named street.
“If people see this sign and google her that’d be amazing for them to do more research on her. We’ve done step one on getting the sign renamed, now I’d like to see the marker. This is not just about her, it’s about us. This is Terre Haute’s history, this is our hometown person. We love her.” Reynolds said.
Reynolds said she spoke with Dr. Perry before the board’s vote today and describes her as very excited and laughing and saying “I’m so humbled to have this in my hometown.”
ISU officials say the street sign unveiling is expected to be in September.