WLWT Let's Talk Cincy: Celebrating Greater Cincinnati’s Black history

UC alumna Marian Spencer’s legacy continues through scholarship for high-achieving CPS students

UC alumna Marian Spencer was considered a civil rights pioneer in Cincinnati. 

Spencer, class of 1942, was instrumental in desegregating Cincinnati’s Coney Island as well as Cincinnati Public Schools. She went on to become the first African American woman elected to Cincinnati City Council in 1983 and the first female president of the Cincinnati chapter of the NAACP (1983-85). A former Board of Trustees member at UC, Spencer later donated 80 years of Cincinnati civil rights history to the university in forms as diverse as music and official memoranda to comprise the Marian and Donald Spencer Collection.

As a Black student in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Spencer wasn't permitted to live in a dorm on UC’s campus. That makes an honor she later received all the more fitting: In 2018, a new high-rise residence hall on Campus Green was christened Marian Spencer Hall to honor her activism and her many contributions to the university.

Her activism and continuing legacy were highlighted in a segment on Black History by Cincinnati’s WLWT-TV.

Marian Spencer, middle looked on as her two sons left to right Edward Spencer and Donald Spencer applauded one of the Keynote speaker. University of Cincinnati celebrated Marian and Donald Spencer Collection Gift to UC Libraries at (TUC) Tangerman University Center. UC/ Joseph Fuqua II

Marian Spencer, middle looked on as her two sons left to right Edward Spencer and Donald Spencer applaud a speaker. University of Cincinnati celebrated Marian and Donald Spencer Collection Gift to UC Libraries at (TUC) Tangerman Photo by Joe Fuqua/UC Marketing + Communications.

Today, the Marian Spencer Scholarship bears her name and allows high-achieving graduates of Cincinnati Public Schools to continue her legacy by attending UC on a full-ride scholarship, covering tuition along with room and board. The scholarship was first announced in 2021 as part of a partnership between UC and CPS.

Recently, UC announced two Spencer scholars as part of Decision Day activities. Segments featuring Zamir Frazier of Riverview East Academy and Fiston Feruzi of Hughes STEM High School were also featured during WLWT’s segment. Frazier hopes to study business and Feruzi is interested in aerospace engineering.

Eight other Spencer scholars have been announced for the fall 2024. These CPS students include William Walker and Sophia Lin, both of Walnut Hills High School; Arielle Miller of the School for Creative and Performing Arts; Yair Deleon Aguilar and Sanaa May, both of Withrow High School; Nia Brown of Woodward High School; Eric Castleberry-Kennedy of Taft High School; and Silas Curry of Clark High School.

UC surprises Marian Spencer Scholar Zamir Frazier at Riverview East Academy on Decision Day.

Zamir Frazier, a senior at East Riverview Academy in Cincinnati, celebrates after learning he is a 2024 Marian Spencer Scholarship winner. Photo by Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Communications.

“These students are truly following in the footsteps of Marian Spencer,” explains Jack Miner, vice provost for enrollment management. “They are already making a difference in their schools, neighborhoods, families, and communities and I can’t wait to see what they are able to achieve at UC and beyond.”

The Marian Spencer Scholarship program was made possible by an investment of $6 million thanks to a gift from UC alumnus and venture capitalist Jim Goetz and university matching funds. Each year 10 CPS students receive the scholarship. The first cohort of Spencer Scholars entered UC in 2022 while the second cohort arrived in 2023.

Read more about our most recent Spencer Scholars.

View the WLWT segment on Marian Spencer and her legacy.

Featured top image of Marian Spencer (center) during the reopening of the African American Resource and Cultural Center in 1991. Photo/UC Archives. 

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