Darwin T. Turner earned his bachelors and masters degrees in English from UC in 1947 and 1949, respectively. So what so did 451 other undergraduates in 1947. But Darwin T. Turner was African American. He earned his degree with honors. And he was only 16, the youngest person to graduate from the university, a record that still stands. Turner was admitted to UC when he was 13, an age at which most other young men are just starting high schoolSounds like an unusual young man from an unusual family. Turners mother, Laura (Knight) Turner, herself entered UC at the young ate of 15 and went on to earn the first of her four degrees before she turned 19. (Her degrees were bachelors and masters degrees in English and bachelors and masters degrees in education.) Darwin Turners grandparents also held multiple degrees, many of which were from the University of Cincinnati. Clearly there was a strong commitment to education in the Cincinnati Turners.
Darwin T. Turner continued to prove himself to be special even as he matured. Turner continued his academic career after UC, earning his PhD doctorate in English and American dramatic literature from the University of Chicago in 1956, and was the Dean of the African American World Studies Program at the University of Iowa until his death in 1991. He authored or edited 20 books and many articles. He focused much of his research on the writers of the Harlem Renaissance, such as Jean Toomer and Ralph Ellison. He also published extensive literary criticism of the works of Joel Chandler Harris, whose folk stories introduced Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, Uncle Remus and other characters to generations of children but whose works also introduced racist stereotypes to those children and their parents.
UC presented Turner with an honorary doctorate in 1983 and named Turner Hall for him 20 years later.
Where is the Darwin T. Turner Scholars Program today? Alive and well!
This past August, a celebratory luncheon was held to honor 11 students of color who would be returning to their homes with a four-year scholarship to UC in their back pockets. Joshua Miller was one of the eloquent eleven.
This was great! Josh Miller affirmed at the luncheon. This is an excellent program. The most special thing for me was learning a lot about myself and maturing.
Joshs mother, Robin, agreed. I still stare at him and cant recognize him. She went on to cite the advantage of his being in a more diverse atmosphere than his high school in East Canton. He grew up fairly sheltered, but here he gets to be around adults and a variety of people. It was nice to see ethnic groups working together.
Joshs grandfather, Arnold Oden, attended the luncheon also. The program provides the students a look at college life so they know what to expect when they get here and what they want to major in. Josh hopes to test his musical skills at UC and even played an original composition on saxophone at the luncheon.
They all want to come here now! added Robin Miller.