During his Whitworth career, Jeff Tucker, ’69, worked to improve the educational experience for African American students. At the time, Tucker was one of only six African American students out of a student population of 1,500. As a result of instances of racism he endured at Whitworth, Tucker became involved in activities that encouraged the college to re-examine its recruitment and treatment of minority students. He also founded and chaired the Human Relations Committee, a group similar to today’s Black Student Union.
“The main purpose of the committee was to increase the enrollment of black students, increase Whitworth students’ knowledge of black people, afford more black students the opportunity for higher education, and make sure there was enough aid and housing available for new [black] students,” Tucker said.
Tucker recruited black students to Whitworth as well; he traveled to New York City and Washington, D.C., on recruiting trips. He also organized a bus tour for African American students during his senior year, so that black students from Seattle could visit four colleges, including Whitworth. As a result, approximately 20 black students enrolled at Whitworth the following year. Tucker’s work as a student recruiter and as chair of the Human Relations Committee was done on a voluntary basis.
After graduating, Tucker attended Smith College, in Northampton, Mass., where he earned an MFA in theater. While at Smith, he founded the Black Theater Workshop, which featured black students performing plays written by African Americans.
Tucker spent the next few years working in various acting, teaching and supervising positions at institutions including Tufts University, in Massachusetts, and Lincoln University, in Pennsylvania. While continuing his education at the University of California, Berkeley, Tucker become the general manager of the Oakland Ballet and helped the ballet regain its financial footing. Tucker concluded his career at American River College, in Sacramento, Calif., working as dean of arts for nearly a decade before devoting his time to teaching. He retired in 2007.
Tucker says he has come to appreciate his years at Whitworth, despite the difficulties he encountered as a student because of his race.