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### Benard Diggs Earns Doctorate in Education After Extensive Tenure at UMSL

Benard Diggs, following an extensive career spanning more than forty years at UMSL, recently accomplished a significant feat by attaining his PhD in education. His educational odyssey commenced with the acquisition of bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the same institution. A recognizable figure at UMSL, Diggs transitioned from his initial position on the floor crew to eventually assuming leadership of the [ppp1] department. The autumn commencement ceremony in December marked his third graduation from UMSL, showcasing his unwavering commitment and persistence.

Raised in the vibrant north St. Louis neighborhood, The Ville, Diggs fondly reminisces about the area’s vibrant history and notable personalities it produced, including Arthur Ashe, Josephine Baker, Chuck Berry, and Dick Gregory. However, he witnessed a shift in the latter part of the 20th century, observing the once-thriving community deteriorate into desolation—a stark departure from its former grandeur.

In his compelling doctoral thesis titled “The Aftermath of the First Children of Brown: Narratives of Racial Disparities in Housing and Education in St. Louis 1950-1970,” Diggs explores the racial inequalities prevalent in St. Louis during that period. This study, which he effectively defended, illuminates the repercussions of historical events such as the Brown v. Board of Education ruling on housing and education in the area.

Diggs’ academic pursuits were not devoid of challenges. Despite harboring aspirations for a medical career initially, financial constraints steered him towards joining UMSL’s night-shift floor crew in 1973. Balancing work and academics, he transitioned to full-time status at UMSL, ultimately completing his bachelor’s degree in general studies in 1994. His professional journey within UMSL witnessed his ascent to the position of director of the MSC before his retirement.

Motivated by his encounters and engagements within the university environment, Diggs cultivated a profound interest in education, propelling him to pursue a master’s degree in 2007. Encouraged by a companion to further his academic expedition, he embarked on his PhD, concentrating on the enduring impacts of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling on local communities.

Through his research, Diggs unearthed the obstacles confronted by residents of neighborhoods like Hamilton Heights and The Ville in accessing quality education post-Brown v. Board of Education. The study underscored the intricacies of integration in St. Louis, where institutional barriers impeded the complete realization of desegregation endeavors.

Despite encountering personal hurdles and prolonged timelines in his doctoral studies, Diggs persisted, steered by a determination to tackle the challenges of neighborhood decay and disinvestment. He stresses the significance of community involvement, proactive urban planning, and informed civic engagement to effectively rejuvenate and empower marginalized neighborhoods.

Benard Diggs’ academic voyage and research underscore his dedication to promoting educational equity and social justice, mirroring a lifelong commitment to learning and community empowerment.