Guest Blogger David Wall Rice: White Morehouse valedictorian not "slumming it"

Thursday, May 15, 2008 - 12:00 AM

Morehouse College, the nation's only all-male historically black college, has selected a white student as its valedictorian for the first time. David Wall Rice is a graduate of Morehouse and now an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology.

So there’s this young man named Joshua Packwood, and he’s pretty special. He has a 4.0 GPA and is this year’s valedictorian at Morehouse College. And Morehouse College is pretty special. It’s the only all-male, historically black institution of higher learning in the nation and has notable alums like Spike Lee, Martin Luther King Jr. and Howard Thurman — who, incidentally, was valedictorian in 1923.

The thing about Packwood that is particularly sensational, apparently, is that he’s white. Kansas City, Mo., Tom Cruise-like white. And he went to Morehouse. And he is smart. And he is the valedictorian, the first white valedictorian in the 141-year history of the school. And this is amazing, or at least this is the intimation.


Understandably, there is attention given to Packwood because he is a white dude at Morehouse. This is not the norm, but it’s not exactly abnormal either. Way back when I stomped Adidas through the hallowed halls of Morehouse College, there were white guys there. One — I think his name was Mike — was a football player from Chicago's South Side. There was media hype with him too.

It's interesting to be white and a graduate of a Historically Black College or University, but it seems a bit condescending, all of the press sweating Packwood. Congratulations to the young man, he's a good guy and can obviously handle his academics. Nonetheless, the astonishment seems, well, insulting. Understood, Josh has good grades, is white, is well meaning and is taking a gig in corporate America with Goldman Sachs. Cool, sounds like an American Dream.

But to play up the drama of being a young white man at a college with a bunch of young black men is extra. The story peg polarizes and suggests that Josh was in some way slumming it at Morehouse. Obviously this is not the case. If proof is needed and the metric of Nima Warfield, Eddie Glaude Jr., Shaka Rasheed, Kristopher Chrishon, Shakir Stewart and Otis Moss III don't convince, check in again with Goldman Sachs. They may very well reference Steven Schukei. Now a vice president of technology for the global investment banking and securities firm, Schukei was a 1998 Wonder Bread wunderkind at Morehouse as the first white vice-president of the College's Student Government Association.

No doubt white men can achieve. And so can black men. See the previous 140 valedictorians of Morehouse College for starters.

David Wall Rice is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at Morehouse College in Atlanta. His work focuses on personal identity and how it is shaped by external and internal forces.

Editor's note: The list of notable Morehouse alumni was updated.


David Wall Rice


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Comments [9]

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Hi friends, its fantastic paragraph on the topic of educationand completely defined,
keep it up all the time.

Mar. 06 2013 11:50 PM

I dont think that was even the point of the media attention. Its just ironic that a white kid is the valedictorian of a historically black university.

Sep. 04 2009 05:39 AM
Kwasi Platt

It's funny that Morehouse College was not in the press more recently, but something that could be seen as a controversy or out of the norm makes many people curious. Rather than focus on the many black men who work hard and have been successful for countless years at Morehouse College, the institution receives focus because of a white valedictorian.

Jul. 18 2008 04:26 AM

I, for one, agree with Mr. Rice. While Packwood was an exceptional student, all the media does not focus on his academic achievements. He is famous for being a successful white guy, which in my opinion, is nothing to be famous for. Don't get me wrong, the guy did get a 4.0 and should definitely be commended for that, but I think that he should be famous for his scholarly achievement rather than suggesting that it was an achievement to graduate as a white guy from an HBCU.

Jul. 16 2008 01:23 PM
Lafayette Howell

I placed a post on my Facebook account about Mr. Packwood and it's interesting no comments whatsoever. This is a great story and further underscores why I plan to direct my kids towards an HBCU like Morehouse. For more rants on global topics, check out my blog at NPR and scroll down to Mindset 3.0.

What I have discovered, as Alisa Miller describes is that people would rather read about R. Kelly's trial, Britney, Paris Hilton. Not many people really care about the imminent death of over 100,000 children that will likely die due to food shortages. Cheers!

May. 21 2008 02:50 AM
Glad he did

When my blue-eyed, blonde, west coast born-and-bred husband was in college in CA in the mid-60's, he decided to spend a year as an exchange student. His first and only choice was to attend another fine, black college, Fisk in Nashville, TN. From his college and grad school years, his best stories come from that year he loved at Fisk.

May. 21 2008 02:36 AM

OK OK nice so the white guy is smart and got a 4.0... what i want to know is..."did he learn how to play spades while he was there?" ....because, you really haven't learned much about the HBCU experience if haven't played spades at one now thats brotherhood!!! sitting up in the room all night trump tight!!!!! making books!!!!! when you have the general chemistry exam the next day.......LOL LOL LOL LOL

May. 20 2008 09:19 PM
Mrs. Deets

Please change the word alumnae to alumni.

May. 15 2008 07:52 PM
Jacque-Corey Cormier

I think if one would try to hate on Josh should remember that a 4.0 anywhere from anyone is reason for recognition. It makes me wonder what the white folks were thinking and talking about when they had their first minority valedictorian at their majority school.

May. 15 2008 02:35 PM

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