Ball State diversity advocate retires, looks back on career

The Daily News

Charles Payne, assistant provost for diversity, is retiring after 41 years of working at Ball State. Payne came to live in Muncie in 1972 and can recall what life was like in the city and on campus back then. DN PHOTO JORDAN HUFFER
Charles Payne, assistant provost for diversity, is retiring after 41 years of working at Ball State. Payne came to live in Muncie in 1972 and can recall what life was like in the city and on campus back then. DN PHOTO JORDAN HUFFER




After 41 years Charles Payne, the assistant provost for diversity, director of office of institutional diversity and professor of secondary education, is soon to be retired, but the multicultural program he helped develop will continue at Ball State.

 

The multicultural program was designed to prepare teachers from multicultural secondary schools.

 

“I was particularly hired to develop this program, because back in 1970s BSU was one of the first institutions that offered a minor in multicultural education for secondary teachers in the U.S.,” he said. “It’s unique, and students who major in history, math or any other subjects can get a minor in multicultural education.” 


Payne recently celebrated his achievements at his retirement reception Thursday in the E.B. and Bertha C. Ball Center.  


During his time at the university, Payne also served as the diversity coordinator for the Teachers College. 


“When BSU had around 16,000 students, there were 800 or 900 African Americans, a few Hispanics and a few Asians,” he said. “The majority of professors and staff were white. In the department that I started, I was the only African American.” 


Payne said he experienced some discrimination at first.


“Even though I was hired, there still was a misunderstanding between people on campus,” he said. “Some people were questioning of my teaching, of my job and my knowledge. Some of them would stay outside of the door and listen to what I would say and asked students how I was. Students told me all about this.”


Early in his career as an educator he taught chemistry in segregated schools, but he always wanted to help shift this thinking.


“I believe I can make my greatest contribution to society by becoming a change agent by creating a new America,” Payne said. 


Maria Williams-Hawkins, an associate professor of telecommunications, has known Payne for 20 years. 


“He pointed out the way things were when he came and some of the challenges that being an African American faculty member on Ball State’s campus could offer,” she said. “We go to the same church and that’s where I got to know him. I think Dr. Payne accomplished his original goal. He wanted to be a medical doctor. Due to ‘circumstances’ things did not go as he desired. Instead he became a doctor of philosophy.”  


Jayne Beilke, educational studies chairperson, said she has known Dr. Payne for 20 years as well. 


“Dr. Payne has a long history,” she said. “What he has been through with racial and ethnic problems made him a strong person.” 


Diversity is still developing, but under Payne it has evolved from its beginning. 


“The diversity program with Dr. Payne accomplished a lot, but we still need a long way to go,” Beike said. “It’s hard to make somebody intellectual, but Dr. Payne has done a great job.” 


Payne said he always wanted to write a book about how powerful education is using the story of his own family and being born in Mississippi in 1942, when it was still a legally segregated state. 


Until then, Payne said it is satisfying to see the difference his career has made.


“People now do not see differences in race and are working together,” Payne said. “I would like to make diversity a part of the curriculum and I’d like to see people include diversity within the discipline, because a good understanding of discipline is a good understanding of diversity.


“Name calling, physical discrimination, we cannot see it on our campus and that is a part of what makes me proud of what I do and what I have accomplished.”

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