Writing center named for Dungy

The college’s writing studio has a new name, one that honors Madgetta Thornton Dungy ’64, Cornell’s first female African-American graduate.

Madgetta Dungy
Madgetta Thorton Dungy ’64

When she arrived at Cornell in 1960, she was the only African-American female student on campus. She often sent her writing assignments home to be reviewed by her parents, due to the lack of adequate feedback from professors or a Writing Studio. Reflecting upon her experiences, Dungy felt the lack of encouragement or support from faculty and the negative preconceptions of the academic abilities of women and people of color had a profound impact on her academic performance.

She would eventually earn a doctorate, receive national recognition, and retire as an assistant dean.

In naming the Writing Studio in honor of Dungy, the college acknowledges her struggle and honors her many accomplishments. The name also symbolizes how far the college has come in procuring important academic resources for students of all backgrounds.

“I am motivated by the fervent belief that in spite of challenges in life, one can turn those experiences into the empowerment of others,” Dungy said.

Dungy earned a master’s degree in higher education administration from the University of Colorado and began her university administration career in student services. Cornell president Les Garner appointed Dungy interim director of Multicultural Affairs in 1994 and then Visiting Professor of education for the 1995–96 academic year. She also served on the Cornell College Board of Trustees from 1996 to 2004.

In 1997 Dungy completed her Ph.D. in higher education administration. She retired as assistant dean for faculty affairs and development at the University of Iowa College of Medicine. As a professional and volunteer, she has been recognized for her work in national, state, and local community organizations and associations on behalf of students of color, women, the arts, and nonprofit agencies.