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Campus History

Syracuse University has long led the way when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Some highlights include:

Syracuse University's Firsts in History:

Ernie Davis, byname of Ernest R. Davis, also called the Elmira Express,  (born Dec. 14, 1939, New Salem, Pa., U.S.—died May 18, 1963, Cleveland, Ohio), American collegiate gridiron football player who was the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy. As a student at Elmira (N.Y.) Free Academy, Davis was a high-school All-American in football and basketball. Widely recruited to play running back in collegiate football, he chose to attend Syracuse University, in part because it was the school of his idol, Jim Brown. Davis wore Brown’s number 44 at Syracuse, and in his sophomore year there he led the Orangemen to an undefeated season and a national championship. Syracuse clinched the national title with a 23–14 victory over the University of Texas in the 1960 Cotton Bowl. The game was highlighted by Davis’s two touchdowns, which earned him Cotton Bowl Most Valuable Player honors. He was named an All-American in both his junior and senior seasons at Syracuse, and in 1961 he was awarded the Heisman Trophy as the most outstanding player in American college football—the first African American so honored.

Dr. Torrey, who died on Oct. 26, 2017, at the age of 91, was the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from Syracuse. Her career as a professor, researcher and administrator advanced the field of radiation-electroanalytical chemistry. She was particularly interested in research ethics, food chemistry and the electro analysis of drinking water and human head hair.

'69 Plaque Installation
Jesse Mejia ’97 serves as a director on the Syracuse University Alumni Association Board of Directors. He was the first Latino president of the Student Government Association (SGA), and now works as the corporate strategy officer for Volkswagen Financial Services.

Oren Lyons, Turtle Clan Faithkeeper, Syracuse’s first Native graduate, and frequent lecturer at the United Nations.

Stephanie J. Waterman is Onondaga, Turtle Clan, from the Onondaga Nation. She is the mother of two daughters and a proud grandmother of two—a grandson and a granddaughter. She earned her doctorate from Syracuse University after working there in 11 different departments. Her research has explored Native American/ Indigenous college student experiences. She and her colleagues, Heather J. Shotton, and Shelly C. Lowe edited the first book on Native American student affairs, Beyond the Asterisk: Understanding Native Students in Higher education(Stylus, 2013), and are editing their second book, Beyond College Access: Indigenizing Programs for Student Success (Stylus, projected launch 2016).