More than 400 students and families, friends, and SPC staff, senior administration and faculty celebrated with the Dr. Johnnie Ruth Clarke Scholars recipients at the Palladium Theater on Aug. 5. The event was sponsored by the college and the Dr. Johnnie Ruth Clarke Chapter of the National Council on Black American Affairs.
“I thought it was absolutely fabulous,” said Lolita Brown, SPC counselor at the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus and president of the Dr. Johnnie Ruth Clarke Chapter of the NCBAA. “It was not the first time we’ve actually had a ceremony, but it is the first time that we have done it at this level where so much of senior administration was involved, and it’s the first time we’ve done it in as large a venue as this.
“It was an absolutely magnificent tribute to Dr. Clarke and her legacy,” Brown said.
Johnnie Ruth Clarke was an educator and humanitarian who spent her life improving the lives of others. She was born in St. Petersburg in 1919 to parents who worked as head bellman and head housekeeper at the Soreno Hotel in downtown St. Petersburg, and she credited them and her teachers for encouraging her to succeed academically.
Clarke, who earned her bachelor’s degree in social science from Florida A&M University and a master’s degree from Fisk University, played an important part in the local academic, cultural and medical communities as well as our state history. In 1966, she became the first African-American to receive a doctorate from the University of Florida’s College of Education, and the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate at any Florida public university.