During the April 13 meeting of PennWest Council of Trustees, the council approved the renaming of Clarion’s Walter R. Egbert Hall as John S. Shropshire Hall.


The 74-year-old building is undergoing an $8.4 million renovation to transform the former men’s dormitory into an admissions welcome center for prospective students and their families. The building had most recently been used for administrative offices. Renovations are expected to be complete in late summer.


Shropshire, former dean of admissions, was the first Black man to serve as a dean at Clarion. He broke ground with other firsts, including being the first Black head coach of high school athletics in central Pennsylvania and the first Black person elected to public office in Clarion County. He was known for instilling unity on campus and in the community.


“Long before institutions of higher education had offices to promote diversity, equity and inclusion, Clarion had John Shropshire,” said Jim Geiger, PennWest vice president of Advancement and Clarion campus administrator, in presenting the request to rename the building. “In 1957, he came to Clarion as a student; Clarion was one of the few places that accepted Black students in the 1950s. He graduated in 1961, then he returned in 1972 when he was recruited as assistant director of admissions. He was later promoted to dean of admissions.”


Geiger said naming Clarion’s welcome center for Shropshire is fitting, because he advocated for equality, but not just racial equality. “He wanted all people to be equal, and he knew that education was essential in that quest. Students were at the forefront of every decision he made as dean. He believed that if we keep the students in the center, we end up in the right place.”


Shropshire died in 2001.


Trustee Larry Pickett, whom Shropshire had recruited to Clarion from Westinghouse High School, from which both men graduated, read a resolution to rename Egbert Hall for Shropshire. The resolution cited many of Shropshire’s contributions to Clarion and to higher education. Among them are his election as president of the Pennsylvania Black Conference on Higher Education and his appointment as chairman of the enrollment management committee of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers. He advocated for education in rural areas as part of the Rural Advocacy Task Force. The resolution touted Shropshire’s belief in education, “not just as it related to students of color, but for all students.”


Shropshire’s widow, Jamie, and daughter, Alicia, attended the meeting.


“Being included with other men who are honored in the same manner as the Council of Trustees is honoring John would have had a profound effect on him,” Jamie Shropshire said. “He highly admired and respected his mentors, colleagues and friends – Walter Hart, Dr. Dana Still, President James Gemmell and President Joe Grunenwald. Now, John will be joining them with your recognition.”


She said her late husband would have been honored and humbled by the Council of Trustees’ decision to name the new admissions center after him.


“Recognizing him in such a wonderful manner means so much to his family, and we are truly grateful.”