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Gus Ridgel was the first African American graduate student at Mizzou.

FRANKFORT — Kentucky State University President M. Christopher Brown II recently named Dr. Gus Ridgel, a Kentucky State living legend, as senior advisor to the president.

As senior advisor to the president, Ridgel will not only advise the president on significant matters, but he will also supervise all University commencements and convocations.

Ridgel retired as vice president for finance and administration at Kentucky State after a long career in higher education. His wife, Dr. Gertrude C. Ridgel, also served in various faculty roles at the institution from 1960 to 1986.

He was part of Concerned Student 1950, the first group of African-American students admitted to the University of Missouri. Ridgel was admitted to the graduate program in economics in 1950 after civil rights groups won a court ruling desegregating the university.

“He decided to attend knowing that one of the black men who had gone to court seeking to break the school’s color barrier had vanished,” according to a New York Times story. “He lived alone in a two-bed dormitory room in the midst of a campus housing shortage because no white student would room with him.”

Upon admission, Ridgel discovered the economics program was two years long, not one like he previously anticipated. He didn’t have the money for two years.

According to the New York Times story, his department chairman comprised a solution: do all the coursework and write a master’s thesis in one year. Ridgel told the Times: “no one had ever done it.”

Blazing a trail, Ridgel received a master’s degree in economics two semesters later.

Ridgel would later earn a doctorate in economics at the University of Wisconsin and conduct postdoctoral work at the University of Chicago, Duke University and other institutions.

Ridgel was honored by Kentucky State during a recent ceremony in which the creation of the Dr. Gus and Gertrude Ridgel Award was announced, to be presented to a faculty member who “demonstrates an unapologetic commitment to the history, the legacy and the future of Kentucky State.”  Dr. Cynthia Lynne Shelton was the first recipient of the award.

President Brown noted that Ridgel will help him create a new sense of community while advancing the goals of Kentucky State.

“Dr. Ridgel has impacted the lives of so many of our students, faculty, staff and alumni,” President Brown said. “I am grateful to Dr. Ridgel for sharing with us his energy, experience and his deep commitment to academic excellence and Kentucky State’s mission. Our aim is for him to teach the rich traditions and history of Kentucky State while we move forward to build greater efficiency measures and best practices.”



Kentucky State University, building on its legacy of achievement as a historically black, liberal arts, and 1890 Land Grant University affords access to and prepares a diverse population of traditional and non-traditional students through high-quality undergraduate and select graduate programs. Located in Kentucky, KSU offers associate (two-year) degrees in two disciplines, baccalaureate (four-year) degrees in 24 disciplines, master’s degrees in eight disciplines, and one advanced practice doctorate in nursing. KSU has 129 full-time instructional faculty members and more than 2,000 students.