Rupert Grant Seals, one of WSU’s first Black Ph.D.s

Rupert Grant Seals was honored twice by Washington State University, where he gained distinction as the fifth African American to earn a doctorate (’60 Animal Science).

He received the Alumni Achievement Award “for exemplary academic leadership in agricultural education, and for his advocacy and action in creating a national awareness of the vital need for increased economic support and opportunities for African Americans at land-grant universities.”

He also was named “Distinguished Graduate: Science, Education and Technology” for 2003 by the Department of Animal Sciences. Both awards were given at the April 12 animal sciences recognition banquet.

“I never expected it,” the Reno resident said of the recognition. “It was a pleasant surprise.”

Seals spent most of his professional career in higher education. He was professor and dean of the School of Agriculture and Home Economics at Florida A&M, 1969-74. He returned there in 1989 to direct international programs for five years, and then taught biochemistry until he retired in 1998. He was associate dean of the College of Agriculture and professor of animal nutrition at the University of Nevada, 1976-87. The recent WSU honoree also coordinated special research programs for the USDA Cooperative State Research Service in Washington, D.C. for two years in the mid-1970s.

A native of Shelbyville, Kentucky, he received B.S. (1953) and M.S. (1956) degrees at Florida A&M  and the University of Kentucky, respectively, before enrolling at WSU.

His book, Disparity: An Analysis of the Historical, Political, and Funding Factors at the State Level Affecting Black Academic Agriculture, was published in 1998. It details some of the early politics accompanying the designation of both the predominantly white and predominantly Black land-grant schools in the 17 southern states. The Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 enabled both types of institutions. He notes, however, that the Hatch-George Act (1887) and the Smith-Lever Agricultural Extension Act (1914) form the real bases of land-grant agriculture, since they provide for research and development or rural economic development. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the federal government stepped in with separate legislation to support historic land-grant Black colleges and universities, he says.

The April visit to Pullman was the first for Seals and Georgetta, his wife of 48 years, since they attended the 1973 national convention of the American Dairy Science Association hosted by WSU. He said he was impressed by the new buildings, and, in particular, the conversion of the historic agriculture barn into the Lewis Alumni Centre.

“The things we felt about WSU are still here,” he said, recalling his four years as a Ph.D. student as “a great time.”


Gene Sharratt, retired Wenatchee educator

Gene Sharratt, retired superintendent of the North Central Educational Service District (NCESD) in Wenatchee, received the Alumni Achievement Award March 14 at a WSU gathering in Wenatchee.

He was recognized as “an educator who cares about others and does something positive to help the personal conditions of children.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, 1972, he taught in Alaska and Washington and at the International School in Stavanger, Norway. He completed a Ph.D. in education at WSU in 1983, and was elementary school principal in Naches, assistant superintendent in Yelm, and superintendent in Chehalis. From 1991 until he retired in June 2002, he was credited with building the NCESD into a major educational institution.

“He has had partnership projects with nearly every institution of higher education in this state to provide better service to the educators and children in the NCESD,” wrote Donald C. Orlich, WSU professor emeritus of education, in a letter supporting Sharratt’s nomination for the award.

Sharratt founded “Kids First,” a youth advocacy group that helps children of needy families in the Wenatchee area by purchasing school materials and clothing, even glasses. He foresaw the need to prepare the work force in north central Washington with modern skills, and marshaled area leaders in support of the Community Technology Center in Wenatchee.

In 1998-99, he initiated “Honor By Listening,” a project in which high school students read Tom Brokaw’s book, The Greatest Generation, then interviewed World War II veterans as the national news anchor had. Sharratt is also responsible for more than 200 Intermountain AmeriCorps volunteers, who tutor Native American and Hispanic children in 29 different school districts in Washington.

“He is this state’s strongest advocate for quality education for all children, and is champion of the underdog,” Orlich says. “In short, Gene Sharratt adds social and educational capital to our state.”

Sharratt holds numerous teaching and community leadership awards, including the WSU College of Education’s Outstanding Teacher Award of 1982. He has published more than 80 papers and articles in professional journals.