The Diversity Club and Club of the Arts honor Memphis State Eight pioneer Bertha Rogers Looney

Southwest’s Diversity Club and Club of the Arts will present civil rights student pioneer Bertha Rogers Looney with the Sharing the Love Award the Union Avenue Campus.

Bertha Rogers Looney

Looney and seven other African-Americans were the first group of students to desegregate Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis) in 1959, and became known as the Memphis State Eight.

The Memphis State Eight have received numerous honors and awards for their perseverance in breaking down racial barriers to higher education. The University of Memphis presented the Memphis State Eight with the Arthur S. Holmon Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Center for Research on Women honored Looney as one of the 100 most influential women in their 100-year history. Other awards include the Memphis Theological Seminary Henry Logan Starks’ Legacy Award, New Sardis Baptist Church Memphis Living Legends Award, and in 2017, the City of Memphis and Church of God in Christ bestowed the “Be the Dream” Legacy award.

Looney completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Memphis. Her teaching career spans more than 40 years—she is a former high school business education teacher and a retired associate professor of English from Southwest. Looney is a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Better Love Yourself organization. Her publications include “Our Heritage Has Seeded our Future,” and a book of poems, “Homecoming Portraits.”

The event featured a musical production, student dramatic presentation and a reading.