Black History @ Kenyon College

Karen Sheffield Today Karen Sheffield
Serving as its first secretary (unofficial), Karen Sheffield had very early contact with the Kenyon College Black Student Union and its founders. Born in Mt. Vernon, Ohio, the town that surrounds Kenyon College, Karen first came into contact with Kenyon's Black students as a member of the Mt. Vernon High School Majorettes.
The majorettes would often perform during the halftime show at the then all-male Kenyon Football games in the late 1960s. This is where she first met Kenyon football player and future BSU chairmen, Roland Parson. The two began to date while Karen attended the College of Wooster, and were eventually married in 1970.
As Roland and other Kenyon Black students formed the BSU, Karen was by his side, and helped largely, serving as unofficial secretary. Roland and Karen's home became the "Black House", where all of Kenyon's Black students would congregate and find respite from campus pressures. In this safe zone, the students would hold meetings, tutor one another, have political discussions, and generally support one another. Roland Parson with Kenyon Football Players

Karen recalls:

Those were really good times and Kenyon's Black students were so admired and respected by the Black community in Mt. Vernon...

Roland and Karen's daughter, Tamara Parson would go on to become Kenyon's first black "legacy" as well as the first black student from Mt. Vernon to graduate from Kenyon College in 1993.

Roland Parson, First BSU Chairman

Though she and Roland are no longer married, Karen Sheffield continues her involvement at Kenyon College. For 25 years, she has served as Assistant Director of the Kenyon College Career Development Center, and also served as an advisor for Kenyon's historically African-American Sorority, NIA.

Black Student Union


Kenyon in the 1960s