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Ruben Edward Pope
Kenyon Class of 1970
Major: History
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
Ruben Pope 1966 Ruben Pope Today
Pre-Kenyon Life
"We were the generation that was supposed to integrate America." says Ruben Pope, reminiscing on his college years. Born in Cleveland, Ohio on June 28, 1948, Ruben was the only son of Ruben Pope Jr. and Marie Danzy Pope. His mother died while he was young, but his father remarried and raised Ruben and his sisters. Though they were not wealthy, he and his sisters were always provided for. Ruben attended Glenville High, a predominately black public school on the East Side of Cleveland.

His father was a postal worker, also worked part-time as a waiter at the University Club in Cleveland to support his family, and provide his children an opportunity to go to college, something that neither he nor Ruben's mother did. His connections at the University Club served as Ruben introduction to Kenyon. His father had met several speakers who were Kenyon graduates. He was impressed by them and thought that this might be a good place for his son to explore.
After visiting during Pre-Freshman Weekend, and on his father's urging, Ruben decided to apply to Kenyon College. He was admitted, and entered as a member of the class of 1970. In retrospect, Ruben states that he really did not fully understand what he was getting himself into.
Early Kenyon Life
The amount of drinking and recreation that occurred at the college initially struck Ruben. He remembers the Dean's first meeting with the freshman during orientation when Dean Edwards told a set of raunchy jokes. This initial meeting set the tone for his Kenyon experience, and made him realize that there would not be much discipline at Kenyon. Especially coming from a background where corporal punishment was used in school.
Ruben Pope 1971 Ruben lived in Gund Dorm where he first met fellow students John Rinka and Eugene Peterson. He and Peterson, one of the few other black students in his class, quickly became very good friends and banded together to support one another. Ruben found Kenyon to be a very challenging place. The social scene at Kenyon was much different than his life in Cleveland, and he felt that he did not belong. As one of the few black students at the College, he felt that he was constantly on display, and forced to "represent his race." Pope found Kenyon to be a very academically rigorous school, and initially doubted his ability to compete there. His friendship with Peterson, who had attended a private high school in Massachusetts, proved very helpful in assisting Pope with his work.
Organizations/Fraternities and Sports
Initially, Pope played both Basketball and Soccer for Kenyon. According to Ruben:

"Sports kept me going. It was not easy for me academically and if it hadn't been for sports, social adjustment would have been much more difficult… But playing soccer also proved to make things difficult academically in terms of time management."
Pope and Soccer Teammates 1967

Pope (center above) and some of his Soccer teammates in 1967

Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity 1967

Pope (pictured on stairs at the far right) was a member of Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity

Unlike many black students before him, Ruben did pledge a fraternity. Pope became a member of Alpha Delta Phi, during his freshman year. Though he enjoyed his time with the AD's, the biggest benefit from fraternity life was divisional housing that was allotted to fraternities. He still felt that he lacked social engagement and a niche. This is what led him along with Eugene Peterson and others, to form the Black Student Union.

Pope play soccer

Pope shown above playing soccer.

The BSU provided not only a social outlet, but support as well. According to Pope: "All the things that others had been doing all along , in terms of identity searching, the things that we were supposed to do in College, we could finally do once the BSU was formed." Pope became an adamant spokesperson for increase Black recruitment and retention at Kenyon.

During his senior year, Pope served on the Commission on the Disadvantaged, a Kenyon committee comprised of students, alumni and trustees, to investigate policies and methods for opening Kenyon to a wider range of students from non-traditional backgrounds. Additionally, he captained the Varsity Soccer team, served on Campus Senate and was elected Senior Class President.

Pope often found refuge and social engagement in the black community of Mt. Vernon as well as in Columbus. One way that he dealt with the pressures of being at Kenyon was simply to leave campus and not be at Kenyon.
Race Related Incidents
Like many black students before him, Pope's involvement in sports proved a mixed blessing at best. Although sports provided a social outlet for Black students, many Blacks also encountered racism on the field or when traveling to sporting events. For example, Pope and other black students encountered opposition in regards to staying in the same hotels as their white teammates.
Kenyon Soccer Captain Ruben Pope Pope still has bittersweet memories about Kenyon. He recalls all of the social upheaval and events that occurred during his college years, particularly Martin Luther King's assassination, the Kent State and Jackson State incidents. He feels that the education was top notch and that Kenyon taught him how to reason, think and solve problems. But he regrets the lack of social engagement. "It wasn't easy, but it was worth it. If I had it to do over again, I would not."
His most pleasant memories are of the BSU and the bonds that he made therein. It gives Pope great pleasure to know that something he helped start, still exists at Kenyon continues to serve a purpose.
Call & Post Article on Ruben Pope

Article from a Cleveland Newspaper, The Call and Post
Pope has returned to Kenyon for class reunions over the years and also for the 25th and 30th Anniversaries of the Black Student Union. After leaving Kenyon, Ruben went to law school at Boston University. Currently, Pope resides in his hometown, Cleveland, Ohio, where he serves as a Magistrate for the Cleveland Municipal Housing Court.

left to right: Ulysses Hammond, Barbara Lee Johnson, Johnnie Johnson, Eugene Peterson, Ruben Pope; seated: William Lowry, 2000

Black Students @ Kenyon in the 1970s



Kenyon in the 1970s