Vanessa Ross First Recipient of the Almetris Marsh Duren Memorial Challenge Grant Scholarship


Texas Exes, friends and admirers of Almetris Marsh Duren created this scholarship to honor her life as a mentor and role model to students at The University of Texas at Austin.

Almetris Marsh Duren received her bachelor of science degree from Tillotson College in Austin, Texas, in 1950, where she taught for several years. In 1956 she became a house mother for African-American females living in Eliza Dee Dorm, located many blocks from The University of Texas campus, at 12th and East Avenue. African-American female students from The University of Texas lived here because they were not allowed to live on campus, in accordance with Regents’ policy at the time. When Eliza Dee Dorm was scheduled to be torn down to make way for an interregional highway in 1958, Mrs. Duren and the African-American female students were relocated to a remodeled residence on Whitis Avenue, which became known as Almetris Co-op.

Mrs. Duren served as a house mother to African-American female students from 1958 to 1969. She was not only a house mother but also a ready, dependable resource for African-American students and other students of color on The University of Texas campus during the time of integration and desegregation. In 1969 she left the co-ops to work in the Dean of Students Office at The University of Texas, where she continued to have a great impact. Several campus programs were initiated through her leadership, including Project Info, the University’s first minority student recruitment effort, and the Innervisions of Blackness Choir. To recognize Mrs. Duren’s dedication and commitment, the Presidential Citation for Outstanding Service was awarded to her in 1979, and she received the Distinguished Service Award from the Southwest Association of College and University Housing Officers in 1983. She also received the Margaret C. Berry Award for outstanding contributions to student life at The University of Texas at Austin in 1983. Mama Duren was one of the original recipients of the Nowotny Medal, which honors retired student life specialists who’ve made extraordinary contributions to student life at UT.

Almetris Duren co-authored the book, Overcoming: A History of Black Integration at The University of Texas at Austin, published in 1979. Her book chronicles events in the fight for integration, opening with the legal battle that began in 1946 when Heman Sweatt applied for admittance to The University of Texas Law School, and concluding with an account of the removal of de facto barriers to integration in admissions, housing and athletics in the late 1970s. Though considered a resource primarily for African American students, her ability to provide encouragement to all students, regardless of race or nationality, earned her highest honors and the gratitude of generations of students to whom she served as mentor, protector, and friend. The University honored Mrs. Duren by naming the newest dorm after her. Duren Hall, located on Whitis Avenue, opened in 2007.

Because of her nurturing spirit, she was and still is fondly referred to as “Mama Duren.” The scholarship is for African American entering freshmen at UT Austin who demonstrate academic excellence and financial need.

The first recipient is Vanessa Ross.

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