Mrs. Edna Rambo, the first black student to earn a bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas at Austin in 1958, was the highlight of 2013 Spring Black Graduation Ceremony and Reception, held May 16 at the Texas Union Ballroom.
Rambo gave the keynote address at the ceremony, giving new graduates a sense of what life was like for African Americans 55 years ago. “The closest we came to a computer was a slide ruler…Dean Martin sang, ‘Memories are made of this…’ and during my tenure, I didn’t see anyone of us wearing jeans,” she said.
Rambo said style was important for men and for women. “There were no trousers without belts,” she said, eliciting laughter in the ballroom. “Women wore crinoline petticoats that you had to put maybe a box of starch on and then, you’d spend the rest of your time ironing it.”
Giving current graduating students a sense of the past helped Rambo to provide context for the theme of the ceremony, ”Limitless Achievement.” Rambo, a graduate of L.C. Anderson High School (now Anderson High School), first attended Huston-Tillotson University and transferred to the University of Texas at Austin to complete her degree. While she was at UT, in 1957, the nation was focused on desegregation at Little Rock Central High School.
“I would have given everything and anything for there to have been a Division of Diversity on campus in 1958,” Rambo said. “We were just so glad to see faces that looked like us.”
She congratulated the 2013 graduates for their perseverance. “You studied very hard and did not give up and that is the difference between a winner and a loser,” she said. “You will be able to shatter all of the glass ceilings that have impaired humankind.”