Courtesy Photo-Deana Newman
Deana’s college career initially began at Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana, and although she enjoyed the opportunity, she experienced great difficulty in being so far from Chicago. It was her first time being away from home and Deana’s mother passed away within months of her high school graduation. At the depth of despair, she went to visit friends who attended Kentucky State University and found solace in the beautiful campus there.
“It was absolutely beautiful and so peaceful with trees, hills and gorgeous landscaping,” she said. “Being away from home was overwhelming at that time and it was only five hours away from Chicago. Most of my friends attended Kentucky State and they introduced me to other people who had warm and genuine spirits. I thought, ‘this is good.’ So, I transferred in.”
As a college student, she had a “semblance of social life”, but her mother and grandmother had always said “get your education because nobody can never take it away.” Consequently, they instilled a strong work ethic throughout her formative years which contributed to Deana skipping a grade in elementary school. She graduated from Morgan Park High School at the age of sixteen where Astronaut and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority sister Mae Jemison also attended.
Growing up in Chicago, she personally witnessed the problems of conflicting social constructs in how black people were portrayed and how they lived. She felt empowered in her own personal experience as it provided a greater sense of self, value and drive. This reality helped develop a courageous that walked her through many trials, having a solid foundation with “back bone and strength.” She learned to appreciate her personal self-worth early in life. “You work first and play later. It was arduous work and perseverance that enabled me to graduate in 3 ½ years. I attended college classes during the summers as well,” she said. “I just kept it moving. I did volunteer work in the community, was inducted into the Alpha Kappa Mu Honor Society and served as president of the local chapter. I was elated when granted the opportunity to attend Vanderbilt University for a bio-medical research internship. I’ve always enjoyed learning and majored in Biology with a minor in chemistry; graduating Magna Cum Laude from Kentucky State University. “One of the many things I embraced in my HBCU experiences was the presence of racial/ethnic diversity on campus. Since it’s categorized as a historically black college, it’s often associated strictly with the black experience. From my perspective, it was just the opposite,” Newman said, “I encountered many people from different nationalities and more diversity than many predominately white institutions. I found my HBCU experience to be very diverse.”
“I loved the culture at Kentucky State. Let’s start with the band. Going to football games was the ultimate treat! It was a time for everyone to leave their dorm, relax, socialize and get ready to see a show. To observe the various Probate (Greek)Shows was quite an experience,” she added.
Deana also appreciated the smaller classroom sizes because it allowed students to “know their professors.” She recalls fond memories of Drs. Bibbins and Karan Kaul because they “knew why we were there and respected our value/worth. We weren’t just a number.”
If there was one thing that she could change it would be the mindset of policy makers to “help them understand the actual history of why HBCU’s exist.” “They’re not just schools for black people, but all people. In our present day of various forms of racism, having access to learning institutions that nurtures cooperation and racial harmony is an empowering experience. Everything is here for a reason,” Newman said.
She has one regret with her college experience. She would have loved remaining at Xavier University if life hadn’t happened. “To this day, I love going to New Orleans every chance I get.” After learning that her great-great-grandmother moved to Chicago from ‘the Big Easy’, she was fascinated by her family’s deep roots there. But staying at Xavier would have removed her from a much-needed support system at that time.
Currently, Deana is serving a 4-year term as a Trustee for the Delta Charter Township Board. Expect greatness from this born leader and elected official! She proudly boasts of being married to David Neman and raising their lovely daughter, Miss Lola. Deana serves her community in several organizations including the LINKS, Inc. and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Kentucky State University is a public university located on 915 acres of land and was founded in 1886 as the State Normal School for Colored Persons. It became a land grant institution in 1890. Located in Frankfort, Kentucky, its total undergraduate enrollment is 2,025. Their motto is “Inspiring Innovation. Growing Leaders. Advancing Kentucky.” It is a NCAA II-SAC University. Kentucky State is the second state-supported institution of higher education in the state of Kentucky. The Paul G. Blazer Library, built in 1960, houses a collection of more than 700,000 items including books, videos, microfilm, reference materials and periodicals. The Library’s namesake, Paul G. Blazer, was the founder/CEO of Ashland Oil and Refining Company in Ashland, Kentucky.
Notable alumni include Moneta Sleet Jr, Photographer for Ebony Magazine who received a Pulitzer Prize for his picture of Mrs. Coretta Scott King and daughter, Bernice, at the funeral of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Whitney M. Young Jr., former Executive Director of the National Urban League.