St. Philip’s College kicked off Black History Month on February 5 with an opening ceremony at the campus to announce the activities for the month and formally unveil the recently published book titled St. Philip’s College: A Point of Pride on San Antonio’s Eastside written by Dr. Marie Pannell Thurston, the coordinator Oral History for St. Philip’s College.
The book is the first in a series Texas A&M-San Antonio (TAMU-SA) is sponsoring through Texas A&M University Press called Peoples and Cultures of Texas. St. Philip’s College President Dr. Adena Williams Loston was joined by Dr. Maria Hernandez Ferrier, the president of TAMU-SA, for the formal announcement during today’s ceremony. The inaugural publication tells the story of the nation’s only college to be federally designated as both a Historically Black College and a Hispanic-serving Institution, and marks the 115th anniversary of the founding of St. Philip’s College.
Marie Pannell Thurston has not always been an accomplished author. She grew up in a loving home in Lynchburg, Virginia as the middle child of three brothers and three sisters in the midst of segregation and the Great depression. Her parents were unable to attend school beyond the 5th grade, but they emphasized to their children the importance of achieving higher education. After high school, despite having limited financial resources, Thurston attended a historically Black junior college in Lynchburg and graduated from Virginia State College, in Petersburg, Virginia, also a historically Black institution.
She married a fellow Virginia Statesman, Charles S. Thurston, M.D., and together they raised four very accomplished daughters: a physician, a college dean, a librarian and an education specialist employed by the Federal Reserve Bank. Thurston earned her first Masters degree at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and her second at the University of Texas at San Antonio, working full-time all the while. After her husband joined the military, they moved every three to four years on military assignments in the United States and Europe and while Thurston enjoyed the travel, because of the frequent moves and family responsibilities, her career was put on hold. Throughout her life, she remained active in her church and served on many community boards, receiving numerous awards for her contributions.
Following Dr. Charles Thurston’s retirement from the military, they settled in San Antonio and at the age of 66 years, Marie determined to again continue her education. At the age of 71 years, Thurston received her PhD in Education, with a concentration in Organizational Leadership, from the University of the Incarnate Word.
Today, at 81 years of age, Dr. Thurston’s first book, St. Philip’s College: A Point of Pride on San Antonio’s Eastside, was published by Texas A&M University Press. A history of the first Historically Black and Hispanic serving institution in San Antonio and the only institution in the nation with this designation, her book features the story of how Artemisia Bowden, a strong African American woman, who with decades of persistence, and against all odds, commits her path to God and accomplishes the goals she set. Several other strong women, particularly three black women, followed in her footsteps, serving as the President of St. Philip’s College. In many ways, Thurston’s life is a reflection of their stories for each overcame great hardships and discrimination before succeeding.