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Ellen Strong, ASU's first female African-American graduate, dies

Feb. 4, 2009 -- Ellen Turner Strong, the first female African-American to receive an undergraduate degree at Arkansas State University - Jonesboro, passed awayEllen Turner Strong at her ASU graduation, 1964. suddenly in Hot Springs last Saturday. Born in 1929 at Jonesboro, she was 79 years old at the time of her death. She graduated from ASU-Jonesboro in 1964 with a degree in education and spent her life as a classroom teacher.

Mrs. Strong was the former wife of the late Walter Strong, who, with Frederick Turner, entered ASU-Jonesboro in 1955 as the first African-American students on campus. Strong graduated in 1959, also receiving a master's degree in 1971 from ASU. In 1982, the Strong-Turner Alumni Chapter, a chapter of the ASU Alumni Association, was founded to meet the needs of its African-American graduates and was named for Walter Strong and Frederick Turner.

In 2004, Mrs. Strong was honored at Homecoming by the Strong-Turner Alumni Chapter for her pioneering role at ASU and her 38 years of service to education. For 35 years, she taught in the Hot Springs School District, retiring from teaching in 1995. Among her years of classroom work in the primary (K-8) grades, she also taught in the fields of adult education and special education, having received a master's degree in special education in 1976. She chose to come out of retirement in 1998 to teach three more years in Mississippi, based on her devotion to classroom teaching and belief in the power of education.

The Ellen T. Strong Scholarship Fund is being established in her honor through the New Life Christian Fellowship, P.O. Box 1184, Malvern, Ar, 72104. In lieu of flowers, those wishing to memorialize Mrs. Strong may make donations to the scholarship.

The family is receiving friends at 301 Woodridge Street in Hot Springs. Memorial services will be held in the Hot Springs Middle School Auditorium, 700 Main Street, Hot Springs, on Saturday, Feb. 7, beginning at 1 p.m.

Arrangements will be by Gross Funeral Home of Hot Springs. Those wishing to sign an online guest register may do so at

Mrs. Strong was the daughter of the late Harvey and Annie Turner of Jonesboro. She was educated in the Jonesboro School District and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1947. Survivors include two daughters, Rosanna Carroll of Malvern and Janette Strong of Hot Springs; a sister, Harriet Hyatt of Jonesboro and three grandchildren, including Stephen Carroll of Malvern, who received a bachelor's degree from the ASU College of Education in 2004, the third generation of Walter and Ellen Strong's educational legacy.            



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