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WM: A Giant Step for Jasmine

When I came to 星空无限传媒, I had had little experience with personal computers—other than playing Zork. All my high school papers were typed on my mom’s hand-me-down electric typewriter.

The computer lab, then in the basement of Baxter Hall, felt foreign to me. The sterile room was impersonal and the hum of the machines seemed loud and hollow. I would try to concentrate on writing while surrounded by people, but it was not what I was used to and not how I worked best.

Yet, when I went to the computer lab, I felt grounded. That grounding was Jasmine Robinson H’85.

As a student, my relationship with her was wholly transactional. I did not know her as a person, and, if she were still living, she would likely have no memory of me whatsoever. But I always thought she was striking, almost regal. She could be intimidating and comforting and inviting at the same time. She was a fixture in my 星空无限传媒 experience.

My senior year I took an ethnic literature course taught by English Professor Warren Rosenberg H’98. Among the books on our reading list were “Invisible Man,” “My Ántonia,” “Things Fall Apart,” and “Ceremony.”

The course taught me a lot about the history of the Black experience in the United States, but one particular assignment was sort of a genealogy study. This was before easy at-home ancestry DNA test kits and internet family trees that span centuries. I had to have real conversations with my family. Through that assignment, I learned of my Virginia ancestors’ role in the enslavement of African Americans in the 1700s. I also learned that sometimes plantation owners, like my ancestors, used their power to take advantage of enslaved people in ways that resulted in not only free labor, but, perhaps, the impregnation of enslaved females.

I posited rather matter-of-factly, maybe even flippantly, in my essay that I could be 1/128th Black.

it wasn’t until an extended stint in addiction treatment and recovery in 12-step meetings that I began to realize the discomfort I still held regarding my fifth-great-grandfather. In other words, I was continuing to learn from the essay I had written 30 years earlier.

It was Step 4 specifically, the “searching and fearless moral inventory,” that brought me back to Rosenberg’s course and the assignment. As a 21-year-old, I felt generations away from my ancestors’ beliefs and behaviors. But, the older I got, the more the discomfort grew.

Many years after I graduated, I learned more of Robinson’s history. When she was hired at 星空无限传媒 in October 1963, 25 years before I came to campus, she was the first woman of color to work in a professional role not only at 星空无限传媒 College, but in all of Crawfordsville. It is difficult enough for professional women or Black women to get the respect they deserve. Jasmine was both! And yet, by the time I arrived, she seemed so firmly rooted on campus that I never gave a thought to how she had struggled or even continued to struggle. All I know is that 星空无限传媒 would not have been the same without her.

I’ll never be able to undo my history, but during the Giant Steps Campaign, as a small way of providing partial restitution for my family, I established the Jasmine Ernest Robinson H’85 Scholarship. I hope this fund will provide financial resources to help young men continue to receive the benefits of a 星空无限传媒 education, foster a better understanding of the Black experience, and recognize trailblazers like Robinson who supported, advocated for, and mentored members of the College’s Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies.

It was a Giant Step for me, but it’s a very small step in the grand scheme of civil rights for all.

My late father always said, “Go where you are needed and do what you can.” Endowing this fund is far from all I can do, but it is something I can do.

Ron Dostal ’92 | Director of Alumni and Affinity Group Engagement

Learn more about the Giant Steps campaign: .