University of Memphis Honors the Life and Legacy of Two Members of Memphis State Eight

February 14, 2017 - Two members of the Memphis State Eight – the first group of African-American students to attend then-Memphis State University – passed away recently. Eleanor Gandy died Feb. 6 in Charlotte, N.C.; Rose Blakney Love passed away in Memphis on Feb. 12.

Ms. Gandy graduated from Memphis State in 1963 and earned her master's degree in education from MSU in 1966. She was a longtime teacher for the Memphis City Schools. Mrs. Love had a long career with the Social Security Administration.

The Memphis State eight, as they came to be known, were the first African-Americans to integrate the campus in 1959. They were allowed on the campus only until noon and were restricted from the cafeteria and student center. Despite fear and uncertainty, they persevered to receive an education.

In 2006, the University recognized the pioneering students at a formal dinner and reception. "I used to think back on those days and wonder if I would have done it again," Mrs. Love said at the time. "I know I would have. It had to be done; somebody had to be first. We helped pave the way not only for our own children, but also for all the others who came behind us. And that made it all worthwhile." A historical marker celebrating the Memphis State Eight was placed outside the Administration Building in 2012.

"We extended our sympathies to the families of Eleanor Gandy and Rose Blakney Love. As we continue to grow as a University, we hope the courage and strength shown by these two groundbreaking students will inspire future generations to stand up for what they believe in, and to fight for social justice," said President M. David Rudd.

"These eight individuals are a significant part of the historical fabric of the University," said Linda Hall, associate dean for Multicultural Affairs. "Their contributions have been well documented and their place cemented."

"I am empowered and motivated as I walk in my office each day and view the inspirational photographs of the Memphis State Eight hanging on my walls. It is on their shoulders that I stand, and I am eternally grateful for their courage, grace, dignity and intellect," said Provost Karen Weddle-West.

Contact: Gabrielle Maxey