Indiana State University Newsroom

ISU trustees approve naming of street ‘Ambassador Cynthia Shepard Perry Way’

July 28, 2021

Indiana State University’s Board of Trustees on Friday approved the honorary naming of a campus street as “Ambassador Cynthia Shepard Perry Way,” recognizing the long and distinguished career of a Terre Haute native and ISU graduate. 

Dr. Perry was selected by three U.S. Presidents to represent the nation internationally. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan appointed her as Ambassador to Sierra Leone. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush appointed her as Ambassador to Burundi.

Reagan had previously appointed Perry as chief of the Education and Human Resources Division in the Africa Bureau of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The honorary naming covers a half-mile of Fifth Street from Tippecanoe Street to Cherry Street. It is owned by ISU as part of an agreement with the City of Terre Haute in 2011. Appropriate signage will mark the honorary naming, but street addresses will not be changed because of public safety.

“We’re proud to honor Ambassador Cynthia Shepard Perry, one of the most prominent people to come from Terre Haute and graduate from Indiana State University,” ISU President Dr. Deborah J. Curtis said. “She spent her career bringing people together in our nation and around the world, and represented our country with distinction in numerous capacities.”

Perry grew up in the segregated community called the Lost Creek Settlement just outside Terre Haute. After graduating from high school in 1946, she married and started a family while also working in banking and for IBM, the computer hardware company. She later earned a scholarship to Indiana State, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in political science in 1968.

She went on to earn a doctorate in international education from the University of Massachusetts in 1972. As part of her doctoral program, she worked with former Peace Corps volunteers who had served in Africa to develop and test African Studies curricula for public schools to help improve race relations.

Perry had a distinguished career in education, consulting, and diplomacy. She held prominent positions at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the University of Nairobi in Kenya, Texas Southern University, and Texas Woman’s University.

Dr. Perry was recognized with Indiana State University’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1987, the same year she received the NAACP President’s Award. She also holds an honorary doctorate and a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Massachusetts.

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Dianne Powell, Associate Director of University Communication

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