Baylor Honors Dr. Vivienne Malone-Mayes, University’s First African-American Faculty Member

February 28, 2019

Bronze bust dedicated and on permanent display at the entrance of the department of mathematics

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-710-6275
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WACO, Texas (Feb. 28, 2019) – Before an overflow crowd that included the daughter of the late Vivienne Malone-Mayes, Ph.D., Baylor University recognized the exceptional life and achievements of the University’s first African-American faculty member during a special ceremony Feb. 26 on the third floor of the Sid Richardson Building.

Held during Black History Month, the event included the unveiling of a 50-pound, two-foot bronze bust of Dr. Malone-Mayes, who taught math at Baylor from 1966 to 1994. The bust was created by Utah sculptor Dee Jay Bawden. Encased in glass and on display at the entrance of the department of mathematics, it represents the first sculpture of a female professor or alumna on the Baylor campus. In addition, three panel displays highlight Dr. Malone-Mayes’ experiences and history at Baylor, which included being rejected when she applied to Baylor in 1961 because of her race.

“For years, people have asked me what Baylor has done to honor my mom, but because she had a humble spirit, I would always say that they’ve been pretty good to her,” said Patsy Wheeler, Dr. Malone-Mayes’ daughter. “Now, I can truly say that Baylor University has stepped up, showed out and made us proud.”

The spring 2018 issue of Baylor Magazine included a feature by Lane Murphy on the Remarkable Legacy of Dr. Malone-Mayes, including her educational journey from Waco to Nashville to Dallas to Austin and eventually to Baylor as a faculty member:

    “Vivienne Lucille Malone was born Feb. 10, 1932, the only child of Pizarro and Vera Estelle Allen Malone; her family included educators and community leaders. She grew up in Waco and graduated at age 16 from A.J. Moore High School, not far from the Baylor campus.
    “She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from Nashville’s Fisk University, where she was taught by Dr. Lee Lorch, a prominent desegregationist, and Dr. Evelyn Boyd Granville, the second African-American woman to earn a PhD in mathematics and the creator of computer software to analyze satellite orbits for NASA programs. She married dentist James Mayes during this time and later became the fifth African-American female to earn a mathematics PhD. She credited Granville as the primary reason she pursued the degree.
    “Malone-Mayes chaired the math departments at Bishop College in Dallas and then Paul Quinn College, which was in Waco at the time. Because she wanted to take more graduate-level classes courses, Malone-Mayes applied to Baylor in 1961, but she was rejected because of her race. (Baylor trustees voted to integrate Nov. 1, 1963.) Malone-Mayes framed her Baylor rejection letter as a reminder of the struggle for academic equality.
    “Determined to earn her PhD, in 1962, Malone-Mayes enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, which had been required by federal law to integrate. At the height of the civil rights movement, she participated in and helped lead marches and pickets of restaurants, movie theaters and other businesses in Austin, Waco and elsewhere. Her time as a PhD student was often lonely and stressful. Malone-Mayes persevered to become the second African-American and the first black female to earn a PhD in mathematics from the University of Texas.”

In 1966, Dr. Malone-Mayes joined the Baylor faculty as a professor of mathematics. In 1971, Baylor Student Congress named her as an Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year. Ill health forced her to retire in 1994 after 28 years at Baylor. She passed away June 9, 1995, at age 63.

Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., was one of several speakers at the ceremony who reflected on Dr. Malone-Mayes’ life and the values she represented.

“I’m especially touched by her bravery and her courage through extremely challenging times to stand up for what she believed in, to do it with pride and grace and to really stand up for justice in the midst of extreme persecution at not an easy time to do that,” President Livingstone said. “I am personally and deeply humbled by her example and by what she represented. And I am really committed here at Baylor that we honor her legacy by having that same level of bravery and courage that she did to continue that quest for justice that she had such an impact on.”

Dr. Malone-Mayes’ professional associations included serving as a member of the American Mathematical Society, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the Mathematical Association of America, where she was elected director-at-large for the Texas section. She also was the first black woman elected to the Association for Women in Mathematics’ executive committee, and she served on the board of the National Association of Mathematicians (NAM), which seeks to promote the success of underrepresented minorities in the mathematical sciences.

“Only One”

NAM’s current president, Edray Goins, Ph.D., professor of mathematics at Pomona College in Claremont, California, took a red-eye flight to Waco to attend the ceremony and honor Dr. Malone-Mayes. Goins was the subject of a recent New York Times article, “For a Black Mathematician, What It’s Like to Be the ‘Only One.’

“In many ways, I can relate with Dr. Malone-Mayes’ experience. I was fortunate enough to recently be featured in the New York Times where I spoke about my own isolation. It can be debilitating and can cause you to question your own worth, but Dr. Malone-Mayes persisted,” Dr. Goins said. “She became the first African American math professor at Baylor, the same school that she could not even attend perhaps some 10 years before. But Dr. Malone-Mayes had grit, class and determination that we all should employ.”

Along with her academic pursuits and lengthy teaching career, Malone-Mayes was a strong servant leader in the community. She was a lifelong member of New Hope Baptist Church, where she was organist and director of the youth choir. Malone-Mayes advocated for Waco ISD students and served on several boards and committees, including Family Counseling and Children Services, Goodwill Industries, and the Heart of Texas Region Mental Health and Mental Retardation Center.

“She had a distinguished career as an educator, researcher, musician, community leader and organizer…and, last but not least, a civil rights leader,” said Lance Littlejohn, Ph.D., professor and chair of mathematics at Baylor. “I have also seen the words ‘trailblazer’ and ‘pioneer’ used to described Vivienne. Yes, she was both of those. Vivienne endured countless hardships and racial injustices throughout her life, but each time she was knocked down, she stood up taller and stronger.”

Also giving remarks were Howard Rolf, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Mathematics and department chair when Dr. Malone-Mayes was a member of the Baylor math faculty; and Robert Darden, professor of journalism, public relations and new media and director of Baylor’s Black Gospel Music Restoration Project.

Darden was instrumental in leading the University to recognize Dr. Malone-Mayes and also challenged Baylor to further honor her by diversifying its faculty. Currently, about 15.6 percent of faculty are from minority and other underrepresented groups, but only 2.8 percent are African-American. Darden said this event could be seen “as a guide, as a goad, as a spur to us” to increase diversity.

“Baylor University ought to be a light on a hill instead of always having to apologize that we are not better than we are,” Darden said.

Dr. Malone-Mayes continues to be remembered in other ways across the Baylor campus. In November 2017, the Baylor Black Alumni Network gala commemorated the 50-year anniversary of the University’s first black graduates, honored others who achieved firsts on campus and benefited The Dr. Vivienne Malone-Mayes Scholarship Endowment, which has provided Baylor students with scholarships since 2008. A plaque in her honor is affixed to a memorial lamppost in front of McMullen-Connally Faculty Center. It reads in part, “Scholar, Teacher, Pioneer, Community Member, Loving Friend, Inspiration To Us All — She made the path smoother for those who followed.”


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.