Iowa State University and the family of the man who paved the way as its first Black student-athlete honored him Friday with the public dedication of the new “Breaking Barriers” sculpture.
The sculpture honors Jack Trice, whose name adorns the football stadium located nearby in Ames.
Trice was a member of the Cyclone football and track and field teams who studied animal husbandry.
Though the cold and wet weather Friday altered the schedule of planned events for the dedication, family of Jack Trice were able to experience the sculpture up close and honor their ancestor in other ways.
George Trice, an Iowa State graduate who lives in Phoenix, Arizona, a first cousin twice removed of Jack Trice, got to unveil the Jack Trice Way street sign that renamed a portion of South Fourth Street — something that was within the university’s authority to do because of its adjacent property on both sides.
That unveiling happened earlier in the day during a break in the weather, when George Trice, his wife Lisa Trice and son George Trice III, and Toyia Younger, Iowa State’s senior vice president for student affairs and chair of the committee commemorating the 100th anniversary of Jack Trice’s death, got to walk through the Breaking Barriers sculpture.
More:‘Jack Trice broke barriers’: New sculpture commemorating ISU player installed at stadium
Inside the Jacobsen Athletic Building, Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen later presented George Trice with gifts including an album that contained Jack Trice’s academic records, and a small-scale 3D-printed version of the Breaking Barriers sculpture.
“It was awesome and I was in awe,” George Trice said of being able to walk through the full-sized outdoor sculpture. He said he didn’t realize how large the sculpture was going to be.
He also received a framed copy of a proclamation Ames Mayor John Haila read to honor Jack Trice and declare Friday as the opening of the centennial commemoration of his death. The 100-year anniversary will be Oct. 8, 2023.
Jack Trice died of internal injuries he sustained two days earlier in a football game against the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. He was 21 years old.
The Ames proclamation noted there were football teams that refused to play the Cyclones because Jack Trice was Black. Management at a hotel for the Minnesota game refused to let him use the same dining room as the rest of his teammates, so he stayed at a separate hotel.
Iowa was the first state to desegregate public schools, in 1868, but that didn’t guarantee fair treatment for students of color like Trice half a century later.
More:How Iowa became the first state in the nation to desegregate schools
Black students were not allowed to live in school dormitories. Iowa State University Museums notes in a biography of Jack Trice that the policy was not in writing, but it unofficially barred non-white students from living with white students.
Jack Trice found housing for himself and his wife, Cora Mae, at the Masonic Temple in downtown Ames.
Younger said, “our work is not done” until all Cyclones are welcome and feel part of campus.
“Don’t just think about it. Be about it and act on it,” she said.
Trice’s perseverance through the barriers put in front of him inspire Anthony Johnson Jr., of St. Petersburg, Florida, who is a team captain of the Cyclones as a defensive back.
Johnson said he grew up in a motel with eight people and two beds.
“I faced many challenges but I prevailed because I understood that my power resided in my response,” he said.
He’s on track to be the first in his family to graduate college.
“Jack Trice is the reason why I want to be the best role model I can be for my nephews and nieces. Jack Trice taught me no matter the obstacles you face, how much the odds are against you, you do it with your chin up and chest out,” Johnson said.
“This is not just a statue. This is not just a logo. This is something that we truly believe in and live by on a daily basis.”
The university has a year’s worth of events planned to honor the centennial of Jack Trice’s death. More information is available at jacktrice100.com.
Phillip Sitter covers education for the Ames Tribune, including Iowa State University and PreK-12 schools in Ames and elsewhere in Story County. Phillip can be reached via email at email@example.com. He is on Twitter @pslifeisabeauty.
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