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Pearl H. Vaughn

1914 - 1986

Inducted October 2005

 "Where everybody is somebody."
~Grambling State University Motto

Pearl H. Vaughn, an innovative educator and community recreation leader, was a true trailblazer. As an African-American female, she was at the forefront, promulgating the love of her chosen profession with deeds and actions unusual for a woman of color in the middle decade of the 20th century.

Vaughn was born in Chattanooga, TN, graduated from Tennessee State University, and began her career as a recreation leader. Later, she served as a supervisor for the Memphis Department of Parks and Recreation. In 1962 she accepted a faculty position at Grambling State University.

Grambling State University, steeped in history and a long-standing tradition of excellence, was the fi rst historically black college or university to achieve accreditation in both physical education and recreation. Through the years, the university has acquired the prestige and academic strength noted only among much larger institutions. It is one of the country’s top producers of African-American graduates.

Vaughn was a leader in building the reputation of Grambling State University in the recreation and park field. As an active member of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), “Mother Pearl,” as she was affectionately called by her friends and students, was an enthusiastic participant in the Society of Park and Recreation Educators and the Ethnic Minority Society.

It was through her efforts and leadership that Grambling State University hosted the first NRPA National Workshop to be convened on a historically black campus. The NRPA forum, “Careers in Parks and Recreation: The Role of the Black College and University,” was held at Grambling College in Louisiana in May, 1970. It provided the first opportunity to bring together black professionals and students to discuss the problems encountered in preparing recreation professionals and paraprofessionals for careers in the recreation and park field.

NRPA president, Sal J. Prezioso, attended the forum and proposed steps to alleviate problems concerned with career opportunities in parks and recreation for minority groups. He offered three recommendations which were unanimously accepted by the forum participants and were later passed as resolutions at the Board of Trustees meeting. These were that the Board of Trustees establish a continuing National Task Force for developing and implementing a national program to accelerate the education and training of minority group members for careers in the park and recreation field; that visitation teams be organized under the auspices and direction of the NRPA to visit, upon invitation, black universities, colleges, and junior colleges to advise and assist in the organization and development of park and recreation curricula; and that the Society of Park and Recreation Educators convene a conference of black universities, colleges, and junior colleges to develop mutually effective patterns for communication, the exchange of information, and the rendering of technical assistance.

Students leaving for a trip to the National Recreation and Park Association Congress.
Grambling University Yearbook, 1969


Grambling State University, Department of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation, faculty. FIRST ROW: Mrs. Catherine Williams, Mrs. Patricia Thurston, Mrs. Bessie McKinney, Dr. C.D. Henry, Head; Miss Pearl Vaughn, Mrs. Zola Ernest SECOND ROW: Oree Banks, Virden Evans, William M. Sanders, Thomas E. Williams, Willie J. Duplantier, Fred Hobdy NOT PICTURED: Mrs. Melva Wiley, Secretary; Eddie G. Robinson.
Grambling State University Yearbook, 1964

During her tenure at Grambling College, Vaughn served as coordinator of the Recreation careers program. She was meticulous with her students, insisting on excellence and hands-on leadership experiences. She believed in and practiced the art and science of recreation leadership and community development, promoting recreation services for all people.

An example of her leadership in community development is her report “Improving Recreation Programs and the Quality of Recreation Leadership in Louisiana,” published in 1970.

Over the years, accomplishments Vaughn have continued to be recognized with honors, awards, and citations. In 1992, she became the first African American to be posthumously presented the National Distinguished Pioneer Award of the Roundtable Associates, Inc. In 1996, she was one of three African-American leaders who were honored by having the book Color of Recreation dedicated to them.

Pearl Vaughn was the sponsor of the Recreation Club at Grambling State University in 1968.
Grambling State University Yearbook, 1968


Pearl Vaughn was the sponsor of the Recreation Club at Grambling State University in 1964.
Grambling State University Yearbook1964

Adapted from: Hartsoe, C, Sanders, D & Bridges, M (eds) (2009), Profiles in Leadership: Robert W. Crawford Recreation and Park Hall of Fame. National Recreation and Park Association and American Academy of Park and Recreation Administration.

  • Grambling State University website. http://www. gram.edu/
  • National Recreation Association. (July, 1970). Black college forum gives new insight, Parks & Recreation. 44-45.
  • National Recreation and Park Ethnic Minority Siciety, Inc. (1997). Color of recreation. Philadelphia: Quantum Leap Publisher, Inc.

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