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Message from the Office of the Chancellor

September 18, 2019 - The passing of Norman R. Seay

Dear UMSL Community,

It is with a heavy heart that I share that longtime civil rights leader, educator and former UMSL administrator, Norman R. Seay, has passed away at age 87. 

Mr. Seay has been one of St. Louis’ most widely respected advocates and voices in the civil rights movement and spent most of his life educating people about the importance of integration and equal opportunities for all. His name and legacy will forever be associated with St. Louis’ past and future.

Many know his legacy already – including his founding of the St. Louis Congress of Racial Equality and his stand at Jefferson Bank in 1963 where he and 300 others stood together against racial discrimination. His role in the demonstration, which is one of the most important events of the modern civil rights movement in St. Louis, led to his 90-day incarceration.

What may not be well known is that Mr. Seay left his own legacy right here at UMSL where he served as Director of Equal Opportunity from 1987 to 2000. Hired by former Chancellor Marguerite Ross Barnett, he was a champion for issues related to race, gender, underrepresentation, equity and inclusion. He also initiated UMSL’s prestigious Trailblazer Award honoring pioneering UMSL women.  

In 2013, Mr. Seay shared with friends his disappointment in being unable to attend either inauguration for President Barack Obama due to health issues. So, his friends and colleagues at UMSL contacted then-U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill to arrange an invitation to the White House. What was expected to be a quick meet-and-greet turned into an invitation for Mr. Seay to attend the Obama’s annual holiday party. It was there that Mr. Seay got to meet the country’s first African American president and present to him the Chancellor’s Medal on behalf of the university.

Mr. Seay had been visible at UMSL in the years since, including in 2015 when he joined us for a panel titled “From Marches to Millennials,” which looked at civil rights era protests alongside the more recent protests that occurred in Ferguson.

According to colleagues, many of whom are still at UMSL today, he possessed immense personal dignity, treated everyone with the utmost respect, never raised his voice but also never lost sight of the goal of equality for all. He persisted to raise issues and to work towards equitable solutions.

Please join me in expressing our sincere condolences to Mr. Seay’s family and in expressing our appreciation for the legacy he has left on St. Louis, our nation and our university.

In Condolence,

Kristin Sobolik
Interim Chancellor and Provost