Fannie Hicklin, UW-Whitewater’s first African American faculty member, died Friday at the age of 101, according to a UW-Whitewater news release.
Her daughter, Ariel Ford, said Hicklin died at her home in Madison, according to the release. A memorial service will be held in the spring.
During her tenure at UW-W, Hicklin taught speech and theater courses and directed more than 50 productions, according to the release.
“It’s difficult for any of us to imagine a world without Fannie Hicklin,” Chancellor Emeritus Richard Telfer said in the release. “She was clearly devoted to UW-Whitewater, not just in her time on the faculty, but even in retirement.”
Hicklin served as the associate dean of faculties, director of affirmative action and chair of the Department of Theatre/Dance. She established a summer theater program and a touring children’s theater program.
In 1970, she received UW-Whitewater’s highest teaching honor, the W.P. Roseman Excellence in Teaching award. The Hicklin Studio Theatre in the Greenhill Center of the Arts was dedicated and renamed to honor Hicklin on Founders Day, April 21, 1996, according to the release.
Her legacy also lives on through the Fannie Hicklin Theatre Education Scholarship, given to a junior or senior majoring in theater, according to the release.
Hicklin was born in Alabama in 1918 on the campus of Talladega College, where her father taught. She grew up in the racially segregated south. She taught at public schools and universities throughout the region and eventually made her way to Wisconsin, where she earned her doctorate at UW-Madison, the release states.
Hicklin arrived at UW-Whitewater in 1964, the same year President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. In a recent interview, she spoke proudly of the welcoming and supportive culture on campus, according to the release.
“Not once did I feel any type of discrimination by faculty, staff or students’ parents. I never thought about being the first black professor there because I was treated like anybody else,” she said.
Alumna Leslie LaMuro, who earned a bachelor’s degree in theater, remembers Hicklin as firm but caring, according to the release.
“I remember she had superb diction and wanted the same for her students, she said. “Breathing exercises and keeping the body in shape were part of our training. She encouraged us to be good listeners, to be in the moment.”