Celebrating Black History Month with the USF Photograph Collection

Reading Time: 5 minutes

The USF Photograph Collection pictorially documents the history and legacy of the University of South Florida, including the impact of two pioneering individuals. In celebration of Black History Month, Digital Dialogs would like to recognize Dr. Ernest Boger, II and Dr. Juel Smith for their many accomplishments and contributions to our USF community.

Dr. Ernest Boger, II

Ernest Boger, a male student in his early 20s, holding several books as he walks on the USF campus.
USF Digital Collections, “Ernest Boger, USF’s first African American student” (U10-00054)

In 1961, Ernest Boger, II became the first African-American student to enter the University of South Florida. By his graduation, Boger had witnessed many historically significant events here at USF. He saw the Bull chosen as our mascot, the school song written, the student body more than triple, and USF’s multicultural diversity grow.[1] Even though his first impression of USF was that it consisted of “a lot of sand,” he soon saw new buildings being constructed amongst the wild foliage and important new student programs form.[1] Throughout his time at USF, Boger was an active participant in the campus community, taking part in the band, choir, Russian Language Club, and basketball ball team.[1]

As a student on a music scholarship, it was in the band where he first formed solid peer connections. Boger notes that he has always been proud of the “different, progressive environment here at South Florida.”[1] Outside of campus, some areas of Tampa were still struggling with the concept of desegregation, something that Boger experienced directly. In the early 1960s, Boger accompanied the USF band to Scaglione’s University Restaurant after a concert.[2] When the band was informed by restaurant staff that “we can’t serve [Boger],” the band director responded with “well, guys, it appears that they can’t serve Ernie here, so if they’re not going to serve Ernie, we’re not going to eat here.”[1]

That statement had a profound effect as almost a hundred people left the restaurant that night and USF students and faculty picketed the restaurant the next day. [1] Boger gives credit to USF students and faculty as “they recognized a situation and stepped up and did what was the right thing.”[1] Boger states that “it’s not so important to recognize me as a person who opened the door, but me as the first person who walked through the open door, because USF had an open door … Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, they had closed doors.”[3]

In 1965, Boger graduated from USF with a B.S. in psychology. Later, he earned a M.B.A. from the University of North Texas and a doctorate in management from Revans International University.[4] Over the last 30 years, Dr. Boger has held various positions in the hospitality industry. He is currently the Chairman and Associate Professor of the Hospitality and Tourism Management Department at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and has been named “one of the most influential African/Americans in Travel/Tourism” for the last five years by Black Meetings & Tourism Magazine.[4] To date, Dr. Boger is the only African American to be awarded the USF President’s Fellow Medallion.[5]

Dr. Juel Smith

A portrait of Juel Smith, the founder of the Institute of Black Life at USF
USF Digital Collections, “Institute of Black Life founder Juel Smith” (U10-00177)

Like Ernest Boger, Juel Smith also entered USF as a student, earning her doctorate in counselor education in 1987. Dr. Smith has held several influential positions at USF, including a counselor in the Counseling Center for Human Development, founder and Acting Director of the Institute on Black Life, founder of the Center for Africa and the Diaspora, founding executive director of the Women in Leadership and Philanthropy program, and Director of Institutional Development at USF.[6] Her time at the university has been marked by her devotion to student learning, community engagement, and service.

During her 32 years of employment at USF, Dr. Smith has seen and been a part of major changes relating to diversity.[6] Her first impression of USF was that “it was very large, very massive” with a predominately Caucasian demographic.”[6] During her work as a counselor, she began to see “a number of black students who could not afford to continue attending classes,” which prompted her to reach out to the Tampa African-American community for assistance and donations.[6] She also established the Institute on Black Life at USF, which worked with the university and surrounding community populations to promote diversity and African-American culture.[6]

Regarding change, Dr. Smith believes “it takes leadership [as] students are here to learn, and so we must be role models for all of our students.”[6] As she met with female students and faculty, she began to recognize the issues professional women face. In response, she established the Women in Leadership and Philanthropy program. The program works to “create scholarships and programmatic initiatives for women faculty and students.”[7] The Dr. Juel Hickman Shannon Smith Endowed Scholarship serves as a testament to her commitment to students and her many contributions to USF.[8]

Juel Smith shaking the hand of a scholarship recipient as he recieves his award.
USF Digital Collections, “Juel Smith Awarding Scholarships to African American Students” (U10-00053)

These remarkable individuals left an indelible mark on the University of South Florida. Their commitment to learning, service, and generosity have strengthened and enriched our campus community by fostering the ideals of inclusion, diversity, and community.


Uncover more USF history by viewing our USF Photograph Collection.

Learn more about Dr. Ernest Boger, II:

  • By listening to his interview, collected for the USF 50th Anniversary Oral History Project on December 5th, 2003.

Learn more about Dr. Juel Smith:

  • By listening to her interview, collected for the USF 50th Anniversary Oral History Project on February 20, 2004.



[1] “Ernest Boger,” USF 50th (2006) Anniversary Oral History Project, USF Digital Collections, http://digital.lib.usf.edu/SFS0024325/00001, transcript p. 4-6, 8-9, 11, and 15.

[2] Even though it has “university” in its name, the Scaglione’s University Restaurant was not affiliated with the University of South Florida. It was located near USF at 1902 E. Fowler Ave. and became a local hangout for USF students.

[3] “USF honors Dr. Ernest Boger, Class of ’65, 1st African American graduate,” Bay News 9, May 6, 2016, Accessed December 13, 2019, https://www.baynews9.com/fl/tampa/news/2016/5/6/usf_honors_dr_ernest.

[4] “Biographical Sketch,” Hospitality and Tourism Management, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Accessed December 12, 2019,  https://www.umes.edu/HTM/Pages/Biographical-Sketch/.

[5] “USF System to Confer Over 6,500 Degrees in Spring Commencement” USF News, May 2, 2016, Accessed December 13, 2019, https://usfweb.usf.edu/usf-news-archive/News/article/7343.

[6] “Juel Smith,” USF 50th (2006) Anniversary Oral History Project, USF Digital Collections, https://digital.lib.usf.edu/SFS0024439/00001, transcript p. 3-5.

[7] “Dr. Juel Smith,” Speeches and Floor Statements, U.S. Representative Kathy Castor, 14th District of Florida, March 13, 2019, Accessed December 13, 2019, https://castor.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=402949.

[8] For more information on the Dr. Juel Hickman Shannon Smith Endowed Scholarship, please see: https://foundation.usf.edu/here/scholarship-office/available-scholarships/african-american-scholarships/juel-hickman-shannon-smith-endowed-scholarship and https://giving.usf.edu/why/bulls-tales/dr-juel-smith.

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