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Neal Multicultural Suite

The Nathaniel and Helen Neal Multicultural Suite

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The Nathaniel and Helen Neal Multicultural Suite opened in the fall of 2019. It was dedicated in a ceremony on campus Feb. 3, 2020. The suite is located in the heart of the WT campus in the JBK Student Center. The suite also houses the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, First Year Experience, Campus 2 Community, and International Student Services.

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Nathaniel “Nat” and Helen Neal were educators and civic leaders known throughout the Amarillo Community, making a historical impact on WTAMU. Helen was the first African American to graduate from West Texas State University in 1962. According to a Jan. 26, 1971, Amarillo Globe-News file, Nat began working at WT as an assistant professor of education, becoming “the first Negro faculty member.”

Helen was born Sept. 17, 1927, in Okmulgee, Okla., to Henry and Rosetta Rentie Elliott. She attended public schools in Henryetta, Okla., and graduated from high school in Wichita, Kan. She attended Langston University in Langton, Okla., where she was a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

Nat Born in 1926, also in Oklahoma, graduating from Booker T. Washington High School in El Reno, Okla. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Langston University in Langston, Okla., and a master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Okla.

The two – Nathaniel J. “Nat” Neal and Helen Louise Elliott – were married Nov. 12, 1948, going on to have four daughters. Family was a top priority to Helen. She spent many years making a good home for the family. However, her education was not forgotten. She returned to West Texas State University, now West Texas A&M University, to complete her degree. In 1962, Helen became the first black student to graduate from WT.

After graduation, Helen began her 20-year teaching career. She taught at North Heights Elementary School and Humphrey’s Highland Elementary School. Her life desire was to be a social worker. She fulfilled this desire in the form of volunteer work with Jan Werner Adult Day Care Board, Amarillo College Foundation, YMCA Young Achievers, Amarillo Citizens Police Academy, Retired Senior Volunteer Program, Northwest Texas Hospital Auxiliary, Girl Scouts, Amarillo Opera, Delta Kappa Gamma Society International and many other organizations. She was a charter member of Amarillo Alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority. Her hobbies included quilting, reading and black history. She combined her love of quilting and black history by presenting about the Underground Railroad to the Texas Panhandle community.

In 1949, Nat began his teaching and coaching career in Missouri, and taught in Oklahoma before moving to Amarillo. In 1955, he became a teacher and coach at Carver High School. In 1959, he became the assistant principal and served at Carver until 1968. After retiring from AISD after 11 years of teaching, he would go on to teach at Amarillo College and West Texas State University. Nat taught mathematics and engineering at AC, and later became the dean of the vocational arts and allied health departments at AC from 1974 to 1983. He also continued to serve as a consultant for student teachers at WT, according to Globe-News files.

Some of Nat’s accolades include being elected chairman of the Amarillo College Faculty Association in 1973, being named a 1993 Paul Harris Fellow by the Amarillo West Rotary for his lifetime of community service, and the Nathaniel J. “Nat” Neal unit of the Texas Department of Corrections was named after him due to his community involvements, according to Globe-News files. He was a member of many organizations, which include Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, National Education and Texas State Teachers associations, Phi Delta Kappa, Salvation Army, YMCA, Amarillo Traffic Commission, Children’s Speech and Hearing Center and many more.

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The Neals were longstanding members of Johnson Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church. They had four daughters, two of whom are WTAMU alumni, Delores N. Thompson and Donna K. Neal. Their other two daughters also received college degrees – Gloria N. Roberts from Texas Woman’s University and Gwendolyn L. Neal from the University of North Texas.

Nat died Sept. 29, 1993, at age of 67, while Helen died Oct. 15, 2013, at age 86.