Hornet family mourns the loss of Alma S. Freeman


David Campbell

After 13 years of serving as the dean of University College and serving as a professor of English, alumna Alma S. Freeman, Ed.D., retired, but returned on several occasions to work with the university’s reaffirmation of SACS-COC accreditation and the College of Education’s accreditation.

Staff Report, The Hornet Tribune

Many friends, former students and former colleagues were deeply saddened to learn that one of the former Alabama State University deans, professors and administrators, who impacted the lives of countless faculty, staff and students during her tenure that spanned nearly six decades, died on Monday, Feb. 27, 2023 at the age of 80.
Alma S. Freeman, Ed.D., will be remembered for her loyalty and dedication to the university, her students and the community.
In the fall of 1959, Freeman enrolled as a freshman and began her long-running affiliation with Hornet Nation. She decided to pursue a degree in English, with a concentration in library education.
In 1963, she graduated as the valedictorian of her class and landed a job in Chambers County, Alabama, as an English teacher.
After teaching for three years and not being able to attend a graduate school in Alabama, due to the racial divide, Freeman enrolled at The Ohio State University during the fall of 1967.
After graduating, she returned to Alabama State University where she brought a new standard to the English department as she partnered her innate passion for literature with the formal education that came with her advanced degree. Most notably, as she worked with underclassmen, she was able to lay the foundation not only for younger students but also for the university’s future.
After three years of teaching at the university, she decided to pursue a doctorate at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
With the encouragement of then president, Levi Watkins, LH.D., Freeman received a fellowship to work and learn under Samuel DeWitt Proctor, Ed.D., who had previously been president of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University, and now has an institute, within Rutgers University, in his honor. With Proctor being a well-recognized and celebrated Black man at such an elite Northeastern private school, similar to the rest of the Ivy League, Freeman found great inspiration from his leadership.
In 1974, her research and work experience not only granted Freeman her doctorate in English and humanities but also a sense of self that would carry her throughout her long-running career.
For years she conducted research and in 2020 began writing a book recounting the university’s involvement with the American civil rights movement. In an earlier interview with Freeman in 2021, she indicated why she was writing the book.
“The civil rights movement was kicked off right on that campus with the Montgomery Bus Boycott,” she said. “That is where the whole national movement began, but we do not get the credit for that.”
The book, which remains unnamed, is set to be finished by the spring of 2023. It was inspired by her decades of work as a volunteer with the National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African American Culture. While the project initially began as a documentary, Freeman decided to print her findings and hopefully incorporate them within the curriculum of the freshman orientation course taught at Alabama State University.
Freeman, whose scholarly specialties ranged broadly, made many significant contributions to the research and teaching missions of the university. As needed, she has served as an adjunct professor, interim dean of the College of Education on multiple occasions, facilitator for the SACS accreditation, volunteer presenter for the university’s National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African American Culture for two decades and much more. She also served as interim president of Trenholm State Community College in Montgomery. She received a number of university recognitions, including serving as a plaintiff for the Knight vs. State of Alabama lawsuit, the Tullibody Award and keynote speaker for Founders’ Day.
Immediately after the news of her death, President Quinton T. Ross, Jr., Ed.D., sent out a message to Hornet Nation.
“Dr. Alma Freeman was considered to be one of the icons of academics at Alabama State University,” he said. “Dr. Freeman was a 1963 graduate of ASU, who returned to her alma mater to serve in a number of capacities during her tenure that spanned more than 30 years. Her service included professor of English and Humanities, Dean of the University College and interim Dean of the College of Education. She also led a number of university committees and was the Faculty Marshal for many years.”
“Dr. Alma S. Freeman was a brilliant woman and an outstanding leader,” said Languages and Literature department head Jacqueline Trimble, Ph.D. “Her dignity, grace and love for ASU showed through in every move she made. Her vision has left an indelible mark on this institution. She was a wonderful mentor who guided, supported, nudged and nurtured countless faculty, colleagues and students to be their best selves, me included. I owe her so much, and I am so grateful to have known her.”
Kamela Kenndy, Ed.S., acting director of the Office of Student Life had similar thoughts.
“Dr. Freeman was a true leader in the college realm and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to have her as a mentor,” Kennedy said. “I can confidently say that Dr. Freeman gave me guidance, her time, efforts and support. She had the patience and wisdom of a mother yet one of a spirited gentle giant. The wisdom she shared during her tenure at Alabama State University, and her love for her alma mater was profound. She guided me in discovering solutions as she carefully listened to my issues. She was generous with her advice and made it practical by sharing personal experiences. I am so grateful for her presence in my life. Our conversations were sincere and helpful. Dr. Freeman helped me focus on what really mattered. She always listened carefully and responded thoughtfully. As a result, I was encouraged to be honest and open, which made our talks more productive. She was the wealth of knowledge and support that I had been seeking. It saddens me to come to terms with the reality of her death. However, a legacy is etched into the minds of the countless students, colleagues, constituents and her tenacity will never be forgotten.
Janice Franklin, Ph.D., who worked with Freeman as a colleague but more recently with the National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African American Culture, felt her work will always be remembered.
“Dr. Freeman was an outstanding scholar and educator,” she said. “Her love for the humanities was demonstrated in her research, teaching and in her publications. We were all fortunate to have worked with such an esteemed member of the ASU faculty and administration. She will long be remembered for her dedication and service to Alabama State University and to the many institutions of higher learning that were distinguished by her work.”
Derryn Moten, who was hired by Freeman and who serves as the chairman of the history and political science department, said, “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once opined, ‘One day the South will recognize its real heroes.’ – Dr. Alma Freeman was one of those heroines to which King spoke.”