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Compton Center History

Student creates the Peace and Justice Center, honoring the influence of Professor Compton

History

The idea for the Center came to Jake Gross ’00 while he was studying in Bolivia. Witnessing the conditions of poverty combined with the level of student activism in Bolivia, Gross noticed a stark contrast to the level of consumption in the U.S. and the awareness of American students to global social issues.  Gross envisioned a space on DePauw’s campus where students could find resources on social justice issues, information about jobs/internships in the area of social change, and build community organizing skills.  Upon returning to campus from Bolivia, Gross worked with Professor Glen Kuecker to develop the idea of a social justice center.  After many months of work, DePauw University honored longtime educator and activist, Dr. Russell Compton, by dedicating the Russell J. Compton Center for Peace and Justice on February 23, 2000.

About Dr. Russell J. Compton

Dr. Compton joined the DePauw faculty in 1951; he chaired, and taught in, the Department of Religion and Philosophy until his retirement in 1974.  Many alumni remember Compton best as the professor who taught the "Basic Beliefs" course, which was offered at DePauw from 1958 until 1977 and helped a generation of students shape their own values and beliefs.

As both a scholar and an ordained United Methodist minister, Dr. Compton dedicated his life working to integrate faith, intellect, and social action.  Always a strong advocate for racial equality, Dr. Compton continually supported students working toward this goal. He accompanied DePauw students to three marches on Washington, D.C., including the one at which Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963.  Dr. Compton also stood in support of students protesting the Vietnam War, despite his concern over the possibility of losing his job. 

For a glimpse into his philosophy on teaching and life, the Pacifica Radio Network show, Sprouts, featured Dr. Compton in September 2007.  The nearly half-hour segment, "Hard Times Come Again No More," was produced by Kevin Howley, associate professor of communication at DePauw.  "The way I taught was a very good way to teach, I think," the 98-year-old Compton tells the program with a chuckle. "People learned to dialogue, discuss, to talk together. I don't think people really live a human life if they don't talk in-depth with other human beings." 

To learn more about Dr. Russell J. Compton, you can download the show at:  http://www.audioport.org/index.php?op=program-info&program_id=13445&file_id=13445