Diné College names new archive after founders

Sep 19th, 2013 | By | Category: 25-3: Preserving and Protecting Knowledge, Tribal College News

DEDICATION. Diné College’s new archival center is named after the institution’s matriarch and its first president. Photo by Natalia Ruiz-Rubio

Diné College (Tsaile, AZ) officially named its new archive building the “Ruth and Bob Roessel Archival Center” in honor of the first president of Navajo Community College (now Diné College) and his wife, who helped launch the tribal college movement. Funded by a Federal Title III Construction Grant awarded in July 2008, the project cost an estimated $3 million.

The Roessel’s daughter, Faith, spoke on behalf of her family. “Their 50-year partnership and marriage was unique, they were dreamers not afraid to voice their aspirations to each other and to others of what might be possible. They were creators and shared their ideas while at the same time trying to figure out how to make these ideas a reality. They were teachers helping Navajos and non-Navajos learn about the needs and problems they saw. They were stubborn and tenacious, never accepting ‘no’ as a final answer,” she said.

Faith and her siblings also expressed their appreciation to the college for honoring their parents, stating, “We are pleased that the names of Ruth and Bob Roessel will have a permanent presence on the campus they helped found and whose success meant so much to them.”

Nonabah Sam, the museum curator, will oversee the archive building and is excited that it is named after the iconic figures. “The Roessels played a very important role in the development of our institution and it is through their vision we have educated many of our people,” she noted. “We are honored to have their names placed on the archive building.” The Roessels spearheaded the idea of bringing forth an educational institution where Navajo people could maintain their culture while gaining an education.

Dr. Maggie L. George, president of the college, spoke about what the archive center means to the college and the community. “The decision to construct this building reflects a firm commitment to improve our campuses and enhances student success,” she said. “The archive center symbolizes our efforts to preserve our heritage, knowing we remain true to the ideals of the College’s founders.”

Ruth and Bob Roessel were passionate about educating Navajo students by employing a culturally relevant curriculum and environment. Before the establishment of Navajo Community College, they helped found Rough Rock Demonstration School in 1966.

Ruth was a dedicated educator responsible for introducing the Navajo studies program to the college. She also authored several books during her lifetime, including, Navajo Livestock Reduction: a National Disgrace; Navajo Stories of the Long Walk; and Navajo Studies at Navajo Community College. Robert was the first president of Navajo Community College and also authored Pictorial History of the Navajo from 1860 to 1910; Navajo Education, 1948-1978: Its Progress and its Problems; and Indian Communities in Action. Besides founding the college, the Roessels advocated for the Navajo Community College Act of 1971, which continues to fund the college to this day.

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