Temple University Libraries, Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection recently received a generous gift of books on education, culture and the arts in Africa by Dr. Jack Lutz, a distinguished alumnus of the College of Education. The Blockson Collection is one of the nation’s foremost research centers on the study of the culture and people of Africa and its diaspora. The collection holds materials with a special emphasis on the experiences of African Americans in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley region. It is located in Sullivan Hall on the main campus of Temple University, and was donated to the university in 1984 by renowned historian, Charles L. Blockson. Dr. Lutz has travelled the world through initiatives and programs that brought a quality education to all. Dr. Lutz spent most of his time in Africa, and from that experience he gained a passion for its culture. He also began collecting books and materials that help tell the history and story of those he met overseas. These books and materials have since been donated to the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection at Temple University Libraries. Here are excerpts of a broad conversation between Dr. Lutz and Nicole Restaino of Temple University Libraries.
• Nicole Restaino: How has your training at Temple’s College of Education impacted your life? You’ve traveled all over the world to bring education to those in need. How did your time at Temple prepare you for this?
Dr. Jack Lutz: Temple’s College of Education, along with the Boy Scouts and my time at Northeast High School, are some of the major influences in my life. My years at Temple imbued in me a sense of service, and I knew that is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I received so much sagely wisdom from so many of the professors at Temple over the years. The tutelage I received while earning my BA, MA and doctorate were truly inspirational.
• NR: What struck you about your time in Africa? Do you have any stories or anecdotes about a favorite place or experience? JL: As much as I served Africa, Africa served me ten times over.
I was a professor at Glassboro College (now Rowan University) and was offered an opportunity to join UNESCO as an education advisor. I spent over 24 years in Africa in this position, developing teacher’s colleges. During my time in Africa, I am met my wife, Dr. Paz Lutz. A Fulbright Scholar and doctor of education herself, she served many years in Africa as well. While I was in the village of Abraka, Nigeria developing teacher training programs for UNESCO, I realized that only two universities in Nigeria offered master’s in education. Both universities were quite a way from Abraka, so I proposed the idea of starting a program at the University of Benin, which was much closer. I presented the idea to the government of Bendel State and the university. We all concurred that starting a graduate teaching program was a step in the right direction. And that is when I got Temple on board. I further proposed that Temple professors come teach in Abraka, and the new graduate program would be a joint venture between the University of Benin and Temple University. Shortly thereafter, the Dean of the College of Education at that time, Paul Eberman, along with late Temple University President Marvin Wachman, came to Abraka, Nigeria, to implement the cooperative program with financial help from UNESCO. This arrangement existed for six years, I am proud to say, and graduates were awarded a dual diploma from Temple and the University of Benin. Outstanding master’s candidates in the program were offered an opportunity to study for their doctorate at Temple’s campus in Philadelphia. I believe that many top educators in Nigeria have their doctorate from Temple, in fact. Another important part of my time overseas was my participation in communal life and the rites of passage of the diverse nations I lived in. I spent most of my time in Nigeria and Sierra Leone. I also lived in the Republic of Malawi, Uganda, Ethiopia and Swaziland. In Nigeria I was named Chief Dr. Jack Lutz, the Ehele of Abraka; Ehele being a Uhroba word for an “old warrior, not afraid to stand up and fight.” The cultural practices I was welcomed into have made such an impact in my life. In fact, my wife and I were wedded by a female Muslim magistrate (that’s quite unique!), a Catholic priest, and a justice of the peace while living in Sierra Leone. The warmth and diversity we experienced overseas was extraordinary. When we came back to Philadelphia after our wedding, we were also blessed in front of the Torah at a synagogue by a prominent Philadelphia Rabbi. (We touched all the bases!)
• NR: What was your impetus to begin collecting books and objects while in Africa?
JL: I began to amass materials related to curriculum and education in the countries in which I worked. My doctoral area of specialization was curriculum development and I helped to rework curriculum strategies in Nigeria, and documented that process. My interests later expanded and I started exploring materials on art and culture of local communities.
• NR: How did you find out about the Blockson Collection? Why did you see this as a fitting home for your outstanding collections?
JL: I knew collection founder Mr. Charles L. Blockson from Norristown, PA, years back, and that is how I first learned about the collection and its mission. My ultimate respect for Mr. Blockson and the collection’s goals to preserve African, African American and African Caribbean culture, led me to make my donation to the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection at Temple University Libraries. I’m proud to know, as a Temple grad, that the university prioritizes this amazing collection, which is one of the best around on African and African American life. I’m also proud that I could contribute to its mission with my donation.
• NR: How can the Temple community benefit from your gift? Are there any specific ways in which College of Education students might utilize the materials now housed at the Blockson Collection?
JL: The materials I donated to the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection are good research tools for the Temple community as a whole. These materials will be of particular use to students in the College of Education, in the areas of comparative educational and cultural studies, in specific. Graduate students can use these primary sources for doctoral and masters level research, while undergraduate classes can have a directed experience with the materials; they can be closely tied to a course syllabus at the undergraduate level. Courses in many areas, such as Africana studies, American studies, International studies and regional/area disciplines will also benefit from the materials. Several of the books, which are on African arts and crafts, should be useful to students in the Tyler school of fine arts as well as students of art history and anthropology.
• NR: Thank you so much, Dr. Lutz. Temple University Libraries and the Temple community are certainly thrilled by your contribution to the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection. I can’t wait to see the materials myself, in the collection’s wonderful new home in Sullivan Hall. Thanks again. To finish off our conversation, what are you and Paz doing now?
JL: We continue to be deeply involved with service and education overseas. Most recently, our endeavors have taken us to Eastern Europe, where we served in the Peace Corps, which we joined in 1997, when I was 75 years old. We spent four years in Poland, working in a small town by the name of Nowy Sacz (about 100 miles SouthEast of Krakow), teaching English and instructional methods. Now we live in New Jersey, and ar
e still involved with Temple’s College of Education. I hope that Paz and I inspire others to teach and live a life of service.