UM Remembers African-American Studies Founder

Ulysses S. Doss founded UM's African-American Studies Program in 1968.

MISSOULA – The University of Montana lost one of its formative figures over the weekend, Ulysses S. Doss, who founded UM’s African-American Studies Department.

“When looking back across UM’s 128-year history, it is hard to think of anyone who had a greater impact on this campus than Ulysses Doss,” UM President Seth Bodnar said. “He created an academic department from scratch and dedicated his professional life to empowering UM students. Ulysses’ contributions to our university will continue to benefit students and Montana for generations to come.”

During the tumultuous summer of 1968, Doss worked with students to create the African-American Studies Program at UM. During his time on campus, Doss was known for teaching in standing-room-only classes for both students and the Missoula community.

Doss’ hire was spurred by four UM students of African descent, Thamani Akbar, Dee Daniels, Herb White and Mace Gray. In 1967, they organized the first Black Student Union at UM – making it the third such program established in the country.

Dr. Tobin Miller Shearer, the current director of UM’s African-American Studies Program, remembers Doss as a fearless advocate for African-American youth and the program he founded more than five decades ago.

“Dr. Doss brought gravitas and wisdom into every room he entered,” Shearer said. “For generations of Montanans, he not only made the Black Freedom struggle relevant, immediate and real, but he offered them a way to engage that struggle with integrity and passion. Our program thrives today because of the foundation laid by Dr. Doss.”

Before his time as an instructor at UM, Doss was a minister in Chicago and worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement. He led UM’s African-American Studies program for 25 years before retiring in 1993.

The Doss Family has requested donations be made to the Ulysses S. Doss Scholarship Endowment in lieu of flowers or other memorial expressions of love for Doss. Contributions may be mailed to: The University of Montana Foundation, P.O. Box 7159, Missoula, MT 59807-7159. Friends also may give online at Please be sure to designate that the gift is in memory of Ulysses S. Doss in the “comments field.”


Contact: Dave Kuntz, UM director of strategic communications, 406-243-5659,