Exclusive Interview at the Neal-Marshall Alumni Club Reunion: Nancy Street-Lyons

By: Kendra Talley and Shekinah Ragland 

We’ve all heard once or twice (or hundreds of times) how important it is for college students to network… network, network, NETWORK! It is crucial that during our college careers, we are stepping out of our comfort zones and meeting different professionals, and what better way to do that than by attending events sponsored by the Indiana University Alumni Association?

On Saturday, October 19, the Alumni Association hosted the Neal-Marshall Alumni Club reunion brunch. Amongst the alumni in attendance was former Miss IU, Nancy Streets-Lyons.

Nancy Streets-Lyons was crowned Miss IU in 1959, making her the first Black Miss IU that ever reigned. Since then, no other Black woman has won the title of Miss IU. After winning Miss IU, however, Nancy was forced to overcome several racial obstacles. We had the privilege of interviewing Nancy during the Neal-Marshall event.


When asked about these obstacles, Nancy replied, “President Herman B Wells received hate mail for allowing Miss IU of 1959 to be African American… I got hate mail… I was called a nigger…” She also added, “I said a prayer. I had my prayer book…”

Despite the negative feedback Nancy received as a result of being crowned Miss IU, she explained to us that she still feels very proud of her accomplishment. Everyone doubted that Nancy would win the competition because of her skin color – even her own sorority sisters did not believe she’d win! Nancy quoted her sorority sisters saying, “We know you’re not going to win, we just want to be represented.”

At the Neal-Marshall event, Nancy Streets-Lyons was the keynote speaker. First and foremost, she was kind-hearted and inspirational. Her story inspired not only the current students in attendance, but other alumni, as well. Her words will forever echo in our minds and our hearts.

It is now 2013 and the Miss IU competition is still a huge part of IU’s tradition, but we can’t help but to wonder when the next Black Miss IU will surface.


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