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MSU Denver

40 Years of Honoring Rachel B. Noel's Legacy

The Rachel B. Noel Distinguished Visiting Professorship was initiated in 1981 to foster multiculturalism, diversity, and academic excellence at Metropolitan State University of Denver. The professorship brings renowned scholars and artists of distinction to MSU Denver to conduct classes, seminars, performances, and lectures for students, faculty, and the larger Denver community.

Rachel B. Noel Distinguished Professors have included such luminaries as Princeton Professor Cornel West, pianist Billy Taylor, author Iyanla Vanzant, former president of Spelman College Johnetta Cole, jazz singer Diane Reeves, the late actor and civil rights activist Ossie Davis, and executive editor of Ebony magazine Lerone Bennett Jr.

2021 Noel Professorship - Featuring Phoebe A. Haddon

Look at the program and watch the videos of the 2 events.

2021 Noel Professorship Program

2021 Professor Phoebe A. HaddonPhoebe Haddon

Phoebe A. Haddon became chancellor of Rutgers University–Camden on July 1, 2014. On July 1, 2020, Haddon returned to the law faculty at Rutgers University–Camden after a successful six-year tenure as chancellor of the campus.

Haddon is the recipient of the 2019 Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of American Law Schools and the 2019 Smith College Medal. In 2015, she received the Trailblazer’s Award from the New Jersey Women Lawyer’s Association, and was similarly honored by the National Association of Women Business Owners in South Jersey in 2016.

Haddon was honored by The National Jurist as one of the “25 Most Influential People in Legal Education.” In 2011, she received the Great Teacher Award from the Society of American Law Teachers. Haddon earned an LL.M. from Yale Law School in 1985 and a Juris Doctor, cum laude, from Duquesne University School of Law in 1977. She received a bachelor’s degree from Smith College in 1972 and served as vice chair of the Smith College Board of Trustees until 2009.

Born in Washington, D.C., Haddon spent much of her childhood in Passaic, New Jersey, where her mother was a public school teacher and her father served as a dentist.  She is married to Frank McClellan, a 1967 graduate of Rutgers University–New Brunswick and a professor emeritus at Temple University law school. She has a daughter and two sons.

About Professor Rachel B. Noel

Rachel B. Noel

A champion of the civil rights movement in Denver and in Colorado, Rachel Noel was the first African American woman elected to public office in Colorado, the first African American elected to the Denver Public Schools’ (DPS) Board of Education, the first African American to be a member and chair of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, and the first African American woman elected statewide in Colorado.

On April 25, 1968, she presented the DPS board with the Noel Resolution, recognizing that the “establishment of an integrated school population is desirable to achieve equality of educational opportunity.”  It directed the superintendent to develop “a comprehensive plan for the integration of the Denver Public Schools.”  Under a cloud of threats to Noel and her family, the resolution passed on May 17, 1968. The U.S. Supreme Court would eventually affirm Noel’s position in its landmark decision of 1973, Keyes v. Denver School District No. 1, making Denver the first city outside the American South to be instructed by the country’s highest court to address de facto segregation with school busing.

Noel also played a critical role in MSU Denver’s history. She came to MSU Denver as a teacher of sociology and African American Studies in 1969 and served as chair of the African American Studies Department from 1971 to 1980.

Rachel Noel leaning in at a meeting

Noel died at the age of 90 in 2008. During her lifetime and after, Noel’s legacy has inspired the MSU Denver community and beyond. In 1981, the University created The Rachel B. Noel Distinguished Visiting Professorship to honor Noel.  A recipient of many awards and distinctions, Noel also lived to see a Denver Public Schools middle school named in her honor.  Although that middle school was closed, the building and campus is still called the Rachel B. Noel campus and is home to various charter programs. The Noel Community Arts School, housed in the former Montbello High School building, consists of both a high school and a middle school.

Noel was awarded honorary doctoral degrees from the University of Denver in 1993 and the University of Colorado in 2004 and an honorary degree from MSU Denver in 1981.  (She held a bachelor’s degree from Hampton University and a master’s degree from Fisk University.) Noel’s other commendations and accomplishments were many, including:

  • Rocky Mountain News Top 100 Citizens of the Century, 2000
  • Denver Mayor’s Millennium Award, 2001
  • Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame, 1996
  • Civil Rights Award, Anti-Defamation League, Mountain States Region, 2004
  • Pillars of Leadership Award, National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women, 2002
  • Metropolitan State College’s Plain and Fancy Award, 1990, and Outstanding Female Faculty Member 1974-75
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award, 1990
  • S. Civil Rights Commission, Colorado Advisory Committee; Mayor Wellington Webb’s Black Advisory Committee; Mayor Federico Peña’s Black Advisory Committee (chair)
  • Commissioner, Denver Housing Authority
  • Council Trenholm Memorial Award, National Education Association, 1978
  • Eddy Award, Denver Classroom Teachers’ Association, 1963