Inquiry Magazine Northwestern School of Education and Social Policy

FALL 2011

Otherie Love (BS41), who paved the way for African American teachers in Evanston, has served her community as a teacher, adviser

Otherie Love (BS41) Breaks Barrier as First African American Student Teacher in Evanston

By Marilyn Sherman
Otherie Love

In 1941 when Otherie Love did her student teaching as a Northwestern University education major, she became the first African American student teacher in the Evanston schools. She recalls that at the school where she taught all the children were black, but all the teachers were white.

“Northwestern helped break down a barrier,” says 91-year-old Love, sitting in her Evanston home. “My Northwestern teacher helped break down the racial prejudice in Evanston by putting me there. It had an impact on my life and the community’s life.”

She recalls how she reported the conditions to the Evanston school board. “This resulted in more African American student teachers and the later hiring of Evanston’s first African American teacher,” she notes.

After she married in 1943 and moved to Detroit, where she lived until 1992, Love taught elementary school mathematics. “Segregation prevented African Americans from teaching at the high school level,” she recollects. Still, she held no bitterness. “I wasn’t raised with a chip on my shoulder or a feeling of inferiority,” she says.

A talented teacher, she moved up the ranks to become assistant to the administrator of the region office. She oversaw all mathematics instruction in the region, gave workshop presentations and served as an educational consultant to a publishing firm. While working in the region office, she earned a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Detroit.

Love sees her college-educated parents as the shaping influence in her life. Her father, the Rev. Prentice H. E. Winfield, was pastor at Sherman Methodist Church from 1933 to 1953, where Love is still active today. “I had that instinct of wanting to teach, wanting to help children,” she notes, recalling that her mother was certified as a teacher and her father steered her toward mathematics.

When she left education after 40 years, she continued a second career as a tax preparer. Love spent 20 years as a master tax adviser and enrolled agent for H&R Block until she retired at the age of 85. Today she still prepares taxes — as a volunteer service at the Levy Senior Center.

At the age of 84, she went back to school to earn a certificate in human services, and she graduated at the top of her class with a 4.0 grade point average. At that time she changed her focus to seniors. “Older people are the neglected people,” says Love. “I was seeing this need. I wanted to be able to counsel people, and I wanted to be able to do it right.”

Since then she has volunteered as a peer counselor in Evanston, where her role is to go into homes and listen to people. “A lot of people don’t have anybody. … Knowing that there was this need made me want to do it,” she comments. She also puts her training and teaching skills to work as a volunteer at an adult day care center called Great Opportunities, located in Skokie. A lifelong student, on the side she is learning Spanish at the North Shore Senior Center.

World travel has been another passion for Love. Starting in 1966, she visited places including China, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, the Fiji Islands, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Europe, South America, Alaska, Canada, Egypt and Israel. Africa, where she traveled three times, was especially important to her.

Looking ahead to new challenges, she is beginning her second season working with two drama clubs. One of them, Youth Senior Theatre Ensemble Project, brings seniors and high school students together to write and produce plays. “I always just tackle things and go after them,” says Love of her many goals and activities.

In 2008 Love received an award from the nonprofit Family Focus in Evanston, which chose deserving people in the community to honor. As Love has chalked up accomplishment after accomplishment, her father’s motto has stuck with her. “You can,” he impressed upon her. “It gave me the confidence that I could do it,” she says.

Throughout her life, Otherie Love has touched many people with her teaching, advising and volunteering. A plaque she received from Great Opportunities sums up the reaction of those who know her: “A beautiful lady with a beautiful spirit.”