Nearly 100 people gathered Thursday afternoon in the Live Oak Ballroom to celebrate the life and legacy of UCF Professor Anthony Major who passed away May 27.
Major first began working at UCF in 1995 and retired this past spring after 24 years of service. The celebration of life event was filled with loving memories of Major shared by the friends, students, mentees and colleagues he was able to inspire during his lifetime.
Lyman Brodie, associate dean for the College of Arts and Humanities, welcomed everyone and spoke about Major’s contribution to UCF.
“His combination of industry experience and connections has been invaluable in years for countless UCF students, faculty, staff and community members,” Brodie said.
Brodie continued to say that Major, like so many others in the audience, personally been positively impacted.
“All I can tell you is I know that my life is better for having known Tony and I think that’s true for all of us,” Brodie said. “I would really like to think he’s moved on to place where life is indeed getting better all the time.”
Major served as a member of several departments including theatre, film, Nicholson School of Communication and Africana Studies at the university.
He also served as the advisor for the UCF chapter of the John T. Washington Honor Society. According to its website, the organization seeks to uphold Washington's legacy through scholarship, community service and networking.
The organization is open to all majors but students must meet the basic requirements to become a member.
Camille Robinson, current president of the JTW Honor Society, said there were very few people who still honored Washington’s mission.
“Since the passing of Dr. Washington in 1983, there have been few figureheads as notable and influential to the minority experience that were committed to stimulating and celebrating our culture and advancement,” Robinson said. “For the JTW Honor Society that influence came from Anthony B. Major.”
Many of his colleagues spoke about him being known for making strides and breaking barriers at UCF, including Martha Lue Stewart from the Black Faculty and Staff Association.
She explained that Major was the first black faculty member she met in the theatre department and how he served well in his role as president for the BFSA during the 2007 to 2008 term.
“As president of BFSA, he took us to places that we never thought we’d want to go,” Stewart said. “He introduced us to a new part of campus that seldom of us would visit: the theatre. And on Sundays, we sat where we could sit in the theatre for matinees as he introduced live performances of classics such as 'Soldier’s Story,' and lesser known works such as the play, 'In the Well of the House,' featuring the case of former U.S. Rep. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr."
In 2010, Major dedicated a poem titled “Go On with Your Bad Self” to all the presidents of the BFSA.
Over course of his time at UCF, Major was also known for being an advocate for all.
Delaine Priest, associate vice president for student success, said this was especially true for a particular group of people.
“Tony really advocated for so many things, but he loved his students and that’s why we’re at this university,” Priest said.
A special presentation was made to Major’s family which included receiving a UCF jersey from UCF Athletics. Wayne Jackson, director of the Multicultural Academic and Support Services, spoke on behalf of Major’s male colleagues with whom he played basketball with in the Education Complex.
“This is just a token of our appreciation for you allowing your husband to be a part of our lives,” Jackson said as he presented Major’s wife with a signed basketball.
Maria Santana, director of UCF Women’s and Gender Studies program, presented a proclamation for the creation of a scholarship in honor of Major.
“This scholarship is targeting students who are committed to civil rights in this country,” Santana said.
She continued to speak about how Major never let obstacles stand in the way of his passion.
“We will never have him again, but we can cherish others like him who are working for peace and understanding,” Santana said. “As activist, our women studies students understand the importance of standing for your principles and speaking up for others.”
The application for candidates will open January 2021 and close April 2021 with a scholarship reception where the first award will be presented. The $250 scholarship will be offered every spring semester and the funds will be distributed in the Fall.
Major is survived by his wife Betty Major, a spring 2019 graduate of UCF, his son, a current UCF student enrolled in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, and his daughter, a recent high school graduate.
His daughter shared a few words to close the ceremony.
“It’s amazing to see the impact he’s had on the UCF community,” she said. “I just wanted to say thank you on behalf of the family for giving him the celebration he deserved. He truly loved everyone here in this room, so thank you.”