Myles receive president's medal

April 12, 2007
CONTACT:
Kathy Miller, 661/654-2456, kmiller26@csub.edu or
Michele Newel, 661/654-2720, mnewell1@csub.edu
 

Dr. Homer Myles and his wife, Evangeline, have been awarded the President's Medal by California State University, Bakersfield President Horace Mitchell.

The award, one of the highest awards the university bestows, was presented to the Myles at the annual President's Associates Dinner Wednesday evening (April 11) at the Petroleum Club of Bakersfield.

Even the Myles didn't know they were receiving the award, but when Mitchell announced their names at the dinner, the audience rose in a standing ovation for the couple. They clearly were surprised, but also grateful for the honor.

Mitchell in his announcement cited their establishment at CSUB of an endowed scholarship to fund African-American and other students from disadvantaged backgrounds who have encountered and overcome their own obstacles. The scholarship may be awarded to undergraduate or graduate students, but the preference would be for those looking to seek their master's degree. The scholarship would start at $1,500 per year, but may be increased in the future as needed. The Myles recognize the ever-increasing cost of living expenses.

The Myles have overcome many obstacles just to get where they are today.

During much of Homer's career he was the only African-American dentist between Los Angeles and San Francisco. He battled racism and answered his call to military duty.

Evangeline was often the only woman in her classes while in college.

Still, they persevered. His practice thrived and served a number of people of diverse backgrounds. And Evangeline went on to a long career in nursing.

Now after nearly 48 years of marriage they wish the same success for CSUB students.

"We didn't want the kids to have an excuse that they couldn't afford it," Homer said. "We want to give something to the community in return for all they've given us. Dr. Mitchell also prompted us; he's such a dynamo. He had a vision for the campus and he's putting it together." The couple realized when they made this investment that they're also investing in the future of Kern County. "It will give students a chance to do more and stay here," they said.

Homer was born in 1923 in Dermott, Ark., a rural community, and grew up during the Great Depression, the only son of four children. His father operated a barbershop.

He graduated high school at 14 and the following year enrolled at Dillard University in New Orleans. He later transferred to Morehouse College in Atlanta, earning his bachelor's degree. He earned his doctorate from the School of Dentistry at Howard University in Washington, D.C. It was there he received word he was being drafted.

The military wanted to make certain dental and medical students completed their studies. And during World War II Homer was assigned to Army Special Training, an accelerated dentistry program that went year round. He spent the next three years in dental training. The Army then discharged him since the war ended before he could graduate.

At 21 years old Homer took the dental board exam and passed. While working in a dental laboratory in San Francisco he learned of Bakersfield and an African-American physician, Dr. Ernest Williams, who was looking for someone to share his office with and provide dental services to the community.

The then 23-year-old dentist from Arkansas set up practice in Bakersfield with Williams, and that move spawned both a personal and professional relationship that lasted more than 20 years. "He was such a great man," the Myles said fondly while finishing each other's sentences, a testament to their long marriage.

His tenure in Bakersfield was interrupted for two years when he was recalled to military service. He served with the 8th Army, 24th Infantry Division in South Korea from 1955 to 1957.

In 1982, Homer retired from his private practice in Bakersfield, but continued for the next 10 years as a dentist for Tehachapi State Prison.

Homer was an active member of the dental community. He is a lifetime member of the American Dental Association (ADA), a fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry, a fellow of the Federation Dentaire International, a lifetime member in the Pierre Fauchard Academy of Dentistry and a life member of the California and Kern County Dental Societies.

After graduating college with her bachelor's degree in science, Evangeline moved to Kansas City, Mo., to earn her masters degree. Being the only child in her family and a female, her father didn't want her going off to medical school.

In 1939 she began working as a charge nurse in an operating room at the rate of $18.25 a month. She continued to climb the career ladder and eventually made $60 a month plus room and board. She migrated to different careers at different hospitals. She was at the Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Ala., as the director of nursing education, where segregation was still in force, Evangeline said.

Despite the social challenges she faced she focused on her ambition. She had a stint at Kansas City General Hospital in the early 1940s and then studied anesthesia at Cook County School of Medicine in Chicago. For the next 10 years she freelanced as an anesthetist in Kansas City. Her career didn't end there. Evangeline then went on to work in a Veteran's Affairs hospital and as a school nurse.

She is a registered nurse, a member of the American Nurses Association, a founding and lifetime member of the Kern General Medical Auxiliary, a member and past president of the Kern County Dental Auxiliary.

It was in the late 1950s a mutual friend of the two had put them in touch. They began a long distance relationship via phone, Homer in Bakersfield and Evangeline in Kansas City. Evangeline had promised her mother a trip to Hawaii and while mother and daughter were in Los Angeles, Homer made sure he seized the opportunity for a visit. The couple was married in 1960. "He called my mom up and asked for her permission," Evangeline said. "My mom loved Homer; he's like the son she never had."

Both are life members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and member of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Evangeline was one of the founding members of the Bakersfield Chapter of Links sorority, former president of the board of directors for the YMCA, a member of American Association of University Women and of St. Paul's Episcopal Church. Homer is a member of Cain African Methodist Episcopal Church.