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Harrison H. Ferrell


Dean Harrison Herbert Ferrell Jr. (August 28, 1900-November 18, 1977) served West Virginia State College (now West Virginia State University) for 42 years. He was professor of German, 1928–66, and served the historically Black college as dean and in other capacities from 1930 until 1970. Among West Virginia State’s most distinguished leaders, he was known as simply ‘‘the Dean’’ to generations of college students.

Ferrell was born in Chicago. Stricken with polio in 1919, he learned to walk again but used a cane and leg braces for the rest of his life. He completed three degrees at Northwestern University, graduating with a Ph.D. in German philology in 1928. A musician of distinction, Ferrell played and taught the violin. In 1923, in honor of his father, he founded the Ferrell Symphony Orchestra in Chicago. It was the first all-Black symphony orchestra in the United States.

Ferrell married Emily Miriam Grazia Bell on September 15, 1929. The Harrison H. Ferrell Administration Building was dedicated in his honor at West Virginia State University in 1980.

Written by Ancella R. Bickley


  1. Ferrell, Grazia B. The Dean: Harrison H. Ferrell. Charleston: 1981.

  2. Obituary. Sunday Gazette-Mail, 11/20/1977.