The rediscovery of the first African American female graduate at Arizona State University

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For years it was believed that Love Hatton Jordan was the first female African American graduate from Arizona State University, having graduated in 1928. But thanks to a curious family member, the date of the first African American female graduate at ASU was pushed back three years, to 1925. We heard from Michele Neptune McHenry, Stella’s Niece-in-Law, and Shannon Walker, an ASU Archivist to hear about this amazing rediscovery.

Who is the first African American female graduate from ASU?

Estella Rochelle McHenry, better known as Stella, graduated with honors from the Arizona State University Teachers College in 1925, making her the first African American female to graduate from ASU, according to ASU News.

It took a lot of courage for her to be the first one, as education was pretty segregated in Phoenix, according to Michele.

How was she discovered?

Michele discovered Stella through her marriage. Michele and her husband, Joseph McHenry, were going through a photo album one day when they came across some photos of Stella and a name card that read “Miss Stella McHenry”. After doing a genealogy project and some research, they discovered Stella was Josephs aunt, according to Michele.  

They soon contacted Shannon Walker, an archivist at ASU’s Hayden Library. The records in ASU’s archive happened to be incorrect on who the first African American female graduate from ASU was, but after looking further into school records they discovered Stella’s victory, according to Walker.

What happened to Stella McHenry?

According to McHenry’s birth certificate, she was a schoolteacher and passed away  in 1928 from complications with influenza and pneumonia.

Michele Neptune McHenry, Stella McHenry's Niece-In-Law
Shannon Walker, ASU Archivist

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