"Although I am considered by some to have been the principal leader of this happening, so many others deserve equal or more credit, starting with Henry Callard and then Ludlow Baldwin, and subsequently including many like-minded faculty and trustees," writes Mr. Finney in "Gilman Voices." "I doubt if any of us really fathomed at the time the real depth of the change that was taking place and the benefits that were to come to the school through becoming a more diverse community."
In fact, the step toward racial integration began seven years before Mr. Finney assumed the Headmaster position. By then, there was already some religious diversity, with the first Jewish student admitted in 1947. "In May 1961, the Board of Trustees decided that admission to Gilman should be 'without regard to race, color, or creed,' writes retired faculty member Gus Lewis '57 in a Gilman Bulletin memorial piece to John Nelson, who was a Gilman trustee (1959-62) and Alumni Association president (1960-61) during the times of the most critical discussions about integration. "By the time of the annual Alumni Banquet in October 1961, a group opposed to this decision had proposed a slate of alumni officers to run against the Nominating Committee's slate and had persuaded many like-minded alumni to attend the banquet.
"Many others came to support the Board and its president, Richard Emory '31. A record 375 were present. Miss May Holmes wrote: 'Naturally there was some tension in the crowd, but the [Alumni Association] president, John M. Nelson III, '36, who was at one with Mr. Emory and Mr. Callard, conducted the meeting with cool deliberation and efficiency, and respect for all concerned, whether pro or con.' The Nominating Committee's slate won by more than two to one, and a motion on changing the election of trustees was tabled by an 'overwhelming' majority."
These bold trustees and alumni realized that the future meant integration, which at the time, was mostly an issue in black and white. The efforts of these men, as well as the Gilman firsts: first black teacher, Bill Greene, first black students Greg Emery '68, David Robinson '68, Stuart Simms '68 and Willard Wiggins '68, and the first Asian student Raymond Buck-Lew '65 helped create a School that is now noted as much for its its multiculturalism as it is for its superior academic reputation.