Illini Everywhere: Haitian Illini, Since 1929

Since at least 1929, Haitian students have been coming to the University of Illinois. Haitian Illini have included agriculturalists, engineers, food scientists, historians, philosophers, and transfer students. Although many Haitian Illini have been graduate students who left few records behind, the first Illinois-Haiti connections are documented in agricultural education during the early twentieth century.

Read on to learn more about early Haitian Illini!

Service Technique and Early Illini Work in Haiti

Prior to the arrival of the first Haitian students, the University of Illinois was already connected with Haiti through the work of alumni and faculty. Two prominent examples include Dr. Carl Colvin and Dr. Robert K. Graham.

Dr. Carl Colvin

Mr. Carl Colvin of Olney, Illinois, (B.S. Agriculture 1912; M.S. Education, 1920; PhD Agriculture Education, 1934) was an agriculturalist, an educator, and a writer who served the U.S. government in developing agriculture education in Haiti. Mr. Colvin’s experiences in education and publications may have begun as early as his time as a student and Assistant Business Manager of the Agriculture Club produced Illinois Agriculturalist. As an undergraduate, Mr. Colvin was active in the Adelphic Society, the off-campus University Place Christian Church, and agriculture education exchange programs with nearby schools. [1]

During his Masters degree studies, Mr. Colvin published a Bibliography of Agricultural Books for the High School Library in 1919. After graduation, Mr. Colvin became the State Supervisor for Agriculture Education in Illinois. Two years later, he wrote a junior high school textbook for agriculture education in 1922. [2] Following his service for the University and the State of Illinois, U.S. President Calvin Coolidge appointed Mr. Colvin as an assistant agricultural engineer for the Republic of Haiti. [3] From 1924 until 1931, Mr. Colvin worked in a cooperative aid program based in Haiti. Following U.S. President Hoover’s failed nomination of Mr. Colvin for appointment as Head of “Service Technique” (an agricultural extension education and teaching service) in 1930, Mr. Colvin would return to the United States after eight years of service supporting public education in agriculture in Haiti. [4]

After his return, Mr. Colvin completed a PhD in 1932, before joining the Farm Credit Association in 1933 and serving as Deputy Governor in 1948. [5] Throughout his career, Dr. Colvin was a frequent guest or speaker for Illinois Agriculture events and a later library donor too. In fact, in 1961, Dr. Colvin donated his 24-volume collection of rare Haitian books to the University Library. [6] Illinois Agriculture and history readers should be sure to review the multiple University of Illinois student theses including analyses of U.S.-Haitian foreign relations and agriculture education which can be found in the University Archives too. [7]

Dr. Robert K. Graham

In 1917, Dr. Robert K. Graham was the only Illinois veterinarian but by the end of his career he further distinguished himself as the first Dean of the College of Animal Medicine (now College of Veterinary Medicine). [8] After his first seven years as Head of the University’s Division of Animal Pathology and Hygiene, it was for one year in 1924 when Dr. Graham (and his wife) temporarily relocated to Haiti. [9] Dr. Graham was a prominent scientist known for his work treating botulism (food poisoning) by sourcing the transmission into humans from animals. In Haiti, Dr. Graham’s work involved advising the Republic’s development of agricultural buildings and equipment to reduce animal diseases. Upon his return, Dr. Graham gave a series of campus talks to summarize his assessment of the state of animal hygiene practices in Haiti. [10] Following Dr. Graham, Interim Head of Division of Animal Pathology and Hygiene Dr. I. B. Boughton resigned his University position to replace Dr. Graham, and he remained in Haiti for years. [11]

Georges C. Heraux

Mr. Georges Charles Heraux, (B.S. Agriculture, 1932), might have been the first Haitian student at the University of Illinois. Prior to his enrollment in Agriculture at Illinois, Mr. Heraux was an assistant in the Service Technique, and it was his unique position as both a Haitian and Illinois student which gave him insight into the agriculture education program in Haiti. One example of this insight can be read in the March 1930 issue of Illinois Agriculturalist, where Mr. Heraux argued that the limited economic impact of the Service Technique would be significantly increased by a comprehensive economic plan which ended illiteracy in rural Haiti. [12] Enjoying his expert status on campus, Mr. Heraux gave multiple community talks on economic development in Haiti and some of his work was broadcast on local public radio station WILL too. [13] Mr. Heraux attended other multi-cultural events with other students, including winter break “stay-over” parties hosted by the local YWCA and YMCA organizations. [14] Shortly before graduation, Mr. and Mrs. Heraux welcomed a baby daughter in February 1932. [15] Following graduation, Mr. Heraux resumed his service in the Service Technique and eventually became Chief Agronomist. [16]

Are you a Haitian Illini? Do you know someone who is? We’d like to hear from you! Please send us a message or leave a comment below. We want to include you and your story, as we celebrate the first 150 years of the University of Illinois.

Happy First 150 everyone!


[1] From 1910 to 1912, early The Daily Illini issues include announcements of Mr. Colvin’s participation in off-campus religious services. For more information, please see The Daily Illini in Record Series 41/8/801 or online.

[2] While Mr. Colvin was State Supervisor, the new agriculture education publication Fan-Mill debuted.

[3] Mr. Colvin intended to implement a program similar to his work with agriculture high school education in Illinois and by emphasizing education through practice. Please see: “Coolidge Appoints Colvin ’12 Assistant Engineer in Haiti”, The Daily Illini, April 25, 1924, page 5.

[4] An analysis of the “Colvin Affair” and U.S.-Haitian relations is available. Please see: Pamphile, Léon Dénius, Clash Of Cultures: America’s Educational Strategies In Occupied Haiti, 1915-1934, Lanham, Maryland. : University Press Of America, 2008.

[5] Coleman, Charles H., “Eastern Illinois State College: Fifty Years of Public Service”, Eastern Illinois State College Bulletin, Number 189, January 1, 1950, page 82.

[6] “UI Graduate Gives Rare Haiti Works”, Daily Illini, September 26, 1961, page 8. For a list of other Library special collections, please see the online Library Guide to Special Collections.

[7] Please see: Parsons, Ruth Esther, The Background Of The American Intervention In Haiti, 1930; Rodeheaver, Joseph Newton, The American Intervention In Haiti, 1933; Janvier, Jean-Claude. The Effectiveness Of Vocational Agricultural Centers In Haiti, 1984. For an interesting dissertation about Haitian folk tales, please see: Mirabeau, Roch Lucien, Contes Folkloriques De Port-au-Prince: étude Linguistique Et Litteraire, 1967.

[8] An early history of the College of Veterinary Medicine is available for even more information. Please see: Solberg, Winton U. “The Quest for a College and Research Laboratory of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois, 1906-1921,” Journal of Illinois History, 2000 3(4): 246-266. Even more University of Illinois bibliographic information can be found online too.

[9] For summaries of the project, in The Daily Illini, please see: “Graham Given Year’s Leave; Goes to Haiti”, May 27, 1924, page 1; “Graham Directs Haiti Policy of Animal Hygiene”, April 30, 1925, page 1.

[10] Dr. Graham’s campus talks included candid personal opinions regarding Haitian culture. In The Daily Illini, please see: October 2, 1925, page 11; November 19, 1925, page 1.

[11] “Boughton Resigns to Take Up Work on Isle of Haiti”, The Daily Illini, page 1.

[12] “Better Economic Plan to Aid Haiti, Graduate Writes”, The Daily Illini, March 22, 1930, page 7.

[13] For community talks, in The Daily Illini, please see: “Older Boys to Hold Annual Conference”, November 28, 1929, page 1; “Heraux ’33 To Address Foreign Trade Group”, April 1, 1930, page 1; “Foreign Students Describe Countries to Clubs, Schools”, May 4, 1930, page 11. For radio talks, in The Daily Illini, please see: “Today’s Radio Programs”, December 13, 1931, page 9; “Today’s Radio Programs”, December 16, 1931, page 6.

[14] “100 Attend Christmas Party”, The Daily Illini, December 25, 1929, page 1; “Y.W. – Y. M. Plan Holiday Parties for Stay-Overs”, The Daily Illini, December 27, 1929, page 1; “Second Party for Stay-Overs Given by Ys” by R. E. Schooley, The Daily Illini, page 1.

[15] “Hospital Notes”, The Daily Illini, February 24, 1932, page 3.

[16] By 1940, he was Chief Agronomist. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Experiment Stations, Report of the Puerto Rico Experiment Station, 1940.

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