From UWT’s Oral History Collection: Dr. Maxine Mimms and Building a Learning Community

Interview and Project By Robin Eisenbacher; blog post written by Erika Wigren.

Educator, administrator, social worker, inspiration; throughout her lifetime, Dr. Maxine Williams has had many titles.

In her interview with UW alumni Robin Eisenbacher she discusses over 60 years of work and achievements in the education field.

Dr. Maxine Mimms was born in racially segregated Newport News, Virginia in 1928. She earned her B.A. at Virginia Union University in 1950 and worked as a social worker until earning her Ph.D. in educational administration from Union Graduate School. After moving to Seattle, Washington in 1953, Dr. Mimms began teaching, first at Leschi Elementary School, followed by Washington’s Kirkland Public Schools, and then eventually, in 1964, she joined the Seattle Public School Administration.

In the 70’s, Dr. Mimms returned to education, working as a faculty member at Evergreen State College.

Dr. Maxine Mimms

She had interest in serving the educational needs of African American adults and urban learners. It was at Evergreen State College, and her frustration with the location and commute, that Dr. Mimms began developing an educational program that would serve place-bound working adult students.

During this time there was a lack of higher education in Tacoma, as the UW Tacoma campus had yet to be in place and Dr. Mimms felt the University of Washington, and its focus on research, didn’t meet the educational needs of the African American and urban living community.

Ultimately, her work and desire to assist place bound, working African-American adults led to the founding of the Evergreen State College Tacoma campus in 1982, where she later became the first Director.

“I was interested in a school that would come in, they could learn how to be leaders in their communities and serve their community. Go back to your community and take this privileged education that you have from the state and do something with it. And that was my goal, one of them. In truth, there were two goals that I had, that was access for black people and retention of black people.”

In her interview, Dr. Mimms describes her education goal as to meet the African American community’s demand for adult education programs and increase the number of African Americans in Washington with degrees.

In addition to her work at the Evergreen State College, Tacoma, Dr. Mimms founded the Maxine Mimms Academy, an educational outreach program established to serve youth expelled or suspended from public schools.

In 2017, Dr. Mimms received the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award for her educational work at the Evergreen State College, Tacoma campus.

Read the full 2014 interview and project An Interview with Dr. Maxine Mimms Ph.D.: Building a Learning Community in Tacoma’s Hilltop Neighborhood by Robin Eisenbacher.

Personally Meet Dr. Maxine Mimms at the Evergreen State College – Tacoma:

Hear from Dr. Maxine Mimms personally and celebrate the the renaming of the Lyceum hall to: Dr. Maxine Mimms & Dr. W. Joye Hardiman Lyceum Hall. The event is kid-friendly and attendance is free.

When: March 5, 2019

Times: 10 a.m. and again at 6 p.m.

The Evergreen State College-Tacoma
1210 6th Ave, Tacoma WA 98405
Lyceum Hall

The Tacoma Community History Project is a growing oral history collection. The projects are created by UW Tacoma students under the supervision of Professor Michael K. Honey and in partnership with the UWT Library. Click to learn more about the Tacoma Community History Project.

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