Summer 2021 | By Laura J. Cole
“As a Black student and a Knight, I wanted to leave a legacy at UCF,” says Derreasha Jones ’21 of the John T. Washington mural recently installed in the building named after him, more commonly referred to as the breezeway.
John T. Washington died in 1983 — 15 years before Jones was born — but the former associate professor of sociology and one of UCF’s first Black faculty members has made a lasting impression on her life. When Jones started at UCF in 2016, she became a member of the Black Student Union (BSU), for which Washington served as one of the first advisors when it was founded in 1969. There, she learned about Washington and his commitment to servant leadership.
“[Washington] couldn’t have known the impact that he was going to make for all these generations to come, but he gave back because you’re supposed to impact your community,” says Jones, a psychology major who was also a LEAD Scholar, president of UCF’s NAACP chapter, an Advancement fellow, and Omega Psi Phi’s Miss Purple and Gold.
Jones made it her mission to make sure Washington’s legacy wouldn’t be forgotten. This effort began her first year while she gave campus tours as an Admissions Ambassador and realized that not much was said about him other than, “This is the John T. Washington Center, but you’ll never hear that name again.” She worked to change the talking points for tour guides but also wanted to update the plaque on the building. That push began in 2018 and was finally realized earlier this year after she brought it up again as a member of the President’s Student Advisory Council (PSAC).
I’m just here for the students, if it wasn’t for students, none of us would be here at all.John T. Washington
Created by local artists Peterson Guerrier and Chris Jones and located throughout the John T. Washington Center, the mural features Washington’s image, a quote from him, his signature, the original BSU logo, the John T. Washington Honor Society logo, and will feature highlights of his contributions to UCF along the interior corridor.
The mural was funded by long-time UCF supporters and donors Barry ’95 and Rosie Miller ’95 through a gift they made to the President’s Excellence Fund.
“It really turned into something even bigger than what I was asking for,” Jones says. “We want to continue to make sure that our whole community feels included and not just when there’s unrest or when it’s Black History Month. And I’m grateful that PSAC and President Cartwright made it happen.”