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Marks Made: New exhibits honors Wichita State's first Black female VP

Dr. Marche' opening
Anetra C. Burton
Family and friends prepare for a ribbon-cutting of Dr. Marché Fleming Randle's exhibit. Left to right: James Fleming, Latonia R. Relf-Toni, Dr. Marché Fleming Randle and Aron Randle.

A new exhibit spotlights the journey of Wichita State's first Black woman Vice President.

A new exhibit at Wichita State's Rhatigan Student Center pays tribute to the first Black woman Vice President in the college's 125-year history.

The exhibit is called Making Herstory, The Evolution of Marché Fleming-Randle, Forging Her Way To Greatness.

Visitors will see family photos of Dr. Marché — her parents, her siblings, her engagement photos with her husband of more than 30 years, as well as mementos that are special to Dr. Marché, says Tai Owens.

"They will also see her awards and accomplishments. A few of them that she's earned over the many years. And I think you'll see Dr. Marché, her spirit, throughout the exhibit."

The project is the brainchild of Owens, an administrative specialist at Wichita State University in the College of Innovation and Design and a graduate student.

Marche Exhibit.jpeg
Anetra C. Burton
Visitors look over photos and archives in the exhibit to learn more about Dr. Marché Fleming Randle.

"Part of my graduate studies is specifically in museum studies and, I thought that medium would be a great opportunity for the masses to see and enjoy, the works of Dr. Marché."

Owens says she was surprised at how little information there was about Fleming-Randle, whom she considers to be a trailblazer.

"I did this project because I've always admired and observed Dr. Marché on the campus of Wichita State University. When I wanted to seek additional or research information about her there was little available, so I thought rather than continue to search, I'd go to the source," she says.

Tia Owens Exhibit Designer(1).jpg
Carla Eckels
The project is the brainchild of Tia Owens, an administrative specialist at Wichita State University.

WSU Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Military Affairs Dr. Marché Fleming- Randle agreed to be featured in the exhibit.

"She was receptive to it all. I think in our personal interaction, she had the confidence in me that I would do her story justice," Owens says.

"This woman whom I've admired, who I look up to, an African American woman paving the way, blazing the trail, always open and willing to help others and to tap into those thoughts that she had or the struggles and the triumphs and all those experiences."

Throughout African American history, Owens says, storytelling has always been customary.

"We passed stories down mouth to ear and that's how we track our history. I did that with my grandmother and to hear and to feel and to see, you get that visceral experience and that's incredibly rewarding and to have a woman, not necessarily a family member, but a woman willing to put themselves out there to be vulnerable, to share their experiences, their thoughts, their feelings. I felt privileged too that Dr. Marché gave me that ability to honor her.

Lil girl exhibit.jpeg
Carla Eckels
Karaya Grace Pratt reads a quote by Dr. Marché Fleming-Randle in the exhibit.

Owens says visitors should start the exhibit at Dr. Fleming-Randle's childhood.

"I want them to look at the very beginning of her story, 'Who was little Marché? Who were her parents? What was her life like?' Starting there, you want to learn more.

"I think it'll continue to move you along through the exhibit. And then of course see the culmination of where she is today and know that can be you, it can be your daughter or anyone."

There is one quote of Dr. Marché's that stands out for Owens — "People see my glory but they don't know my story."

"I've heard that from Dr. Marché before and it's a true mantra for her," she says. "That quote has been a part of her and continues to be a part of her. And I elevated the quote along the same eye line as the title itself."

Owens says an oral history interview project is underway that will be included in WSU's archives this summer.

"What I love is the importance of not allowing history to go unnoticed. It may be difficult to enjoy history when you're young, but when you are growing older and you realize, 'Wait a minute, am I leaving a mark? Did this person leave a mark?' And today we see a whole lot of marks being left, particularly by African American women."

The exhibit, Making Herstory, The Evolution of Marché Fleming-Randle, Forging Her Way To Greatness, is in Cadman's Art Gallery on the first floor of WSU's Rhatigan Student Center will run through this Friday, April 2, 2022.