It’s official! Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School is the name selected by the Alexandria City School Board for the new science, engineering, technology and math (STEM) focused school on the West End that will open this fall.
A civil rights icon, education pioneer and trailblazer, Day was appointed to the Alexandria City School Board – just ten years after the Brown versus Board of Education decision. He became the first African American to be elected chair of a public school board in Virginia. Day was highly active in working towards the desegregation of Alexandria and was named a Living Legend for his role in the integration of Alexandria schools and his work in obtaining rights and opportunities for African Americans in the city.
Ferdinand Day’s daughter Gwen Day-Fuller was in the audience at the School Board meeting and fought back tears as the name of the new school was announced…
It means everything. I am just so happy. I know he would be so humbled and happy. I only saw him cry two times. Once was when Obama won the presidency and the next was when someone wrote to the newspaper suggesting that they change the name of T.C. Williams to Ferdinand Day. He said, ‘oh my goodness, can you imagine that someone suggested my name as a school name?’ He was so happy. I want to thank all of Alexandria for this,” said Day-Fuller.
Day was born in 1918 in Alexandria and went to Parker-Gray School through eighth grade before continuing his secondary education in D.C. Public Schools. Alexandria offered no formal high school education for blacks at that time. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in geography and history. Unable to teach in Alexandria because he was black, he joined the federal government and retired from the Department of State as a Foreign Service Reserve Officer.
Day lamented that Alexandria was a typical southern city with problems prevalent in the Deep South and worked tirelessly to affect positive change at the community and state level.
He volunteered for the NAACP and Urban League before joining the Alexandria City School Board. He later served as vice chair of the Virginia State Boards of Community Colleges. In 1985, he was selected by the Secretary of Education to assist in the continued implementation of desegregation for higher education.
Over the years, Day received many awards for outstanding community service from numerous community groups and organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Northern Virginia and Washington Urban Leagues, and the U.S. Department of State.
Mr. Day, who passed away in 2015 at age 96, was predeceased by his wife Lucille in 2003 and is survived by their daughter, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
As a STEM school, Ferdinand Day will offer an integrated curriculum emphasizing literacy, science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The school will grow students who are empowered learners, global collaborators, digital citizens, creative communicators, experiential inquirers and more.
Ferdinand Day is the second school in ACPS to offer a STEM elementary program, following Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology. The STEM foundation will ensure that students are prepared for a range of STEM-related options at the secondary level and beyond.