A hidden figure: Former U.S. Ambassador center of petition for Terre Haute street renaming

Friday, April 16, 2021 - 22:41

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Dr. Cynthia Shepard Perry dedicated her life to education and service.

Her journey began in Vigo County’s Lost Creek Township, which was made up of predominately Black families. She was one of nine children.

“Life was good. I had good memories,” said Ambassador Perry.

Ambassador Perry went to Indiana State University, first as an art major before finding a new passion.

“Somewhere along the line I began to feel the need to know more about government. How government runs, how it affects me, how it affects my chances. So, I went into political science,” she said.

Ambassador’s Perry’s curiosity about the world led to a path of diplomacy.

She served as the United States’ representative to Sierra Leone and Burundi under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, among many other achievements.

Now in her 90s, Ambassador Perry is living in Houston where she continues her work and her passion for art.

Her fellow ISU alumni are working to make sure her story is known. Currently, there is a petition to get a portion of 5th Street in Terre Haute renamed in her honor.

“This would be an opportunity to connect Lost Creek, Terre Haute, past, future and present Sycamores to her accomplishments,” said alum, Darrell Morton Jr.

Another alum put Ambassador Perry’s life to music during Black History Month.

“She is our treasure. She came from our town. Terre Haute has amazing people and Indiana State produces amazing people who go on to change the world,” said Dr. Crystal Reynolds, a local historian.

For Ambassador Perry, she said these efforts are an honor.

“I hope that I may be able to inspire others to see themselves as a citizen of the world and not just the place they were born. But not to forget the place they were born. That was the making of them,” said said.

The petition to rename the street after Ambassador Perry can be found here.

You can learn more about her time at Indiana State University here.

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