Kentucky State University beloved administrator and campus luminary, Dr. Gus Ridgel, 95, whose dedication and life-long work transformed the institution, has departed this life. Ridgel died Saturday morning, University officials confirmed.
News of Ridgel’s death brought a deep sense of loss to the campus on the Hill and the entire University community.
University President Dr. M. Christopher Brown II said his friend and colleague fought a good fight. Losing Dr. Ridgel will profoundly impact the Thorobred family.
“Amid this pandemic, any loss of life is beyond difficult given the restrictions we face in celebrating our loved ones. Thorobreds everywhere will remember and honor the excellence that Dr. Ridgel demonstrated throughout his life and career at Kentucky State with a commitment to our students and the institution. He genuinely loved all of Kentucky State. We will miss his presence and I will miss his counsel,” Brown said.
Ridgel most recently served as senior advisor to the president. As senior advisor to the president, Ridgel advised and educated Dr. Brown on significant matters, including the legacy and history of the institution. Ridgel retired in 1996 as vice president for finance and administration at Kentucky State after a long career in higher education.
Ridgel’s life is a testament to his fight for social justice and equality. He was part of Concerned Student 1950, the first group of African-American students admitted to the University of Missouri. Ridgel was admitted to the graduate program in economics in 1950 after civil rights groups won a court ruling desegregating the university. Blazing a trail, Ridgel received a master’s degree in economics with honors two semesters later.
Ridgel would later earn a doctorate in economics at the University of Wisconsin and conduct postdoctoral work at the University of Chicago, Duke University, and other institutions.
In 2018, the University of Missouri named a new residence hall atrium in honor of his civil rights activism.
Ridgel believed in the good of humanity, and he believed in Kentucky State. He never lost his spirit and loved every visit to the College on the Hill, Brown said.