By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
GLASSBORO – Trying to define Stanley Yeldell’s life and work is like going through a history book, an inspirational memoir and the a lesson in how to smash barriers all in one sitting.
An associate professor in the Department of Law and Justice Studies at Rowan University, Yeldell has been a mainstay in there for more than 40 years, making him one of the deans of law professors in all of New Jersey.
The 73-year-old Yeldell, though, sounds as passionate about what he does, connecting with students and the life experience, as someone 50 years younger. The South Jersey native told Front Runner New Jersey said he still sees himself giving to students and inspiring them to reach higher into the future.
Passion for Students
“I have been employed at Rowan University for 46 years,” Yeldell said. “I remained at Rowan to be a professor within Law and Justice Studies so I could continue to be a mentor and academic adviser for over 3,000 African-Americans, Latinos and other minorities that would not been able to obtain a degree unless I provided the academic guidance and nurturing for their success at a predominately white university.
“Moreover, the students did not have anyone of color to identify with or relate to or share their confidential issues regarding their trials and tribulations that existed within their inner world,” he added.
Yeldell, one of the first professors to join the Law and Justice Studies Department at its infancy when Rowan was known then as Glassboro State College, is still the only African-American on a staff of nearly two dozen.
Blazing Own Trail
The graduate of the prestigious Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C. blazed his own trail, becoming one of the nation’s foremost authorities on victimology, Yeldell has served on two international board on the subject. He coordinates the Law and Justice intern program and is the founder of the Rowan Victim Awareness Organization.
Yeldell has a diverse background in criminal law, juvenile justice, business law, consumer law, forensic law, insurance law, paralegal courses and torts. He has co-authored a criminal justice intern manual, textbooks and handbooks. His ongoing research includes the Atlantic City Gun Tracing Project.
He has authored the department’s “Criminal Law Text” and coauthored its Victimology Handbook” and “Criminal Justice Internship Manual,” which have been used in the department for Rowan students over past 15 years.
“I pray that the students will be enlighten by the importance of integrity, continue to mentor to the less fortunate, assisting the victims of crimes, understanding that most important aspect is to be a servant and finally always listen before you speak,” Yeldell said when asked what he hoped students would get from his classes beyond the classroom. “I might add, never look down on anyone unless you are willing to pick them up.”
A ‘Rowan University Institution’
Dr. Michael Weiss, chair of the Law and Justice Department, called Yeldell a “Rowan University institution” and his commitment to students “peerless.”
“He created our highly-regarded student internship program, which supplements our department’s academic mission by connecting students to real-world practice,” Weiss told Front Runner New Jersey. “His office is across the hall from mine and all day long I see students come in and out to discuss his class, their internships and their lives.
“For me personally, he has been a true friend and an invaluable mentor and I look forward each day to his visits to my office in between his student meetings; these visits are replete with funny stories, historical anecdotes, wry observations and good counsel. We are very lucky that Stan has been part of our department and university for so long and I am hopeful he will remain with us for many more years to come,” Weiss continued.
In 2014, Yeldell was inducted into the Rowan’s Law and Justice Studies Hall of Fame, joining late Rowan President Mark Chamberlain, who created the program, as its first members. There has also been a scholarship established in his name.
“[The Hall of Fame] was a great honor since I was the first African-American to be employed within the Law and Justice Department and I am the only one at the present time,” Yeldell said. “I have not accomplished all that I want. I do want to author at least another textbook. I hope before I depart from the university that I will be able to obtain enough funds to award two scholarships of $1.000 annually.”
Delsea Regional High School Hall of Fame
Yeldell was also named to the Delsea Regional High School Hall of Fame as well, where he was recognized as a scholar and outstanding student-athlete during his teenage years. He pointed to one of his mentors there, the late Harry Richardson, who made an indelible impression on him.
“When I attended Delsea Regional High School, I saw the first time in my life that the black male teachers wore suits and they dressed every day,” Yeldell said. “I was so impressed with my belated mentor Harry Richardson, who showed the importance of carrying yourself in a professional manner and the clothes he wore was what we would see on Sunday at church by a b black minister.”
It was Richardson who forcibly backed the young Yeldell to be inducted into the school’s National Honor Society, a rarity for an African-American athlete at the time, but was disappointed not being elected senior class president when his opponent said he would bring NAACP to Delsea.
“The prior mentioned made it crystal clear that I had to be two times as great as my white classmates,” Yeldell said. “Furthermore, the road to success had to be confronted with the demons of racism, biases, and bigotry. We must be cognizant of the trials and tribulations we would encounter within this society.”
Love for Education
Yeldell’s wife, the late Shirley Yeldell who died in 2007, went on to have a long career as a teacher at Delsea Regional.
“My beloved wife worked very hard to overcome the injustice that was perpetrated from the South,” Yeldell said. “Her family was sharecroppers as far back to 1960 in Cotton Plant, Ark. She saw the importance of education since the residents’ employment in Cotton Plant was picking cotton. She had realized the importance of education since it would elevate her from the fields of cotton to the classroom educating the students who were lost.
“She was a very dedicated teacher in which she would telephone her students’ parents and informed them of their children’s progress and she needed the families to support her academic formula for success. I realized the importance of education when I attended an all-black middle school located on the Glassboro Lawns with only four teachers instructing the eight grades. The teachers were all black,” he said.
Making History and Teaching It
Yeldell’s dedication to the law and mentoring was evident in his answers to Front Runner New Jersey.com. Here are some of various topics Yeldell touched on during the FRNJ interview.
FRNJ: I saw an online post you made on the Southern University CLEO website about participating in that program as a law student in 1969. Why was that experience so important to and has stayed with you for so many years?
Stanley Yeldell: I was one of the first group of African-Americans graduates who had aspirations to go to law school. I was invited to participate in this initial pilot program in the United States which is called CLEO (Council of Legal Opportunity). This pilot program provided you to study the law during the summer for you to determine whether or not you wanted to continue your education in law school. The experience enhanced my academic skills to succeed in law school. The Southern University Law School was taught by law professors from Yale and LSU law schools along with the Southern professors coupled with the noted criminal law attorney Murphy Bell from Louisiana.
The culminating events sealed my mind the burning desire to study law. We went on a plantation in Baton Rouge areas to conduct a voter registration drive but the black-hired worker there stuck a shotgun in my stomach and told us to leave or else he would kill us. His master had informed him if did not run us off the land he would have to surrender his three-room house in which five family members occupied. I can still envision the man’s eyes that turned a flaming red and his attempt to satisfy the master’s command. Furthermore, when it was time to depart from the Southern University Law School, I attempted to secure a plane ticket for $45 since students could travel at half fair from Baton Rouge to Philadelphia. I was told that black students would not receive the half fair price. Immediately, I ask my friend who was white to purchase the ticket so I was able to complete my journey to Philadelphia. I successfully completed the program and receive a Ford Foundation Scholarship to Howard University School of Law.
FRNJ: In a 2014 Courier-Post story, you talked about the importance of mentoring police officers, lawyers, etc., especially when it comes to the perception of race. Can you talk about why it is still important for law enforcement to receive that kind of training?
Stanley Yeldell: In 1980, I was involved in research project whereby I had to interviews in the Cumberland County jurisdiction. I was stopped by a law enforcement official who told me that he was ordered to stop any black individuals who did not reside within this small municipality since they had a substantial amount of burglaries committed by individuals of color-blacks. I asked the officer where did he receive his training or education for being a law enforcement official. He stated his family provided said education: chief, captain, and other family members and they could teach him all about the law. More important he did don’t believe in the Miranda vs. Arizona case as it related to an individual’s constitutional rights. Also, I saw lawyers who did not consider the constitutional rights as it relates to race. Furthermore, before I was employed by Rowan University, I was arrested the same day that Martin Luther King was murdered in 1968. We were students at Bowie State University. As students, we decided to travel to Annapolis, Md. to meet with the late Governor (Spiro) Agnew. He ordered the Maryland State Police must arrest several hundred Black students. Thank God, the NAACP Legal Counsel enabled us to be released on a ROR (Released on our Own Recognizance). We were told upon release that the university would be closed down by the governor. We were very hurt that at 3 a.m. that we had to depart from our campus and if not we would be arrested. The community and the state legislatures of Maryland convince the governor to re-open the university. We went to court in September and our case was dismissed since they only arrested the black students and not the white students, professors and the white media.
FRNJ: What organizations are you involved with away from Rowan?
Stanley Yeldell: I am a member of the following organizations because of their purpose of fighting for the injustice and the need to help in the name of humanity: NAACP, National Victim Association, Bowie State University, Howard University, Glassboro Awareness Scholarship Committee, First Nazarene Baptist Church in Camden, UNCF and the Southern Poverty Law Firm.
FRNJ: Anything else you would like to add?
Stanley Yeldell: I am proud of my family. I had an uncle whose name was Joseph Yeldell, who was the deputy mayor of Washington, D. C. I helped him campaign for the first non-voting delegate of the District of Columbia. The first one was the Rev. Walter Fauntroy, who won the election. Moreover, I was the first political science major to graduate for Bowie State University. They called it a social science degree.
All Photos courtesy of Rowan University.
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