Black-and-white portrait of the Rev. Amos Dudley, circa 1986.

Life of minister who founded early Phoenix community center lives on in ASU scholarship named for him

By

Mark J. Scarp

Cynthia Peters’ father wasn’t home much while she was growing up. Years later, she learned about all the things he did while he was gone when she began doing some of them herself.

“I never knew how much he did until I got into the field,” said Peters, who entered social work and today works for the ASU School of Social Work. Her father, the Rev. Amos Harrison Dudley, founded one of Phoenix’s early inner-city missions.

A scholarship in Dudley’s name administered by the ASU Foundation, the Amos H. Dudley Scholarship Endowment, is given annually. It aims to help students of color achieve their academic and career goals. It’s one of many generous acts ASU is celebrating and highlighting during August’s Black Philanthropy month.

Dudley was an American Baptist minister whose church superiors transferred him to Phoenix in 1959 from Chicago, where he had also created a Christian inner-city ministry. Dudley established the Valley Christian Center near 10th and Washington streets.

The center later moved several blocks to its current location at 1326 W. Hadley St., where Dudley remained as the center’s executive director for 29 years until his death in 1988.

Friendship with Calvin Goode

While running the center, Dudley befriended Calvin C. Goode, who would become Phoenix’s second African American city council member, serving from 1972 to 1994. Goode, who died in 2020, established the endowment in the name of his friend in 1983.

The two friends served on several committees together and Dudley helped Goode win his first council election, Peters said.

Both Dudley and Goode played key roles during the 1960s and 1970s in establishing what eventually became official holidays honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Juneteenth.

Dudley was also instrumental as a member of the city’s Community Development Block Grant Committee, securing funds for redevelopment of downtown Phoenix, Peters said.

One of Phoenix’s first Head Start programs for children operated out of the Valley Christian Center, said Peters, who said her father insisted inner-city kids have the chance to attend a summer camp in the Mogollon Rim area northeast of Payson that was operated by the American Baptist Churches. He also established programs that provided lunches and a community center for older residents.

One of the Dudley scholarship endowment’s goals is to help the university achieve more diversity in its student body. The scholarship supports recruiting and retaining racial and ethnic minority students with financial need and academic merit, according to the ASU Foundation.

The endowment continues to produce annual $1,000 scholarships. The college consults with Peters and her mother, Rosetta, each year when selecting scholarship recipients.

Scholarship recipients set career plans

Veronica Clarice Jones, who received the scholarship for the fall 2022 semester, expects to receive a bachelor’s degree in social work in December, then pursue a master’s degree in social work. Jones has participated in community service at the Phoenix Rescue Mission.

“The scholarship allows me to feel supported and gives me the chance to work less hours and be successful in my classes,” Jones said.

Efren Trejo Pantaleon is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in social work with a minor in business and plans to then study for a master’s degree in social work. Pantaleon also received the scholarship for this fall, and hopes to join a nonprofit organization that helps immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“This scholarship means so much to me and has given me peace of mind financially and the chance to invest more time into my education, getting me one step closer to my career goals,” Pantaleon said.

Peters said her father’s dedication to the Valley Christian Center never waned, even when he was dying of cancer. He still insisted on being driven to the center to oversee the ministry there, Peters said.

“I remember taking him to the center in his pajamas, telling him, Dad, this isn’t supposed to happen,” she recalled. “But he wanted to be there.”

Peters and her two sisters earned college degrees. Peters, the oldest, holds a bachelor’s degree from Johnson C. Smith University, a historically Black university in Dudley’s native North Carolina, and a Master of Social Work degree from ASU. She shared her father’s passion for helping young people, having worked for the city of Phoenix’s Parks and Recreation Department supervising teen and community centers for many years. She also worked in various capacities with the city’s Parks and Recreation and Human Services departments before coming to ASU in 2013.

Since 2017, Peters has directed the internship programs for the School of Social Work as its field education manager.

Her two sisters attended Ivy League institutions. One entered the ministry for the American Baptist Churches, also operating a community center, and today is in charge of churches throughout New York City. The other entered into business and today is a stay-at-home mom.

“He’d be so proud of them,” Peters said.