The life of the minister who founded Phoenix’s first community center lives on in the ASU scholarship that bears his name

August 30, 2022

Cynthia Peters’ father wasn’t home often while she was growing up. Years later, she learned of all the things he had done while he was away when she started doing some of them herself.

“I never knew how much he was doing until I got on the pitch,” said Stoneswho entered social work and now works for ASU School of Social Work. His father, Reverend Amos Harrison Dudley, founded one of the first missions in downtown Phoenix.

Reverend Amos Dudley, circa 1986. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Peters
Download Full Image

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

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

The center then moved several blocks to its current location at 1326 W. Hadley St., where Dudley remained 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 the first African-American member of the Phoenix City Council, serving from 1972 to 1994. Goode, who died in 2020, created the endowment in his friend’s name in 1983.

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

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

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

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

One of the goals of the Dudley Scholarship endowment is to help the university achieve greater diversity in its student body. The scholarship supports the recruitment and retention of racial and ethnic minority students with financial need and academic merit, according to the ASU Foundation.

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

Fellows make 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 and then pursue a master’s degree in social work. Jones participated in community service at the Phoenix Rescue Mission.

“The scholarship makes me feel supported and gives me the chance to work fewer hours and do well in my classes,” Jones said.

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

“This scholarship means a lot to me and has given me peace of mind financially and the ability to invest more time in my studies, bringing me one step closer to my career goals,” Pantaleon said.

Peters said his father’s dedication to the Valley Christian Center never wavered, even when he was dying of cancer. He always insisted on being taken to the center to oversee the ministry there, Peters said.

“I remember taking him to the center in his pajamas, saying, daddy, this is not supposed to happen,” she recalled. “But he wanted to be there.”

Peters and his two sisters earned college degrees. Peters, the eldest, has a bachelor’s degree from Johnson C. Smith University, a historically black college in Dudley’s native North Carolina, and a master’s degree in social work from ASU. She shared her father’s passion for helping young people, having worked for the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department overseeing teen and community centers for many years. She also held various positions with the city’s Parks and Recreation and Social Services departments before joining ASU in 2013.

Since 2017, Peters has led the School of Social Work’s internship programs as the Field Education Manager.

Both of her sisters attended Ivy League institutions. One entered the ministry of American Baptist Churches, also operating a community center, and is now responsible for churches in New York City. The other went into business and is now a stay-at-home mother.

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

Jill E. Washington