University, alumni celebrate 94th annual Founder’s Day; over $397,000 raised
TUSKEGEE, Ala. (April 4, 2011) — Tuskegee University celebrated its 94th annual Founder’s Day with a weekend of events. Thousands of alumni, university personnel and students, and community members convened on campus April 1-3. The classes of 1936, 1941, 1946, 1951, 1956, 1961, 1966 and 1971 celebrated reunions. Over $397,000 was donated to the university. The annual observance pays homage to Tuskegee founder and first president, Booker T. Washington.
On Friday, April 1, events included the annual reunion banquet. On Saturday morning, President Gilbert L. Rochon, who detailed plans for progression for the university and its constituents, addressed alumni. Among those plans is a concerted effort to be more involved in underserved communities.
“We must get back to what Booker T. Washington was about,” Rochon said. “We must rededicate ourselves to the poor.”
Rochon, who answered several questions from the audience, also talked about improving the campus and surrounding community, making it more welcoming and convenient to alumni, students and visitors.
“We want alumni to come back for more than nostalgia and love for the university,” he said.
The afternoon featured the William L. Dawson lecture, delivered by Brian Nesby, a countertenor and alumnus. The Dawson concert, which featured the university’s Golden Voices Choir and visiting universities’ ensembles, was held Saturday evening.
Also on Saturday, President and Mrs. Rochon hosted a reception for the reunion classes at their home, Grey Columns. The eminent associates were honored for their ongoing giving to the university.
On Sunday, April 3, the annual Founder’s Day Convocation was held in the University Chapel. The speaker for the occasion was retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Leon A. Johnson. He was most recently the mobilization assistant to the Director of Operations, Headquarters Air Education and Training Command, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. He is a past national president of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc.
Johnson spoke about “diversity frequently lost in American consciousness,” citing the feats of some known and unknown figures that contributed to American legacy.
“Does anyone come into this world thinking they will make a change?” he asked. “They respond to circumstances they encounter. Heroes are made. Sometimes history is made. They were ordinary people who rose to the occasion.”
After Johnson’s speech, President Rochon and Board of Trustees Chairman Charles E. Williams presented Johnson with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Board of Trustees Chair Emeritus Andrew F. Brimmer was presented with a Doctor of Laws degree.
After the recognition of the descendents of Washington, Lewis Adams and others who played key roles in the institution’s conception, the reunion classes presented the university with a total of $397,344 in contributions.
“The overall weekend was very successful,” said Kimberly Woodard, Tuskegee University National Alumni Association president. “I was proud to see so many alumni return to campus.”