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University, alumni celebrate Founders’ Day Weekend events

April 09, 2019

Alumni Reunion classes pose in front of BTW statue
Alumni Reunion classes gather in front of BTW monument.

Contact:  Brittney Dabney, Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing

Hundreds of alumni recently returned to Tuskegee University to celebrate its 102nd Founders’ Day. During the weekend of Apr. 5-7, the classes of 1939, 1944, 1949, 1954, 1959, 1964, 1969, 1974 and 1979 gathered together to celebrate not only the vision of the university’s founders, but to also celebrate their reunion years — especially the marking of the 50th graduation anniversary for the Golden Tiger Reunion Class of 1969. 

The alumni reunion events on Friday morning began with a faculty panel discussion, during which faculty members outlined their current research, innovation and outreach projects. A lunch and fireside chat with President Lily D. McNair followed, giving the newly inaugurated president an intimate setting to share about her family history, higher education background, and the motivations behind becoming Tuskegee’s eighth president. Later that evening alums enjoyed a reunion gala and birthday celebration for Booker T. Washington.

On Saturday, alumni took part in a brunch and development workshop, as well as the university’s annual William L. Dawson Institute lecture and concert. The day’s events were capped off by a “Golden Celebration” for the class of 1969.

“Our graduates have been instrumental in shaping much of the progress we see here on campus,” said Kym Holland, alumni affairs and reunion programs coordinator. “We are always happy to help them celebrate these wonderful milestones — it’s an honor to have so many alums come back and support this institution and our future graduates.”

Students, faculty, alumni and the community filled the Chapel for the university’s annual Founders’ Day Convocation on Sunday. Along with performances by the Golden Voices Concert Choir, the ceremony included a keynote address by Sarah Washington O’Neal Rush, a fourth-generation descendant of founder Booker T. Washington. Rush, founder of the Extraordinary Legacy and the Booker T. Washington Empowerment Network, emphasized the enduring legacy of her great-grandfather.

“Booker T. Washington’s legacy lives on in my life and continues to impact so many. I like you, treasure his legacy, values and mission,” she explained. “I remember being told that Booker T. Washington was an influencer — he was able to strike up so many pivotal relationships, despite having so little and rising above slavery.”

In addition to Rush, more than a dozen descendants of Tuskegee University founders Lewis Adams and Washington were present for the ceremony.

The university’s annual Founders’ Day Weekend includes a celebration of giving by members of the alumni reunion classes for that giving year, which begins on July 1. Class agents for each of the reunion classes announced their classes’ 2018-19 giving to date, which included gifts made prior to and in conjunction with Founders’ Day. Collectively, class members had contributed more than $570,000 to support the university.

“The Tuskegee University National Alumni Association strives to make an important impact on the university — we recruit students, and raise scholarship money to support our students. We want our students to stay here and graduate from Tuskegee University,” said national president Burt Rowe of TNAA’s ongoing efforts to engage university alumni.

Alumni giving also proved pivotal to inspiring students to support the university as well. As part of the convocation, Tuskegee University Pre-alumni Council president, Quentoria Walton, and Student Government Association president, Kieauna Strickland, informed the audience of student fundraising efforts resulting in a $3,029 gift to President McNair’s current $1 million “Campaign for Leadership and Excellence” benefitting student scholarships.

“Our current student giving campaign — ‘I got 99 problems, but giving back ain’t one’ — provides students with a way to give back to Tuskegee.” Walton said. “We are here to plant the seed that will help our university grow.”

To make a contribution to the “Campaign for Leadership and Excellence,” visit

© 2019, Tuskegee University