Skip to Main Content
CWRU Links



Summer 2012 - Volume 1, Issue 2

Date Released: 1 May 2012

Message from the President: Welcome Class of 2012

President Alicia GravesIt is with great pleasure that I address you in this issue of the newsletter. I’ve had a wonderful year and a half serving the African American Alumni Association. There are few experiences more rewarding.

First, join me in congratulating the class of 2012. We welcome them as alumni and look forward to their involvement with the association. Here’s to a job well done!

Participating in the AAAA is an enriching experience. I got involved because I remember how I felt during my CWRU years, when alumni visited campus and talked with us students. I enjoyed seeing what I viewed as the end product of a great education. It helped me to understand that there was life after graduation and encouraged me to keep moving forward. Now here I am! Ready and willing to give of myself, as others before me have done.

I encourage you to also get involved as you deem fit. Contact current officers at to find out more about positions you are interested in. The upcoming year will not be the same without you.

Come join our journey. Continue to grow with us. Create a vision. Leave a legacy.

Alicia Graves (CWR '05), Interim President, African American Alumni Association

Alumni Spotlight: Alicia Graves (CWR '05)

The Alumni Spotlight highlights African American Alumni Association members who are furthering the CWRU legacy, either by directly serving CWRU or by serving the broader community.

Alicia Graves, 2010 Rising Star Award recipient (see Alumni Awards article) is right at home in the position of interim president. When on campus, she served as vice president of both Hall Council and the African American Society. Alicia is a proud native Clevelander, with great love for her community and the desire to give back. A Cleveland Public Schools protégé, she graduated from East High School’s Academy of Finance in 2001 and from CWRU in 2005, with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and American Studies. She then went on to the University of Akron School of Law.

During her last year of law school, as part of a human rights delegation to Rwanda, Alicia created a training manual to educate Rwandan women about their constitutional rights. Since then, she has traveled extensively outside the country, to such diverse places as the Netherlands, Haiti, Germany, Switzerland, and Dubai, usually to offer service to the international community. Travel is her passion!

Alicia currently works in the financial services industry at New York Life Insurance Company, where she is able to pursue her interest in saving and growing assets. She finds it rewarding to help others create an estate and leave a legacy. In addition to working with business owners and families, she is also a part of the New York Life $50 Billion Dollar Empowerment Initiative, designed to put $50 billion dollars back into the African American community over the next five years, and thereafter. She is excited to be a part of this initiative and this great company. Alicia was recently married to husband Jamal Pittman.

What is your favorite CWRU memory? 
My favorite memory was performing at the African American Cultural Dinner my junior year. This evening was so amazing! The theme was “Motown.” I was featured in several scenes, and by the end of the night, I was exhausted. But I loved every minute, because there is nothing I love to do more than DANCE!

What is one thing about yourself that most people don't know? 
During my last year at Case, I entered the Case Idol contest (similar to American Idol) and came in first place! I sang Believe by Cher. Since then, that has been my signature song. I perform it every time I sing karaoke.

What famous person would you like to meet and why? 
I would like to sit down and have an extensive, candid conversation with President Barack Obama. I would like to know his views on a number of topics. I also would like to hear firsthand how he has dealt with adversity. I find politics very interesting.

What would you like to have accomplished in 10 years? 
The Bible speaks about how one’s “latter will be greater.” I’m not exactly sure what I want to accomplish over the next 10 years, but my hope is that it will have a positive impact on my community and the world. My latter will be greater!

What favorite quote would you like to leave us with? 
I leave you with a quote that I heard in high school, from world renowned motivational speaker Les Brown. “When the troubles of life hit you, try to fall on your back. Because if you can look up, then you can get up.” This quote has helped me pull through the most difficult situations.

Senior Spotlight: Tiarra Thomas (CWR '12)

The African American Alumni Board acknowledges the accomplishments of those who are soon to be alumni and members of our association.

Native Clevelander Tiarra Thomas has been an active participant in campus life since first coming to CWRU. She participated in Undergraduate Mock Trial her first two years and became president of the African American Society in her senior year. Presently, she is completing an internship with the Cleveland Foundation, where she was recently hired as a temporary Donor Relations Assistant. She was interviewed by Linda Sharpe-Taylor.

What was one of your peak experiences at CWRU? An experience where you felt energized and excited to be a student? 
One of my favorite memories was a recent rally for Trayvon Martin, hosted by the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences’ (MSASS) Black Student Association. This event was amazing because it brought undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, and staff together for one common goal. We made a statement; Trayvon Martin’s family needed justice and closure in the death of their loved one. Many more people than expected turned out. That event really made me proud to be a CWRU student.

Think about the best course that you have taken; now consider the best class in that course. What made that class the best? 
The best class I have taken during my time at Case was a multicultural communications course. I really enjoyed this class because it highlighted the importance of being able to communicate with people across different cultures and experiences. The instructor integrated course material with real life situations to clarify the connection between success and the ability to communicate with others who may be different from you. Everyone in the class, including me, was open-minded. I was able to bring in situations where I used information learned in the course.

What were some of the strengths that you brought with you from your family that made you successful in completing your undergraduate education at CWRU? 
A strength that I brought from my family is the desire and the stamina to be successful. The college graduates in my family have highlighted the importance of my receiving an adequate education to place myself in a position to do what I enjoy. An education is the key to unlock the door to an abundance of opportunities—I learned that I need to obtain my degree to earn my key. 

What were some of the strengths that you brought with you from your high school that made you successful in completing your undergraduate education at CWRU? 
The main strength that I brought from high school is the desire to do well. That means putting extra effort into everything that I do. It is good to accomplish others’ expectations for you, but it’s even better when you can surpass your own expectations for yourself. 

What strengths did you gain from your experience at CWRU that will help you to be successful in your next steps in life? 
Being a student at CWRU has taught me time management and perseverance. Working the equivalent of full time during senior year, being a full time student and being president of a student organization is a lot of work, but Case taught me how to stay on task and manage all of my duties. In fact, you have to gain these skills to do well at CWRU. 

Give us a glimpse of your future plans after graduation.
After graduation, I am hoping to further my work experience in the non-profit field, where I can work to improve the lives of local youth or local neighborhoods as a whole. Once I have gained some experience, I hope to obtain a master’s in public administration, with a specific concentration in nonprofit management.

On behalf of the African American Alumni Association, we congratulate you and welcome you to our association. Best wishes for your future. The African American Alumni Association congratulates graduating seniors Taneisha Deans, Symone Fields, Omar Gutierrez, Thea Harrison, Stephanie Onuoha, Anna Selser, Leslie Stanard, Tiarra Thomas, Arielle Tucker, Tonnette Williams and all other May 2012 graduates.

Reunion News: African American Alumni Association Awards

At the biennial reunion, The African American Alumni Association recognizes alumni who demonstrate outstanding leadership qualities of two of our alumni stars, Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Ella Mae Johnson.

Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones (FSM '71, LAW '74) was born in Cleveland on Sept. 10, 1949, She graduated from Collinwood High School and received both her BA and JD from Case Western Reserve University. Tubbs Jones’ leadership was characterized by passion and enthusiastic support of people and causes she believed important. Facing the adversity of turmoil at the polls during a contentious election, she has been quoted as saying, “If they're willing to stand at polls for countless hours in the rain, as many did, then I should surely stand up for them here in the halls of Congress.”

After her death in 2008, President Obama described her efforts in Congress by saying “It wasn't enough for her just to break barriers in her own life…She was also determined to bring opportunity to all those who had been overlooked and left behind—and in Stephanie, they had a fearless friend and unyielding advocate."

Recipients of the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Leadership Award are CWRU alumni at the graduate or undergraduate level who provide service to the broader community. In addition, recipients demonstrate loyalty to the university through participation and/or financial support. Tubbs Jones faced the many difficult situations in her life with tenacity and grace. Recipients of this award must demonstrate strong effective leadership and evidence resilience in the face of adversity.

Ella Mae Johnson was a groundbreaking professional woman born in 1904. She was able to attend college at Fisk University in 1921 through several scholarships and waitressing jobs. She received a bachelor's degree in French from Fisk University, after her graduation was delayed six months for having participated in a boycott of the school led by W.E.B. Du Bois. According to documentation by National Public Radio, in 1926, Ella Mae Johnson enrolled in graduate school to become a social worker; she was the first black student. But she wasn't allowed to live on campus. She handled such slights throughout her life with an air of dignity. 

NPR further documents that Ella Mae's real lesson was that compassion gets you through life. She was orphaned at four years of age and literally raised by next-door neighbors. Compassion and outreach informed the rest of her life. Recipients of the Ella Mae Johnson Service Award are African American, have earned a graduate or undergraduate CWRU degree, and have made a difference in the lives of others. Also, recipients must have provided direct service to the university and extensive service to the community through volunteering and civic engagement. 

The AAAA will honor alumni with the presentation of the following awards during the 2012 reunion: 

Please help us identify deserving individuals by clicking on the appropriate link(s) above to nominate one or more candidates. Forms must be completed July 15, 2012. 

Questions? Email us at

Board of Directors Election News: Now Accepting Nominations for the 2012-2014 Term

The CWRU African American Alumni Association will hold elections for Board of Director positions at its biennial membership meeting on September 29, 2012The nomination process is now open.

Please help us identify future leaders by making nominations. Self-nominations are welcomed and encouraged! The nomination deadline is midnight, July 15, 2012. You may nominate more than one member for each position. Please separate names with a comma. Officers may serve only two consecutive terms and the term of office is two years. Directors at Large serve for a term of two years. The CWRU African American Alumni Association Constitution and By-laws and the nominating form are available for review at

A brief description of positions and the names of current Board members is provided below:

  • President: (Incumbent, on leave of absence: Iverson Banks-Bey) Calls and presides over the Board of Director (BOD) meetings and performs other duties pertaining to that office. In consultation with and with approval of the BOD, the President appoints the chairpersons of all committees and fills any vacancies on the Board. The President serves ex-officio on all committees. 

  • Vice President: (Incumbent, acting president: Alicia Graves) In the event of the absence, disability or resignation of the President, performs the duties of President. The Vice-President may serve as chairperson of a committee, other than membership or program. 

  • Secretary: ( Incumbent: Linda Sharpe-Taylor) Records minutes of the BOD meetings and business meetings of the Association, preserves copies of publications and documents of special importance to the Association. Sends out meeting notes to all members of the BOD. 

  • Treasurer: (Incumbent: Tracy Knuff) Receives and disburses funds of the Association and issues receipts. Submits financial reports to the Board of Directors, and an annual statement to the University’s Office of Alumni Relations.

*After all officers’ terms have expired, they will serve another term as members of the BOD. 

Directors at Large (5) John Barber, Erma Leaphart-Gouch, Debra Lewis-Curlee, Mark Smith (1) Vacant. Duties of the Directors at Large are detailed throughout the Constitution and By-laws. Please note these documents for additional information at

Student News: Not Your Typical Spring Break!

Spring BreakFun in the sun? Sand in your shoes? Parties? Thousands of college students flocked to the usual destinations in March and April to enjoy these activities.

But thousands of others engaged in unique opportunities to ‘do some good by doing good.’ Since 1999, students from Case Western Reserve University have chosen to devote their time and talents to underserved local, national and international communities.

This year, the African American Alumni Association served as the major sponsor of the CWRU Alternative Break 2012 Krewe journey to NashHamNOLA. The almost 2,500-mile drive took the team to Nashville, Birmingham and New Orleans. Literacy partner A Cultural Exchange made it possible to bring nearly 100 books to donate to New Orleans organizations. A group composed of alumni, students, faculty, staff and community returned to the Gulf Region for its ninth trip to continue work begun in January 2006, and journeyed to other major cities in the South heavily damaged by floods and tornadoes. Fisk University and Tulane University were on-the-road institutional hosts. When not at partner sites, team members were encouraged to explore. 

Service, culture and learning in action. They experienced it all during Alternative Break.

Save the Date for Alumni Weekend: September 27–30, 2012!

African American Alumni Association ReunionDon't miss the 2012 African American Alumni Association reunion, to be held September 27–30, 2012.








Want to see who else is involved with the African American Alumni Association? Download our list of current members.

What would you like to see highlighted in future newsletters? Your ideas are appreciated. Contact us at