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Summer 2014

Date Released: 5 May 2014

Contributors: Janice Eatman-Williams (MNO ’01), Alicia Graves (CWR ’05), Sharyse Jones (SAS ’08), Sharon Jordan-Davis(CWR ’98, MNO ’00) and Linda Wheatt (FSM ’72, GRS ’77)

In this issue: Nominations for awards and board positions

President's Message

President Alicia GravesI am excited to address students, alumni, faculty and staff in our ninth newsletter. I hope everyone is looking forward to a beautiful summer.  We have reached the midpoint of 2014, and while your current officers have achieved much, we still have more to accomplish before the conclusion of our term in October. We are on track to reach our goals and will continue to stay the course.

I extend warm congratulations to our 124 graduates in the class of 2014. What you have accomplished during your time at Case Western Reserve University will prove to be the cornerstone of your professional careers. Many years from now you will still hold dear the close relationships  you formed while at CWRU.  On behalf of the board members, I wish you well on your journey through life and look forward to hearing of your amazing accomplishments. Welcome to the African American Alumni Association (AAAA). We await your ideas and participation. Congratulations!

The AAAA works hard to create programming that connects alumni and students. Our successful speaker series and outstanding summer social are but two examples.  Be sure to take advantage of these event opportunities to learn and network. The “Reach Back—Raise Up” Pledge Drive for African American Students is going strong.  Donations are accepted year-round.  Make your contribution now to ensure that there will be funds to assist African American students who would like to attend this prestigious university in the future.

Plans for Alumni Weekend 2014 are underway.  The reunion committee is diligently planning exciting events for the weekend of October 16-19.  Meetings are held bi-monthly, and your ideas are welcomed. Please contact us at to get involved.

Have a relaxed and fruitful summer. Use this time to accomplish tasks that have been deferred and take advantage of opportunities that you only imagined in your dreams.  Stay tuned for the next chapter of the AAAA.

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

Happenings: Jumpin' Jazz Jam

Jumpin' Jazz Jam 

Janice Eatman-Williams (MNO '01)

The beautiful Greg Reese (LYS’77) Performing Arts Center in East Cleveland was the site of this New Orleans-style Alternative Spring Break benefit sponsored on February 22 by the CWRU Center for Civic Engagement and Learning. Conversation sparkled like the Mardi Gras beads passed out at the door.  Shrimp and sausage jambalaya, corn macho and beans and rice were just a few of the delicacies served up hot “when the saints came marching in”.

The smooth sounds of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District All-City Jazz Band had the sound engineer shaking his head at all the talent on the stage. Alumnus Brian Taylor (CWR ’05, GRS ’08, GRS ’09, GRS ’12) and other engineering students and alumni brought audience members to their feet with jazz standards and traditional Dixieland, proving that indeed, one can master both sides of the brain.

Speaker Series: Daring to Dream with Shaneen Harris

Sharon Jordan Davis (CWR '98, MNO '00)

On March 20, the AAAA introduced Shaneen Harris (GRS’97) in its first speaker series event, hosted at The Alumni House.  Harris shared the amazing testimony of overcoming a void in her life, despite having achieved the American dream at an early age.  Through her poetry, she gave intimate details of surviving a suicide attempt and finding God in the midst of her circumstances.  The attentive audience of students and alumni took to heart her encouragement to pursue dreams and find her life’s purpose.

Good Medicine
Sharyse Jones (SAS '08)

In collaboration with the Siegal Lifelong Learning program, the AAAA presented Joy Bostic, PhD on April 29 in the second speakers series event, with a talk entitled African American Spirituals as Remedy.   Bostic praised spirituals as a way for African Americans to assert their humanity in the midst of dehumanizing situations.  She decoded hidden meanings in such well-known spirituals as Hush, Hush; Run Mary and Steal Away to Jesus.    

She pointed out that each generation has had the power to reconfigure these songs to fit their present circumstances, from slavery to the Civil Rights movement and beyond.  Collectively composed, spirituals can strengthen and focus a community.  The evening ended with attendees singing Glory, Glory Hallelujah, and Since I Laid My Burdens Down.

Twenty-fourth Annual Unity Banquet

Linda Wheatt (FSM ’72, GRS ’77)

An accomplished student jazz combo reflected the talent of the 40 students honored at the 24thAnnual Unity Banquet and Scholarship Benefit, hosted April 11 at Landerhaven by the Office of Multicultural Affairs.  Master of Ceremonies Akil Evans reminded the audience that there is unity in diversity and in battle.  “We are not just students; we are warriors,” Akil said.  “Whether our battle is with chemistry or with the Cleveland weather, we do not fight alone.  We have each other for support.”

Keynote speaker Holly Robinson Peete challenged listeners to be the change they want to see in the world.  “Don’t be afraid to enter into someone else’s world,” Peete advised. “They may not be able to enter into yours.”

Leadership Conference

LarKesha Burns Askew (CWR '09)

Brian Anthony (CWR ’06), Alicia Graves (CWR ’05), Sharyse Jones (CWR ’08), LarKesha Burns Askew and Sharon Jordan-Davis (CWR ’98, MNO ’00) represented the AAAA at the CWRU Alumni Leaders Conference on campus April 25-26. Conference workshops provided an opportunity to confer with members of the Alumni Association of CWRU and leaders from alumni chapters and networks. The AAAA was recognized as one of the most effective networks, with nearly 30 percent of its alumni membership engaged.  

Please contact board members at to get involved or propose an idea. Your input is invaluable.

Summer Social

Sharyse Jones (SAS '08)

On June 5, downtown Cleveland’s Marriott Club at Key Center was the place to be as the AAAA, in partnership with the Club’s Young Professionals Committee, hosted its second annual Summer Social. Attendance exceeded that of last year.  Guests enjoyed a breathtaking panoramic view of the Cleveland skyline.  Delicious New Orleans cuisine and the soulful stylings of Cleveland’s own “The Sax Man” band made the event reminiscent of a jazz club on St. Charles Place.  Alumni from various undergraduate classes and graduate programs made the most of the opportunity to socialize and network.

African American Alumni Association Awards

Reunion News

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

The leadership of Cleveland-born Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones (FSM '71, LAW '74) was characterized by the passionate support of people and causes.  After Tubbs Jones’ death in 2008, President Barack 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 those who had been overlooked and left behind.  In Stephanie, they had a fearless friend and unyielding advocate.”

Alumni recipients of the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Leadership Award provide service to the broader community and demonstrate loyalty to the university through participation and/or financial support. Tubbs Jones faced 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 (SAS ’28) was a groundbreaking professional woman. She was able to attend Fisk University in 1921 through the financial support of scholarships and working as a waitress. In 1926, she was one of two black students admitted to the School of Applied Social Sciences at Western Reserve University. She was not allowed to live on campus, but handled this slight as she did others—with an air of dignity. Post-collegiately, Johnson worked for both the Cuyahoga County Department of Welfare and Associated Charities of Cleveland.  Her duties included finding scholarships for low-income students and distributing payments to single parents.  She lived to be 106 years old, becoming the oldest CWRU African American alumna. Compassion and outreach informed 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 volunteerism and civic engagement.

The AAAA will honor alumni with the presentation of the following awards during the 2014 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 by August 1.

Questions? Email us at

Election News

The CWRU African American Alumni Association will hold elections for Board of Director positions at its biennial membership meeting October 18. The 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, August 1.  You may nominate more than one member for each position.  Please separate names with a comma. No one may run for more than one position on the ballot.  Officers may serve only two consecutive terms and the term of office is two years. After their terms have expired, officers serve another term as members of the Board of Directors. Directors at Large serve for a term of two years.

A brief description of positions and current board members is provided below:

  • President: (incumbent, Alicia Graves, (CWR ’05)) 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, Brian Anthony, (CWR ’06)) 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, Aqueelah Jordan, (CWR ’04)) 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, Jeanne Madison, (MGT ’97)) Receives and disburses funds of the association and issues receipts. Submits financial reports to the BOD, and an annual statement to the university’s Office of Alumni Relations.

Directors at Large: LarKesha Burns Askew (CWR ’09), Sharon Jordan-Davis (CWR ’97, MNO ’00), Linda Wheatt (FSM ’72, GRS ’77).  Duties of the Directors at Large are detailed throughout the CWRU African American Alumni Association Constitution and By-laws. Please note these documents for additional information at

Save the Date for October 16-18

Don't miss the African American Alumni Reunion Events!

October 17: Game Night and Candlelight Vigil at the Alumni House

October 18: Membership Meeting, 400 Nord Hall
Dinner Dance featuring Oleta Adams at the new Tinkham Veale University Center

October 19: Inspirational Breakfast at the Cleveland Skating Club

Registration details coming soon.


Basketball star Je’Nine Nickerson (CWR ’02, MGT ’13) and football, track and field star

Earl W. Overstreet II (CIT ’69, MGT ’74) were inducted into the CWRU Spartan Hall of Fame on April 25.

Kenneth B. Chance, Sr., (DEN ’79), professor and chief of endodontics at the University of Kentucky, returns home to become the new dean of the CWRU School of Dental Medicine, effective July 1.

In Memoriam: Love leaves a memory no one can steal

RoseDorothy Lee Thompson Davis (FSM '72)

Please send notices to

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

What would you like to see highlighted in future newsletters? Do you have wedding, graduation, baby news, etc. to share? Your ideas are appreciated. Contact us at

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