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Winter 2015

Date Released: 5 January 2015

President's Message

President Linda Sharpe-TaylorI am grateful for the opportunity to introduce myself to you, the membership and friends of the CWRU African American Alumni Association (AAAA). I attended Case Western Reserve University from 1974 to 1978 and graduated with a degree in psychology. While attending, I participated in athletics and was president of the Afro Am Society my senior year. Since graduation, I have obtained a master’s degree from Cleveland State University and my doctorate from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. I am presently a licensed psychologist in private practice with a part-time staff appointment at Department of Pediatrics, Saint Louis University School of Medicine. I live in St. Louis, Mo., but I plan to travel to Cleveland as needed in the next two years in execution of my duties as president.

I’d to thank past president Alicia Graves and the past board leadership team for their guidance the last two years. They were successful in the mission “to serve CWRU African American alumni and students in a way that enriches and supports their academic, work and professional experiences.” In service to the mission, this team raised more than $100,000 to support scholarships. We are fortunate that most of them will continue as at-large board members in the next cycle.

In an effort to move forward, I ask each of you to consider and discuss what you want noted about our efforts at the end of the next two years. What will we have established that will give us a collective feeling of accomplishment? What will we have created that will be a legacy for those who come next?

I invite you to engage in dialogue with us during the next two months to answer these questions together. Part of my dream is to have an engaged group of alumni who support the vision and mission of the CWRU African American Alumni Association in a welcoming, professional network.

When I came to CWRU in the late seventies, there was a vibrant group of African American students who created a community for themselves within CWRU. Politics of the era energized us. We saw the need for unity among those of similar traditions and backgrounds. The student organization Afro Am was well-established as a place to discuss ideas and issues. That tradition continues as a structure for students to give voice to collective concerns, as seen in their current effort, the “We Belong Here” movement. Whether a reminiscence of an earlier time or an embodiment of current sentiments, the ability to create what you envision in your community drives all human endeavors. Together, we construct the world we live in. Our association can be the embodiment of what is great about being an African American alum of Case Western Reserve University.

To all who have been involved in the past, please continue. For those who have not been involved, please join us. Information about membership will be forthcoming. There are many ways to serve: lead a committee; write for the newsletter; volunteer for an event. Share your vision and get involved to construct that dream. Feel free to contact me at with feedback.

—Linda Sharpe-Taylor (WRC '78), President, African American Alumni Association

Outstanding Alumni Honored

The African American Alumni Association is proud to honor alumni with outstanding leadership qualities and dedicated service records. This year’s award winners are Judge Gayle Williams-Byers, Joan Southgate and Harold McRae.

Ella Mae Johnson Award RecipientRising Star Award
Judge Gayle Williams-Byers (CWR ’96, LAW ’00, MNO ’00) persevered through a cancer diagnosis to complete a dual-degree program in law and non-profit management. She was Cuyahoga County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney for 10 years and is currently the first African American judge of the South Euclid Municipal Court. Her goals are to start a night court, a housing court and to work with police to keep children out of juvenile court. Her passion for teaching drives her to teach law at Cuyahoga Community College and to educate those who appear before her.

Ella Mae Johnson Award
Joan Southgate (SAS ’54), pictured here, worked 30 years as a social worker, advocating for the needy. At age 73, she began an 18-month, 519-mile journey from Ripley, Ohio to St. Catharine’s, Ontario to honor former slave and conductor families. The following year, she founded Restore Cleveland Hope, an organization dedicated to celebrating Cleveland’s anti-slavery history. The organization presents community dialogues, school and camp programs, and is currently raising funds to convert University Circle’s only pre-Civil War structure into an Underground Railroad teaching center.

Stephanie Tubbs Jones Leadership Award
Harold McRae (ADL ’65) overcame a daunting first semester at CWRU to eventually become global customer director at Glaxo-Welcome, the world’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturer. He learned by trial and error to navigate the corporate maze and advises high school seniors not to let things that appear to be obstacles actually become obstacles. Now in a position to give back, McRae does exactly that. He donated more than $50,000 to his childhood church, started the CWRU Doc Kelker Scholarship for minority students, is a recruiter for CWRU admissions and sits on the university’s board of trustees.

A Weekend to Remember: Homecoming 2014

Erma Leaphart-Gouch (WRC ’75), Linda Wheatt (FSM ’72, GRS ’77)

Photos by Jeffery Ivey

Welcome ReceptionWelcome Reception: The signature game night and welcome reception was the kick off for a weekend to remember. The evening at the Alumni House began with tributes to two beloved alumni: Michael Holt (NUR ’01, NUR ’05), who was always the life of the party, and Stephanie Tubbs Jones (FSM ’71, LAW ’74), who never met a stranger. Stunning décor, lovely background music and a delicious buffet provided a wonderful atmosphere for seeing old friends and meeting new ones. Game players kept tables busy all evening, and once again, the women reigned victorious in Battle of the Sexes group games.


Membership MeetingMembership Meeting: The bi-annual membership meeting began with an overview of the history and accomplishments of the African American Alumni Association, then segued to a busy agenda. New members were registered.

Reports from the committees, including Governance, Communication, Program, Student Affairs, Membership, Budget and Finance, highlighted the past two years’ achievements. Board members and officers were elected and voting took place on amendments to the constitution and by-laws. An animated discussion of how to best meet the needs of CWRU’s African American students concluded the meeting.

 Notable approved constitution and by-laws  amendments included the following:


  • Changing the definition of general membership to incorporate the language “…successfully completed at least one year of coursework at CWRU,” in order to be more inclusive and to acknowledge academic initiative.
  • Changing the treasurer position to more accurately reflect responsibilities, emphasizing the importance of submitting reports and working with the Office of Alumni Relations.
  • Strengthening the budget submission and approval process for the Budget and Finance Committee.


The amendment to Article III, Section 1b was voted down. By-Laws Article II, Sections 1 and 6 will be further amended and voted on at the 2016 membership meeting. All other amendments were approved. For a list of all amendments, please see the full September newsletter.

The following officers and members of the Board of Directors were elected:

President: Linda Sharpe-Taylor (WRC ’78)
Vice-President: LarKesha Burns Askew (CWR ’09)
Treasurer: Sharyse Jones( SAS ’08)
Secretary: Marian Bryant (CWR ’10)


Pippa Carter (LAW ’88)
Regina Harper (SAS ’06)
Erma Leaphart-Gouch (WRC ’75)
Vera Perkins-Hughes (WRC ’76)
Tiarra Thomas (CWR ’12)

Dinner Dance

‌G. Dean PattersonG. Dean Patterson, Jr., Associate Vice President of Student Affairs, was adept in the role of Master of Ceremonies when, in partnership with the Office of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equal Opportunity, the African American Alumni Association presented its elegant dinner dance and fundraiser in the ballroom of the new Tinkham-Veale University Center. Nearly 200 alumni, friends and special guests from the Association of Underrepresented Minority Fellows Biomedical Sciences Symposium enjoyed an evening filled with good food and great music. More than $6,000 was raised for the “Reach Back—Raise Up” scholarship initiative.

Words of welcome from past president Iverson Banks-Bey and Daniel T. Clancy, interim executive director of the Alumni Association, preceded a delicious meal. Following dinner, awards were presented to the 2014 recipients. Outgoing president Alicia Graves introduced the newly elected officers and board of directors.

Marilyn S. Mobley, PhD, Vice President, Office of Inclusion Diversity and Equal Opportunity, introduced four-time Grammy-nominated Oleta Adams and the intimate concert began. Adams, backed by guitar, bass and drummer husband John Cushon, accompanied herself on the piano and sang one soulful song after another, including “Rhythm of Life,” “Everything Must Change,” and of course, “Get Here.” In recognition of Sweetest Day, she reminded us to love God, to love others and to love ourselves.

Adams ended with the upbeat gospel song “Wilted Roses”, which included a message of giving your best to the Lord.

Following the concert, DJ Robert Johnson got everyone on their feet with a mix of new and old-school records.  There were line dancers, hand-dancers, and Soul Train dancers on the stage. A great time was had by all.

Inspirational Breakfast

Inspirational BreakfastAnimated conversation was the order of the day at the Inspirational Breakfast hosted at the Cleveland Skating Club. The morning opened with a libation ceremony, honoring ancestors and dearly departed ones and easing the disconnection from roots that people of African descent sometimes feel. Keynote speaker Joy Bostic, PhD, quoted Joan Southgate: “The walking is done, but the journey continues.” She invited participants to share stories from their pasts and asked “How do we emancipate ourselves from these negative experiences?” In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., she continued, “We are the beloved community. We must celebrate our diversity—light, dark, kinky, curly, straight—and embrace our commonality.” A spirited discussion ensued.

We are already looking forward to 2015. In the words of Oleta Adams’ signature song, “Get here if you can.”

Save the Dates

Janice A. Eatman-Williams (MNO’01)

Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Week, January 18-23, 2015

Campus-wide events throughout the week

Convocation Speaker, January 23, 2015 at 12:30pm

Renowned journalist and activist Charlayne Hunter-Gault

Alternative Break, March 2015


Service week in New Orleans, with stops in Montgomery and Selma, Ala.

Race, Food & Justice Conference, April 2015

Please forward this newsletter to those who you think may not have received it. Remember to visit our webpage and our Facebook page.

Race, Food & Justice Conference, April 2015

The AAAA gratefully acknowledges the support of the following entities which helped make Homecoming 2014 a success:


The Office of Corporate Relations

The Office of Government and Community Relations

The Alumni Association of CWRU