AAAA Fall 2020

President’s Message

Photo of Vera Perkins Hughes

“I have decided to stick with love.  Hate is too great a burden to bear.” Martin Luther King Jr.


As I reflect on 2020, some days the heartache I’ve felt for loved ones, and for those I never even knew, seemed more than I could bear. Today, I am convinced that no burden is too great when I awaken each day with a thankful heart. A gratitude list can help us realize how much we have to be thankful for.

My message is one of hope that brighter days are coming. We must do all we can to share that hope and love. Wearing masks, being six feet apart, staying home when possible, visiting loved ones virtually, and staying positive are simple acts of kindness that we can do to make our world a better place.

I would like to extend a special thanks to all of you who attended Homecoming, October 8-11, 2020. You made it memorable. We were especially pleased to have Ohio Supreme Court Justice Melody J. Stewart (SAS ‘08) as Keynote Speaker on Saturday morning. I thank you for your confidence in re-electing me as president and welcome all new and returning officers and board members. We congratulate new CWRU president Eric Kaler, former University of Minnesota president, and look forward to working with him and his administration.

-Vera Perkins-Hughes (WRC ’76)

Election Results

Congratulations to the AAAA leadership for 2020-2021! 

President- Vera Perkins-Hughes (WRC ’76), Cleveland, OH
Vice President- Pippa Carter (LAW ’88), Cleveland, OH
Secretary- Tiarra Thomas (CWR ’12), Cleveland, OH
Treasurer- Sharyse Jones (MNO ’08), Cleveland, OH 

Board of Directors
Vincent Holland (GRS ’79), Cleveland, OH
Jeannette Lightfoot (FSM ’71), Alexandria, VA 
Marilyn Maultsby (WRC ’75), Owings Hill, MD
Alan Mitchell (WRC ’76), Greenville, SC
Brian Webster (CWR’11), Cleveland, OH

We are in the process of forming committees and welcome your ideas.  Please email us at to join one of the following committees:  Budget and Finance, Communication, Governance, Membership, Program and Student Affairs. 

Congratulations, Tiarra!

Photo of Tiarra Thomas

The African American Alumni Association sends well wishes to Secretary and Student Affairs Chair Tiarra Thomas (CWR '12), as she leaves Case Western Reserve University to join City Year Dallas, a national education nonprofit dedicated to helping underserved students and schools succeed. As Development Director at City Year, she will work closely with the Executive Director to lead the development and implementation of fundraising strategies to achieve the site’s fundraising goals.  

For the past eight years, Tiarra has served the university as Assistant Director, Development and Special Projects for the Case School of Engineering, working to develop strategic alumni relationships and encourage support of the school. By continuing to work on campus after graduation, she has been able to use her institutional knowledge to the benefit of the African American Alumni Association. In addition, her presence on campus allowed her to regularly engage with students and staff as we continue to grow and fulfill the mission of the organization. 

Tiarra will continue to serve in her board roles, and we wish her well in her new position.

-Vera Perkins-Hughes (WRC ’76)

Homecoming 2020

Photo of the virtual Alumni House Party during Homecoming 2020, featuring The Alumni Association staff members Kris Reiber and Katie O'Malley and alumna guest Linda Wheatt

To loosely quote Charles Dickens, “It was the worst of times; it was the best of times.” Despite a pandemic, political unrest and racial and economic strife, the ingenuity of The Alumni Association of CWRU and the AAAA planning committee made our first-ever virtual homecoming one of the most unique and best attended to date. Friday morning, Alan Mitchell (WRC ’76) and Linda Berry Wheatt (FSM ’72, GRS ’77, above, bottom image) shared the soundtrack of their times on campus as guest hosts on the first annual Radio Alumni House Party. Friday evening, the rich sounds from Maltz Center’s Living Legacies, deemed spectacular by one CWRU alumnus, transformed homes into concert halls. Later that night, a candlelight vigil, with much-appreciated photos and time to share, was as one attendee stated, “a healing way to bring memories into our community again.” On Saturday, keynote speaker Ohio Supreme Court Justice Melody J. Stewart (SAS ‘08) was “just the person for this time in our lives,” according to AAAA President Vera Perkins Hughes (WRC ’76). Additionally, very impressive honorees were recognized during the awards program and the virtual election which followed was efficiently run.  

Thank you to all who made it happen and to all who attended Homecoming 2020. We look forward to next year. Follow the links below to view events you may have missed.

Linking Legacies

Keynote Address  

Candlelight Vigil   

Q&A with Justice Melody J. Stewart (SAS ‘08)

Justice Melody J. Stewart is the first Black woman to be elected to the Ohio Supreme Court. She graciously consented to respond to unanswered questions submitted by attendees during her keynote address. See the link above to the Keynote address for other Q&A.

From Vera Perkins-Hughes (WRC ’76): Considering the results of the no-knock warrant in the Breonna Taylor case, what would you change?

It’s hard to say what should be changed because I don’t exactly know what that police department’s policy is, whether it was properly executed, etc. But I think a legitimate question to ask is why such a warrant, to search for contraband/drugs, was executed so late at night when there was a great likelihood of people being there? Especially if the warrant was to look for “something” instead of “someone.” Such a decision appears to have needlessly put everyone — Taylor, everyone in her apartment, her neighbors, and the police officers who executed the warrant — in danger.

From Linda Sharpe-Taylor, PhD (WRC ’78): I understand the practicality of presenting a defense of someone who appears to be a contributing citizen. But Breanna Taylor was a contributing, established citizen of her community, and it didn't save her life. How much image managing can African-Americans be responsible for?

I’m not sure that I understand the question.  But as much as I applaud the things Breonna Taylor was doing in her life, I don’t think “who” she was or what she was doing in her life should really be a consideration in what happened to her. Her life was valuable. Period. Again, as I understand the case, the police were there to search for drugs, not for Breonna Taylor or anyone else for that matter — a “search” warrant, not an “arrest” warrant. Now certainly had drugs been found, anyone in the apartment could be subject to arrest – and that would be the case regardless of who they are and what they do in life.

From Michele Owens-Patterson (FSM ’71): I have often wondered what specific legal statutes are used in certain cases when prosecutors and police departments make charging decisions. What thoughts do you have about how transparent DA's and others need to be when sharing their decisions with the community?

With some limited exceptions, charges that are filed against someone are made public through the charging document in court with the corresponding statute(s) that the person is alleged to have violated. You can view Ohio’s criminal statutes at

From former student Michelle Felder: In 1997, the court ruled the school funding system unconstitutional. What is the court’s role, if any, in executing its ruling, and what can the citizen body do to enforce the judgment of the court?

I’m glad that this is on your radar, but I cannot comment on it as this subject is something that may come before the court.

2020 AAAA Award Recipients

Stephanie Tubbs Jones Leadership Award
Dr. Teresa Dews (MED ‘88)

Dr. Teresa Dews (MED ‘88)
  • President of Cleveland Clinic Euclid Hospital
  • Previous Chief Medical Officer at Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital
  • Clinical associate professor of anesthesiology in the CWRU Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine
  • One of Northern Ohio Live’s “Top Doctors”



Distinguished Academic Award                            
Dr. Joy Bostic

Dr. Joy Bostic
  • Associate professor in the CWRU Department of Religious Studies
  • Founding director of the CWRU minor in African and African American Studies
  • Interim vice president for CWRU’s Office of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equal Opportunity 
  • Author of book chapters and scholarly articles on race, gender and religion



Ella Mae Johnson Service Award                          
Dr. Francis Curd  (DEN ‘77)

Dr. Francis Curd
  • Spent 40 plus years advancing excellence in dentistry at CWRU and other institutions
  • Demonstrated notable community involvement throughout his career
  • Raised awareness of and led the charge to ameliorate dental health disparities
  • Held numerous leadership positions in local, national, and international dental organizations


President’s Award                                        
Sharon Jenise Brown (CWR ’97, MNO ’00)

Photo of Sharon J. Brown
  • Provided 46 years of dedicated service to Case Western Reserve University
  • Helped endow many scholarships, including the Michael E. Fisher and Doc Kelker Scholarships, named for African American CWRU community members
  • Helped establish the African American Alumni Association as a CWRU affinity group
  • Provided many years of invaluable support to the African American Alumni Association


Rising Star Award                                                
Brian Webster (CWR ’11)

Photo of Brian Webster
  • MyCom Regional Coordinator for Burten Bell Carr Development, Inc.
  • Program Facilitator for Neighborhood Leadership Institute’s youth programs 
  • Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity  Cleveland Chapter Polemarch (President)
  • Cleveland Future History-Maker Award recipient

Giving Back

Donte Gibbs delivers Christmas gifts and holiday cheer in East Cleveland, as part of his nonprofit, Donte's Gift Express.

Donte Gibbs (CWR ’10, SAS ’12) is on a mission to once more bring Christmas joy to residents of East Cleveland, designated in 2020 as the poorest city in Ohio. Growing up there, he embraced his grandmother’s teaching that he had two hands for a reason — one for helping himself and one for helping others — and has been giving back ever since. For the eighth consecutive year, Donte’s Gift Express will purchase, wrap and deliver handwritten cards and family-friendly gifts to residents on randomly selected streets in the city. Gibbs and his team partner with neighborhood organizations and, to date, more than 2,000 gifts have been delivered. They anticipate the day they can expand enough to help the community throughout the year. Gibbs was recognized in 2019 as a Cleveland Champion, one who has done bold, innovative work to lift up his community. To make a donation or to get involved, please visit Photo credit: Gus Chan/Plain Dealer.

Additional Announcements

Tuesday, January 19: Profiles of Inclusive Excellence with Adrianne Crawford Fletcher, PhD., LISW, LCSW Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion and Assistant Professor, Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.

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