Summer 2022 AAAA Newsletter

AAAA Newsletter, Summer 2022

 President’s Message


I have so much to say to you in this, my last message as your President.  It has been an honor to serve these past four years, and I am so grateful for the opportunities it has given me to connect with the CWRU community.  To begin with, I am thrilled to congratulate 91 year-old alumnus and civil rights attorney Fred Gray, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom on July 7, 2022.  I had occasion to sit with him and experience his wit at a Law School event in October, 2021.

On Saturday, July 23rd at the Summer Send-off, I and other alumni were honored to welcome incoming freshmen, including psychology major Sarah and her supportive family.  I hope to see all of them and all of you at Homecoming, October 6-9, 2002.  It will be an exciting time of old and new friendships, celebrating life and remembering those who are no longer with us.

Finally, on June 17, 2022, I was privileged to speak at the campus Juneteenth observance.  This national holiday, signed into being by President Biden in 2021 and embraced by CWRU President Kaler who closed the campus in remembrance, commemorates the emancipation of all enslaved African Americans. Major General Gordon Granger’s original order No. 3 delivered on June 19, 1865, read in part that “this involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves.”   Yet, one hundred fifty-seven years and eight days later, only forty-five minutes from my home, the personal rights of yet another young African American male were violated when eight police officers executed Jayland Walker, 25, with sixty bullet wounds and no thought for human dignity after having chased him for unspecified traffic violations.  (Body cam video is available online, Jayland Walker, Akron, Ohio).  As I continue to celebrate the lives of my sons and grandsons, I can only imagine the pain Jayland’s family is feeling.  His memory will be among those honored at our homecoming candlelight vigil this year.  In closing, I implore all of the CWRU community to embrace our differences and look out for one another.  If all human beings were afforded the dignity of equality, wouldn’t these United States be a better place to live?

 ImageFrom right: Sarah Gordon with Vera Perkins-Hughes and family

Vera Perkins-Hughes (WRC ’76)  President, African American Alumni Association

  Presidential Medal of Freedom

Image Photo: Fred D. Gray, Sr. (LAW ’54)

Famed civil rights attorney and alumnus Fred D. Gray, Sr. ((LAW ’54) , was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Joe Biden on July 7, 2022.  Gray, who at age 91, still practices law in Tuskegee, said he was “honored, appreciative, and humbled.”  He thanked U. S. Representative Terri Sewell for nominating him and the individuals and organizations, including the African American Alumni Association, who sent messages to the Biden administration on his behalf.  Said Gray, “We have made substantial progress, but the struggle for the elimination of racism and for equal justice continues.  I hope this award will encourage other Americans to do what they can to complete the task.” 

  Our Newest Alumni

Image Photo: Randy Blackford

On May 13, 2022, the CWRU Black Student Union hosted the seventh annual Black Graduation, celebrating all graduates from the African diaspora.  Congratulations and welcome to the African American Alumni Association!


Road to Success Congratulations! 

ImagePhoto: Dr. Suzanne D. Phillips (WRC ‘73)

If you have paid attention to school board races and meetings nationally, you have read where several have become contentious and unyielding. One of the main topics of volatile interest has to do with Critical Race Theory and which books are appropriate for elementary and secondary school students. However, in the case of the Elmsford Union Free School District (EUFSD), it was another matter for me.

I first ran for School Board in 2021 for the 2021-2022 school year. I managed the campaign entirely, developing all materials that were interpreted in both English and Spanish, distributing flyers, and engaging with members of the community. My opponents were well grounded in Elmsford, which is divided into two municipalities. As the Elmsford School District is closest to my address, I am part of the EUFSD School District. My opponent ran and won on familiarity, not knowledge, experience, or credentials. When a seat became available on the Board, due to a resignation, the Board was divided on appointing me to that seat, and I was precluded from occupying the vacated seat. 

I was asked to run again for the 2022-23 school year. Two members of the community with children in the school district came forward and agreed to serve as co-campaign managers.  We put together a remarkably diverse team and went to work. We set up a GoFundMe account and campaign Facebook page, held meet & greet events and participated in a podcast, and sponsored opportunities for community members who did not know me to ask questions. My primary focus centered around improving the special needs and dual language programs and promoting School Board transparency and accountability. My opponents this time, again, were running on familiarity and not knowledge, experience, or credentials. 

On the day of the election, the opposition situated themselves outside of the polling place, observed the activities, and eventually left. My campaign team also set up camp outside, in legal distance of the polling place. I introduced myself to potential voters, and we remained until it was time to count the results. When results were announced, I had acquired the most votes and was sworn in immediately. Since I won the most votes, I assumed the seat to which two of the Board members had refused to appoint me the previous school year. I again was sworn in this mid- July for the seat I won and will hold this seat for three years.


  August- Black Business Month

We would like to feature your business in an upcoming AAAA newsletter.  To appear, please send to your name and graduation information (i.e. graduation year, school/program), a description of your business and a link to its website.

   Back in the Day

Image Photo: Melvin Rhoden, (CWR ‘78) 

CWRU 1972-1976:

I arrived at CWRU from an all-male boarding school and was assigned to an all-Black student dorm that was about more than just putting the Black students with Black roommates.  That was a significant objective, and one that made my transition more pleasant, however Sherman House was about creating a safe place for people and providing cultural and political programming that benefited the entire campus.  The idea of an affinity dorm had been conceived some years earlier by students who were “woke” to the needs of the school and its Black students before “woke” was even a term, and in the best meaning of that currently-maligned term.  They had the keen sense of awareness and the courage to advocate for what they needed.  Sherman House enabled us to envision how we could impact the university to serve our needs better, such that we might become full members of the community.  Cultural programming, special-themed meals in the dining room, diverse entertainment, and involvement in student government were just a few of the outcomes of the always-on conversation and encouragement emanating from Sherman House.

The idea of a winter Black Ball was in place when I arrived at CWRU, but we had always failed to secure student government funding.  Through strategizing, planning, and being present within the student-government apparatus, we advocated recognition of the need for student activity fees to support a broader stream of student entertainment, and funding was secured.  While we would have hoped that our efforts would have longevity, I never imagined that the Black Ball would enjoy a 50th Anniversary, which it did this past year. 

So, I write about times conceived before I arrived at CWRU and can witness to our fidelity to the vision of a CWRU able to nurture all its students in the classroom, on the fields, in social settings, and in living arrangements.  The notion that Black students always need to live together might be a bit restrictive, but it was certainly a powerful, uplifting, and necessary concept in its time.  The seeds planted then have grown into a mature tree and continue to branch into and intertwine with the forest of a great university.  Think: what efforts do you champion now that can spark innovation and grow to fulfillment for future generations of students?  Some student yet unborn will likely find the “cover” under your formative and forward-looking ideas to realize more fully his or her potential.  Isn’t that what CWRU espouses?  That is what CWRU provided to me, and it is what I tried to pay forward.

  There’s No Place Like Home

The African American Alumni Association (AAAA) invites you to register for our signature Homecoming Events and many others, October 6-9, 2022.  It won’t be the same without you!

Welcome Reception Kick off the celebration Friday, October 7th with food, games and a candlelight vigil, 6-10pm at the Linsalata Alumni Center.  Alumni, students and families are encouraged to attend this special networking opportunity at no charge.

Stephanie Tubbs Jones 5K and 1 Mile Fun Run, Saturday, October 8th from 8:30-9:30am at Disanto Field. Please consider attending or supporting this scholarship fundraiser named for a founding member of the AAAA.  

Membership Meeting and Elections  AAAA members will meet Saturday, October 8th from 9:30am-noon at Guilford House to elect new officers and discuss upcoming programs.  Your input is invaluable. 

Dinner Dance On Saturday, October 8th from 6-10pm, please join us at Thwing Center for an evening of dinner, dancing, and award presentations, as we finally celebrate the 10th anniversary of the African American Alumni Association.  Guests are encouraged to dress as they did during their time on campus for this festive throwback party.

 Inspirational Breakfast On Sunday, October 9th from 9-12pm at the Cleveland Skating Club, feed your body and soul through fellowship with other AAAA alums before saying goodbye for another year.  

Register: AAAA and many other exciting Homecoming Events 

  2022 AAAA Awards 

The African American Alumni Association (AAAA) is pleased to announce the 2022 African American Alumni Association Awards. The AAAA encourages you to nominate yourself or other candidates for its 2022 awards.  The award categories are the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Leadership Award, Ella Mae Johnson Service Award, Rising Star Award, and the Distinguished Academic Award.

A description of the award criteria is found below. An individual cannot win the same award twice, nor be nominated for two awards in the same year.  You will find the nomination forms when you click below at “Learn more and nominate”. Nominations must be received by 11:59 p.m. on August 31, 2022.Learn more and nominate >

Awardees will be honored at this year’s CWRU African American Alumni Association Homecoming Dinner.

Stephanie Tubbs Jones Leadership Award
Recipients of the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Leadership Award are African American CWRU graduates who provide service to the broader community and demonstrate loyalty to the (CWRU) university through participation and/or financial support. They demonstrate strong effective leadership and resilience in the face of adversity. 

Ella Mae Johnson Service Award
Recipients of the Ella Mae Johnson Service Award are African American CWRU graduates who have made a difference in the lives of others. They have provided direct service to the university and the community through volunteerism and civic engagement.

Rising Star Award
Recipients of the Rising Star Award have graduated within the past 15 years and demonstrated the potential for long-term distinction.

Distinguished Academic Award 
Recipients of the Distinguished Academic Award are current or former faculty or department heads who have made significant contributions to CWRU and their professional areas of expertise.

President’s Award
Recipients of the President’s Award are honored for long-term invaluable service and contributions to the African American Alumni Association. 

Previous Award Winners:
Stephanie Tubbs Jones Leadership Award

  • 2010 Robert Madison (ARC ’48)
  • 2012 May Wykle, PhD (NUR ’62, ’69, ’81)
  • 2014 Harold McRae (ADL ’65)
  • 2016 Vincent Holland, PhD (GRS ’79)
  • 2018 Debra Lewis-Curlee (WRC ’74) 
  • 2020 Dr. Teresa Dews, MD (MED’88)

Ella Mae Johnson Service Award

  • 2010 Fred Gray (LAW ’54)
  • 2012 Hon. Annette Butler (FSM ’66)
  • 2014 Joan Southgate (SAS ’54)
  • 2016 Donald Freeman (ADL ’61)
  • 2018 G. Dean Patterson (WRC ’75; GRS ’82)                                  
  • 2020 Dr. Francis Curd (DEN’77)

Rising Star Award

  • 2010 Alicia Graves (CWR ’05)
  • 2012 Paul D. Adams, PhD (GRS ‘00)
  • 2014 Gayle Williams-Byers (CWR ’96, LAW ’00, MNO ’00)
  • 2016 Dr. Kari Cunningham (DEN ’10, ’12)
  • 2018 Alesha Washington (MNO ’07)
  • 2020 Brian Webster (CWR’11)

Distinguished Academic Award

  • 2018 John A. McCluskey                                                
  • 2020  Dr. Joy R. Bostic

President’s Award

  • 2020 Sharon Jenise Brown (CWR’97, MNO’00)


  Save the Dates & Upcoming Events

  • August 1-29, 2022 Campus school-supply drive to benefit neighborhood schools.  Collection spots will be located all over campus.
  • August 21, 2022   Campus Move-in-Day.  Volunteers are always needed.
  • August 31, 2022  Fall Convocation, Severance Hall


Tailgate at 3 p.m. Kickoff at 4! The Alumni Association invites you to reserve your seat for the 4th Annual Black College Football Hall of Fame Classic, September 4, 2022, at the Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.  This game, featuring teams from Central State and Winston-Salem State Universities, also includes rousing halftime performances by WSSU’s "Red Sea of Sound" and the "Invincible Marching Marauders" of Central State. The $25 ticket includes your seat for the game and access to a private area for food and mingling.  Register: Black College Football Classic


Seeking Leaders 

The CWRU African American Alumni Association will hold elections for Board of Director positions at its biennial membership meeting on October 8, 2022.  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, Wednesday, August 31, 2022. Learn more and nominate >

  • You may nominate more than one member for each position. (Please separate names with a comma.)
  • No person may run for more than one position on the ballot.
  • Officers may only serve two consecutive terms. The term of office is two years.
  • Directors at-Large serve for a term of two years.

If you plan to nominate people, please speak with them first to make certain they are interested in the positions. Let them know why you think they'd be  good candidates and indicate how you will be available to provide support. 

Nominees will be contacted to confirm their interest in being considered for the position and a brief bio will be requested.

NOTE: Candidates must either be present at the biennial membership meeting or have someone present that will serve as designee.  All candidates /designees will be asked to provide a statement.

For additional information, the CWRU African American Alumni Association Constitution and By-laws are available for review at

Follow this link to access the nomination form. Questions? Contact Erma Leaphart at

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Want to see who else is involved with the AAAA? AAAA members as of August, 2022. 

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