AAAA Spring 2018

President's Message

image of Linda Sharpe-Taylor

This year our nation will in many ways relive the year 1968, a remarkably tumultuous and intense year in American History. 1968 included the Glenville Riots, the assassination of Robert Kennedy, President Nixon’s “sock it to me” appearance on Laugh-In, and the April 4 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.  As I look at this history and try to learn the lessons from this past, I am struck by Dr. King’s prophetic speech given the night before his death. It is known as the Mountaintop Speech. He delivers the imagery of standing on the mountaintop to look into the land of promise. What I see in this land of promise are the ideals of our nation that all people are created equally. In the promised land, we are all endowed with unalienable rights that include the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness. 

It seems as if 2018 will be another tumultuous and intense year of activism and protest. As we move through this year, I hope to maintain the perspective of the Mountaintop - that we keep the vision and hope of the promised land. Life is better ahead because of the struggle to live out our ideals. I hope we don’t fall to the cynicism and fear that create the reasons for the struggle.  We can only win with the vision from the Mountaintop.

—Linda Sharpe-Taylor, PhD (WRC '78)

Welcome, Provost Vinson! 

Photo: Courtesy of George Washington University.

Case Western Reserve’s next provost and executive vice president will be Ben Vinson III, accomplished historian of Latin America now serving as dean of George Washington University’s Columbian College of Arts & Sciences.

“Ben Vinson III will bring an exemplary record of leadership, scholarship and far-sighted vision to his role as our next chief academic officer,” said President Barbara R. Snyder. “His intellect, energy and powerful commitment to the mission of higher education make him well-suited to help our university realize even more of its extraordinary potential.”

A graduate of Dartmouth and Columbia universities, Vinson served on the faculties of Barnard College and Penn State before joining Johns Hopkins in 2006, as a professor of history and founding director of its Center for Africana Studies. He went on to serve as a vice dean for centers, interdisciplinary studies and graduate education before becoming dean at George Washington. Under Vinson’s leadership, the college increased interdisciplinary initiatives, enhanced diversity and substantially grew research efforts.

Vinson will assume his duties as provost on July 2, 2018, succeeding W.A. “Bud” Baeslack III, who is returning to the engineering faculty after nearly a decade in the position.

Meet Pledge Campaign Partner,
Renee Ligon!

Renee M. Ligon is the assistant director of Diversity & Corporate Relations. She joined Case Western Reserve University in June 2017, with the purpose of cultivating a diversity fundraising platform to meet the needs of students, corporations and individual donors. Her leadership and passion in moving diversity forward have already shown success towards achieving the larger and more important goal of supporting our students.

Most recently, with the support of Anne Borchert, assistant vice president of Corporate Relations and Strategic Projects, the Annual Fund office, and intern Cameron Childers, Ms. Ligon was able to successfully launch the university’s first DiversityNow! Crowdfunding campaign. “Due to the generosity of our great alumni and friends, we exceeded the first established goal of donor participation.”

Ms. Ligon thanks all donor participants for their personal engagement and monetary support.  “We are all difference makers. As the momentum continues to build, all of us must continue to be passionate and persistent in urging our alumni and friends to increase their support as we advance DiversityNow! at CWRU. This is not an effort to be achieved by one, but obtained by the coming together of our collective community engaging as one. Please take time to review this video presentation from individuals around campus  To contribute to diversity, please select ‘designation’ and then ‘other.’  We still need your support.”

Ms. Ligon is a business development and sales expert whose 20-year career encompasses successful collaborations with community agencies, municipalities, nonprofits and small to large for-profit organizations.  She holds a BA in communications from John Carroll University and an MBA in strategic human resources management from Nova Southeastern University.

Alumni Spotlight-
Alesha Washington (MNO '07)

Photo: Courtesy of JASON MILLER FOR CRAIN'S 

Alesha Washington, vice president for government advocacy at the Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP), represents the Cleveland business community to state legislators and public officials. Her job is to educate them about the needs of her hometown and to make sure public works projects important to Northeast Ohio make it into the state capital budget.

She joined GCP in 2014, focusing on local and state-level advocacy.  Says Martin McGann, the business group's senior vice president for government advocacy, “Alesha has been a remarkable addition to our team. She understands the government processes and points of possible influence on an issue and, equally important, she has the relationships to get the job done." — Jay Miller, Crain’s Cleveland

AAAA Attends Afro Am Meeting

At the invitation of President Arik Stewart, alumni spanning several decades attended the January 24, 2018, meeting of the African American Society. After introductions, and before a rousing game of Black Card Revoked, panelists Donte Gibbs (CWR ‘10, SAS ‘12), Dr. Vincent Holland (GRS ’79), Vera Perkins-Hughes (WRC ’76), Tiarra Thomas (CWR ’12), Brian Webster (CWR ’11) and Linda Wheatt (FSM ’72, GRS ’77) answered questions from current students.  

How did you volunteer when you were on campus?  
Panelists Response: I always advise people to volunteer at something they’re passionate about. I volunteered by tutoring at city schools. I wanted the children to know CWRU was accessible to them.

Where did you hang out?  
Panelists Response: Sometimes we hung out at the Office of Multicultural Affairs. Often, we created our own parties, hanging out at each other’s dorms. It’s all about relationships. Also, it’s important to be safe.

What is one thing you would tell your younger self?  
Panelists Response: Have more confidence. Take advantage of opportunities like Study Abroad. Get out of your comfort zone- you have to live in a world that doesn’t look like you.

Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. --Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In January 2018, Ernestine Jenkins Patterson (NUR ’98, GRS ’03) took ten days off from her job as a case manager at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center to participate in a medical missions trip to Northern India. The mission group was composed of forty volunteers from Delaware, Cleveland, the United Kingdom and New Delhi, India. Varied ethnicities, personalities, interests, and medical and non-medical careers united for a common purpose, to provide medical screenings, health education and dental care for ashrams in Lucknow, Dehradun, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Anokah and New Delhi.

In addition to allowing time for exploring Indian history and culture - with its spicy vegetarian cuisine, intricate Mehndi (body art) and such beautiful sites as the Taj Mahal - the experience encouraged health strategy building, team building and individual awareness. In short, the mission brought together people who may have never otherwise met and ignited Ernestine’s personal passion for service. She encourages anyone with gifts to share to make the trip.

Greater Cleveland Food Bank

The Greater Cleveland Food Bank, the largest hunger relief organization in Northeast Ohio, provides food and other grocery products to more than 900 food pantries, shelters, hot meal programs and other non-profit agencies. Its goal is to provide 58 million meals to the 330,000 Northeast Ohioans, one in four of whom are children, who have limited access to healthy meals. In addition, it seeks to address employment, housing and healthcare issues, which are root causes of hunger.

On February 10, 2018, CWRU African American students, staff and alumni joined the 18,000 other volunteers who will serve the community this year. Volunteers help the food bank save 1.4 million dollars a year in salaries and benefits, which is enough to provide five million meals. Each dollar buys enough food for four meals. CWRU volunteers packed non-perishables for the Backpack Program, which gives 6,000 hungry children six nutritious meals to take home each weekend.

Volunteer today.

Donate today. 

Nominate by April 20

On behalf of the Office for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the Trailblazer Project Committee is seeking nominations for Phase II of the Trailblazer Project. This project is a portraiture initiative aimed at diversifying the images that appear in campus common areas. Nominees should be Case Western Reserve University alumni, faculty, staff, undergraduate students, graduate/professional students, postdocs/researchers or friends of CWRU with strong ties to the university who are/were trailblazers in their respective fields, contribute to the diversity of CWRU’s history, and embody the values and spirit of CWRU.

To nominate a distinguished CWRU community member, complete the Trailblazer Nomination Form. The nomination period will close April 20, 2018.

Phase I honorees
Unveiled during homecoming weekend 2017, Phase I of the project honored six distinguished alumni of color with portraits that now are displayed in the atrium of the Kelvin Smith Library. These alumni made history at Case Western Reserve University, in the community and beyond:

  • Attorney Fred Gray, JD (LAW ‘54)
  • Hon. Sara Harper (CLC ‘48, LAW ‘52)
  • Architect Robert P. Madison (ARC ‘48, HON ‘04)
  • Congressman Hon. Louis Stokes (HDL ‘91)
  • Congresswoman Hon. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones (FSM ‘71, LAW ‘74)
  • Former Surgeon General David Satcher (GRS '70, MED '70)

From the Archives -
AAS demonstration, 1969

Photo and article: Courtesy of CWRU Archives

More than 60 black students held a silent demonstration on  November 22, 1969, in front of Crawford Hall in support of the black admissions office representative who may be dismissed when his first-year evaluation comes before Admissions Director Terry Spence. "The demonstration backed letters sent to Spence and President Morse demanding that the Admissions Office rehire Michael E. Fisher,” said Ray Henry, president of the Afro-American Society (AAS). Fisher is an adviser to the AAS.

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of
Afro Am at Homecoming,
October 11-14, 2018!

Let us know at if you are willing to share Afro Am artifacts and/or highlights during your time on campus. 

In Memoriam

John A. Barber Sr. (WRC ’75) AAAA historian

Please send names of dear departed alumni to for inclusion in a tribute during Homecoming Weekend.

Black Graduation, May 18

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