AAAA Spring 2020

President’s Message


It is not a disaster to be unable to capture your ideal, but it is a disaster to have no ideal to capture.” - Benjamin E. Mayes.

Greetings, Fellow Alumni, 

It is with great pleasure that I am writing to you, even during one of the most unusual times in my life. Grateful is my daily word, in spite of all the unforeseeable events since Sunday, March 15, 2020.  My heartfelt appreciation goes to President Barbara Snyder for keeping the safety of students, faculty and staff at the forefront of her decisions.  I am thankful for media outlets such as Zoom University and other visual media that allowed our newest alumni to complete their studies and be recognized, if virtually, for their achievements.  I am grateful for all they will accomplish.

On behalf of the African American Alumni Association, I extend sincere congratulations to the May 17, 2020, graduates of Case Western Reserve University.  We wish you unique opportunities and unlimited success in your chosen careers. 

Vera Perkins-Hughes (WRC ’76) 

COVID-19 – A Modern Day Plague

David B. Miller, PhD

A modern day plague, COVID-19 continues to cut a path of destruction across this country and around the world. While the source of its origin is debated, politicians blame and posture from behind masks (at least some of them), secure in the knowledge they can be tested at a moment’s notice. Many Black Americans, however, face a Faustian bargain — work to feed and shelter family and risk exposure to this virus, or leave the job with little hope of finding anything else in a dismal job market.  Many do not have the luxury of working from home.  They are essential workers on the frontlines of this pandemic, often with little more than a piece of cloth and Plexiglass between them and possible contagion.  As the number of deaths continues to rise in the US, the stark reality is there for ALL to see — black people are dying from this disease in greater numbers than our percentage in the general population. Yes, chronic health conditions, lack of access to health care and providers, and multigenerational households are but a few of the usual suspects contributing to higher death rates. However, what we do not hear is that we are overrepresented in the category of essential employees and that we are more likely to have to use public transportation, where social distancing is at best difficult to accomplish. We, particularly men, hesitate to wear masks due to a false sense of bravado or a legitimate concern the mask will further empower someone to act upon their own fears of us. Yes, COVID-19 is leaving a path of destruction and sorrow in its wake, and it appears that no one is being spared.  However, it seems that our community is bearing the brunt of the eye of this virus which comes silently, quickly, and without warning. Let our community truly heed the warnings of the medical and scientific experts: wear a mask; wash your hands; demand employers provide the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) so you can remain safe while performing essential jobs; and, more importantly, keep the little ones and the wise ones safe at home and out of harm’s way. 

David B. Miller, PhD, MSW, MPH
Associate Professor and Director of International Education Programs
Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences
Case Western Reserve University

Unity Banquet 2020

 Akinola Akinbote (CWR ‘20) 

On May 1, 2020, the Office of Multicultural Affairs held its 30th Annual Unity Banquet. Like many of the university’s events amid COVID-19, it was flawlessly transitioned to a digital format, where underrepresented students and graduating seniors were recognized for their achievements.  As in past years, the African American Alumni Association was a banquet sponsor and many members viewed the virtual program.  The event is available on YouTube for those who missed it.

The inspirational Senior Reflection, delivered by Akinola Akinbote, was a program highlight.  Akinbote, who graduated with a Master of Science degree in Polymer Science and Engineering, drew parallels between the life of a minority student and climbing El Capitan without a rope. Following his remarks,  $10,000 in scholarships were awarded from the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the African American Campus Community Resource Group, and Alianza Latina/Latino Alliance, affinity groups representing African American and Latinx staff members. 

As always, we congratulate our graduates and are extremely proud of all who have dedicated themselves to their studies. To further celebrate our students, we invite you to virtual Black Graduation, which is scheduled for June 20, 2020. More information will be forthcoming.  

Tiarra Thomas (CWR ’12)

From the Archives

Outside Sherman House, 1972 
Photo: Erma Leaphart-Gouch (WRC ‘75)

"In the spring of 1971, the Afro American Society proposed the university establish an Afro-American Studies House, so that academic and cultural pursuit of the Black experience may continue in discussions, seminars, workshops, etc. after the normal academic day is over… It was to be open for occupancy to all without regard for race, color, creed, religion or other previous condition of ignorance or misunderstanding as long as the occupants of the dorm demonstrate interest in these specialized fields of interest and study.” (4SI6 1:4 Michael W. Francis, Proposal for an Afro-American Studies House, 4/23/1971)

In 1972, the Afro-American Cultural Living Center was established at Sherman House.

CWRU Recollections from the Archives: African American Society

We Are Family

On Mother’s Day 2020, I read many beautiful tributes to moms on Facebook and had the pleasure of receiving and giving a few personal tributes as well.  There are many types of moms – those who give us life, those who teach us lessons hard-learned, and those who provide shoulders to cry on and sage words to motivate us to rise above the fray.  There are moms, mothers, big mamas, grandmas, GGs, aunties and so forth.  Today, I fondly remember another mom who was in many of our lives. Her presence touched hearts, minds and souls.  Our house mother, the one and only Stephanie Tubbs, was an incredible matriarch for those of us who lived in Sherman House in 1972, and for many others.  She is one reason my fondest memories of CWRU are of dorm life.  In Sherman House, the Cultural Living Center also known as the Black dorm, our lives were rich with culture.  We were family, and for that I am truly grateful.  My success is in no small part due to the love and support of those who lived there. 

For many of us, this year marks forty-five short years since we graduated from Case Western Reserve University.  Homecoming Weekend is scheduled for October 8 – 11, 2020.  

I hope to see you all for a CWRU Sherman House Family Reunion!!!!

Save the Date- More information to come!

  • Black Graduation, June 20, 2020

AAAA Awards 

The African American Alumni Association welcomes you to nominate yourself or other candidates for the 2020 African American Alumni Association Awards.  One cannot win the same award twice, nor be nominated for two awards on the same ballot.  Nominations must be received by 11:59 p.m. on August 31, 2020.

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 university through participation and/or financial support. They demonstrate strong effective leadership and resilience in the face of adversity. Learn more and nominate > 

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. Learn more and nominate >

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

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.

John McCluskey Jr.
2018 Distinguished Academic Awardee


Previous Winners

Stephanie Tubbs Jones Leadership Award
2010 Robert Madison (ARC ’48)
2012 May Wykle, PhD (NUR ’62, ’69, ’81)
2014 Harold McCrae (ADL ’65)
2016 Vincent Holland, PhD (GRS ’79, sociology)
2018 Debra Lewis-Curlee (WRC ’74)

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, health science education)

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

Distinguished Academic Award
2018 John A. McCluskey

Leaders Needed

The nomination process is now open.  The CWRU African American Alumni Association will hold elections for Board of Director positions at its biennial membership meeting on October 10, 2020. Please help us identify future leaders by making nominations.

If you plan to nominate someone, please speak with them first to make certain they are interested in the position. Let them know why you think they'd be a good candidate and indicate how you will be available to provide support.  We don't need to be reminded that we are stronger together.

The nomination deadline is midnight, Friday, August 28, 2020.

Self-nominations are welcomed and encouraged! Follow this link to access the nomination form

For additional information, the African American Alumni Association Constitution and By-laws can be found here:

Questions? Contact Deborah Lewis-Curlee or Erma Leaphart at

Join CWRU Connect: Alumni Career Network!

The Alumni Association's online alumni directory has been updated and improved. CWRU Connect: Alumni Career Network includes a component specializing in career networking—allowing alumni to connect with former classmates and professionals based on career fields. To join, alumni can upload their LinkedIn profile or sign up via email.

Members can then join communities of alumni and students who share their interests or live nearby. Communities such as the African American Alumni Association, St. Louis Regional Alumni, Entrepreneurship at CWRU and CWRU Travel allow members to make connections, exchange content and resources, schedule and share upcoming events and deadlines, and participate in group discussions.

Interested alumni can join at

Want to see who else is involved with the AAAA? AAAA members as of May 2020.

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