It is my great pleasure to greet all of you as the incoming president of the African American Alumni Association (AAAA) of Case Western Reserve University, effective January 1, 2023.
As past secretary and student affairs chair, I am honored to step into this role and continue the mission of the AAAA, building upon the legacy of our phenomenal past presidents including Vera Perkins-Hughes (WRC ‘76), Linda Sharpe Taylor (WRC ‘78), Alicia Graves (CWR ‘05) and Iverson Banks-Bey (WRC ‘74). While I have big shoes to fill, I look forward to filling them alongside you all and these other amazing new leaders come January:
- Vice President Brian Webster (CWR ’11)
- Secretary Makela Hayford (CWR ’18, LAW ’22)
- Treasurer Vincent Holland (GRS ’79)
Board Members at Large
- Jeanette Lightfoot (FSM ’71)
- Marilyn Maultsby (WRC ’75)
- Arik Smith (CWR ’20)
- Aliah Lawson (CWR ’21)
- Alan Mitchell (WRC ’76)
A special thank-you to all who participated in the “Pave it Forward Campaign,” honoring past president Vera Perkins-Hughes and raising $1,230—250% of our original goal! Read more about the campaign below.
As I close, I’d be remiss if I didn’t congratulate board member Alan Mitchell, who was elected County Councilman of Greenville, South Carolina’s District 23. We are proud of you and know that you will do great things for your constituents.
Best wishes to you all for a blessed and joyful holiday season, and a happy and healthy new year!
Tiarra Thomas (CWR ’12)
President, African American Alumni Association of Case Western Reserve University
Together We Bloom
“Together We Bloom,” the theme of the 49th annual Ebony Ball in November, highlighted the importance of cultivating community, and was a fitting occasion to honor outgoing African American Alumni Association President Vera Perkins-Hughes. The evening included student poetry, music and art, a keynote address from Alana Belle, and plenty of time for dancing.
Vera Perkins-Hughes has been a familiar sight on campus for many years. Long before her two terms each as vice president and president, Perkins-Hughes regularly visited campus to engage with and support students, once even taking a student shopping for a warm winter coat. She served on search committees for President Eric W. Kaler and Robert Solomon, vice president of the Office for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity; the selection committee for Alumni Association award recipients; and as an Office of Multicultural Affairs volunteer trainer for Diversity 360. Vera co-presented a pre-job workshop for the National Society of Black Engineers, participated on panels for the African American Society, and attended civic events honoring alumni Stephanie Tubbs Jones (FSM '71, LAW '74) and Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb (LAW ’18, MGT ’18).
Perkins-Hughes was emotional when incoming Vice President Brian Webster (CWR’11) called her to the stage to receive flowers and an engraved brick representing donations made in her honor by members of the university community. The brick will become a permanent part of the courtyard at the Frank N. and Jocelyne K. Linsalata Alumni Center, and the additional funds will support the Chapman-McGee Scholarship. Established by the African American Society in honor of Cleveland teen Michael Chapman-McGee, whose life was taken too soon, this scholarship assists diverse first-year undergraduates at CWRU.
After sincerely thanking everyone, Vera fittingly ended her remarks by encouraging students to continue to blossom.
Welcome Reception Game Night
The African American Alumni Association kicked off Case Western Reserve’s 2022 Homecoming and Reunion Weekend by hosting more than 60 students, alumni and friends for food, games, networking and a candlelight vigil. Dexter Voisin, dean of Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences brought greetings from the university; Iverson Banks-Bey (WRC’74) shared AAAA history; and Mark Smith (WRC’75) directed the vigil. Business cards were drawn for prizes and for the first time ever, the men defeated the women in the group game! As more than one alum commented, “It was thrilling to be on campus in a room filled with so many Black and Brown people.”
African American Alumni Association Dinner Dance Awards
Prior to a delicious dinner by Del’s Catering and dancing into the evening, the association's biennial awards were presented and recipients expressed heartfelt gratitude. Thank you to the 2022 AAAA Awards Committee: Marilyn Maultsby (FSM ’75), chairperson; Jeanette Lightfoot (FSM ‘71; GRS’73); Vincent Holland (GRS ’79); and Linda Wheatt (FSM ’72, GRS ’77).
Stephanie Tubbs Jones Leadership Award
Justin M. Bibb (LAW ’18, MGT ’18)
Justin Bibb became Cleveland’s second-youngest mayor in 2021, bringing invaluable business, nonprofit, and civic experience to the position. We applaud his enthusiasm in collaborating on community, state and national levels in order to have an impact on the city of Cleveland. His devotion to the university is evident, and he has already returned to speak on campus several times since being elected.
Ella Mae Johnson Service Award
Constance Hill-Johnson (WRC ’80)
As owner of Visiting Angels Cleveland for more than 20 years, Constance Hill–Johnson has helped hundreds of area seniors remain safely in their own homes. The first Black woman chairperson of the Cleveland Foundation Board of Directors, she makes the foundation more approachable for Black organizations. In her own words, “Giving back to the community that built me is why I do what I do.”
Distinguished Academic Award
Heather E. Burton, PhD
In her role as associate vice president and senior director for faculty and institutional diversity in the Office of Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity, Heather Burton advances strategic priorities and best practices related to diversity and equity, including issues related to recruitment, promotion and retention. She is a highly sought after speaker and workshop presenter.
Rising Star Award
Tobili Hatcher (CWR ’20)
Tobili Hatcher is a dedicated community leader. Her work with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and its partners is admirable, and her commitment to making higher education more accessible is evident in her roles as the Cleveland Council of Black Colleges Alumni Association communications chair, recording secretary and student recruitment chair. Through mentorship, she helps first-year students in the CWRU Emerging Leaders Program develop valuable skills and become engaged in the campus community.
Linda Berry Wheatt (FSM ’72, GRS ’77)
Linda Berry Wheatt has served tirelessly in her role as chairperson of the African American Alumni Association Communications Committee since the association’s founding in 2009. She has published an average of four AAAA newsletters each year from 2012 through 2022, and shared important association information through Facebook and email.
The Inspirational Breakfast gave attendees a chance to feed their bodies and souls through fellowship with other members of the CWRU community before saying goodbye for another year. Parents enjoyed meeting the alumni who support their young adults, and Rosalyn Payne-Hill reconnected with former students that she hadn’t seen in fifty years. In the libation ceremony led by Jeanette Rice (FSM ’71) and Violet Banks Broomfield (FSM ‘71), the debt to those who had passed on was gratefully acknowledged, and in her keynote speech, Natoya Walker Minor reminded us that social justice is in our DNA. “We must lead while being Black”, said Minor. “Pay attention to the issues and support our organizations. It’s not where you sit; it’s what you do while you’re in the seat you occupy.”
Check out all of the photos from the 2022 CWRU Homecoming and Reunion Weekend.
Mark Your Calendars
Profiles of Inclusive Excellence
The African American Alumni Association, in partnership with the Office of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equal Opportunity and the African and African American studies minor, invites you to experience in-depth virtual conversations with faculty and staff from across campus. Registration links to come (all events will take place from 6 to 7 p.m. EST).
Jan. 19, 2023: Faye Gary, EdD, RN, FAAN
Feb. 15, 2023: Melvin Smith, PhD
March 27, 2023: Ayesha Bell Hardaway, JD (LAW ’04)
April 5, 2023: Stephen Haynesworth, PhD
May 10, 2023: Noël Voltz
Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, at 12:45 p.m. EST
Join the Case Western Reserve University community as we celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. during our annual convocation in January. This year’s celebration centers on the theme Steadfast and Unmovable: Sustaining a Devotion to Justice and will feature New York Times bestselling author, Nic Stone.
AAAA trip to D.C.
March 10–12, 2023
- Friday: Hear from Elaine Nichols (CWR ‘80)
- Saturday: Visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture
- Sunday: Hear from Bettye C. W. Kearse, MD, PhD (MED '79)
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