‘Reclaiming Alumni,’ Fund Raising, Focus of UNCF Conference
By Phaedra Brotherton
Reclaiming alumni and fund raising are just two of the issues that will be addressed at the National Alumni Council (NAC) of the United Negro College Fund’s (UNCF) 59th annual meeting to be held Feb. 3-6, in Orlando, Fla.
The NAC-UNCF is made up of alumni of the 38 UNCF colleges and universities, current students or “pre-alumni,” as well as interested supporters of Black higher education. The organization’s mission, says Dr. Rubye Taylor-Drake, president of the NAC-UNCF, is to raise funds for UNCF’s member colleges and universities; recruit students for UNCF member institutions; encourage cooperation among Black alumni groups and friends of Black higher education; provide a national forum for educational issues; and stimulate public awareness and interest in UNCF colleges and universities.
With close to 800 attendees expected to attend, the annual conference is where the various groups that make up the NAC come together to report on their fund-raising progress for the year. The meeting also provides networking, motivational, education and strategizing opportunities for alumni, pre-alumni, UNCF staff, member schools and supporters of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
Drake says it’s important for those who have benefited from HBCUs to ensure that deserving Black students can continue to get a college education. And supporting HBCUs is a big part of that effort. “The Black schools have to remain a viable option for our kids,” Drake says.
The theme of this year’s conference, “Sustaining the Visions and Values of Our Historic Past,” will serve as the focus of the workshops and seminars and will emphasize the legacy and future of HBCUs, which is part of the mission of the NAC-UNCF, Drake says.
“Because we have leadership of so many constituent groups here, the conference is an opportunity to share ideas about practices that have been effective as far as fund raising,” Drake says. “The conference also focuses on preparing those who come mentally and emotionally to return to implement the programs and ideas that they have learned at the conference.”
Featured speakers will include Dr. Lee Jones, dean of graduate studies, continuing education and summer session at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and founder and president of Brothers of the Academy, a support group for African American men in higher education; Michelle Viera, the director of alumni relations for Tennessee State University, who will speak on the topic of “Reclaiming Alumni,” and Salome Thomas-El, a Philadelphia teacher and renowned chess coach, who will discuss his book, I Choose to Stay. In addition, Dr. Michael L. Lomax, who was appointed this year as the new president and CEO of UNCF, will discuss his vision and goals for the organization.
Along with the speaker presentations, other activities include workshops for the leaders of the NAC; a career fair for students in the Orlando area; a pre-alumni talent show; performances by the gospel choirs of three area UNCF institutions — Bethune-Cookman College, Edward Waters College and Florida Memorial College.
Two new major fund-raising initiatives — a faith-based initiative and a “torch” campaign — will also be discussed at the conference, says Alfreda Edwards, staff liaison for the NAC and UNCF national director, alumni and groups.
“We are trying to launch a faith-based campaign where we will be approaching churches and other faith-based organizations,” says Edwards. “We will be utilizing alumni as ambassadors to do that,” she says. A second campaign, which will feature the UNCF torch, will also be discussed, but it is in the planning stages, Edwards says.
Another highlight of the conference will be the crowning of Miss UNCF, Drake says.
“We have a cotillion type of event on Saturday evening. The queen is determined by the school that has raised the most money per capita. The queen and her court receive scholarship support for their participation and fund raising on their campuses,” Drake says. As part of the event, two male students, recommended by the Pre-Alumni Council, will also receive scholarships.
In addition to the 800 people expected to attend, between 700 and 800 high school students from the Orlando area are expected to attend the college fair at the conference.
Edwards says that in addition to the alumni and current students of the UNCF schools, the conference is open to any “person interested in minority higher education.”
Interested persons can register in advance for the conference, with forms postmarked by Jan. 16, or register onsite. For more information about the NAC and the annual conference, visit <www.uncf.org>.
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