Thurgood Marshall Fund Raises $5.7 Million, Beats Goal
By Cheryl D. Fields
When the goal is to prepare a new generation of leaders, money is often what distinguishes those with good intentions from those who are taking care of business. The Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund let the world know last month that it is in the latter category, announcing that it has raised $5.7 million in this year’s campaign.
The announcement was made during the organization’s 13th Anniversary Awards Dinner here. Named for the former Supreme Court justice, the organization shattered its targeted fund-raising goal of $4 million.
The evening also included a surprise announcement by Kendall Phills, wife of the late National Basketball Association player Bobby Phills, who died in a car crash earlier this year. Phills announced she is donating $100,000 to the fund to establish a scholarship in her husband’s name. The scholarship is specifically targeted toward students attending Southern University, the couple’s alma mater and the institution where the father of the former Charlotte Hornets player is dean of agriculture and home economics.
Miller Brewing Co. also used the event as an opportunity to announce its commitment of $1 million to the organization over the next five years.
Among the evening’s honorees was Black Issues President Dr. William E. Cox, an alumnus of a TMSF member school — Alabama A&M University — whom the organization presented with its Alumni Leadership Award. During his acceptance speech, Cox thanked Marshall for leading the effort to knock down the barriers that had previously inhibited many African Americans from achieving their educational dreams.
“Somebody has got to take the first step,” Cox said. “Thank you, Thurgood, for being our pioneer.”
Also receiving awards that night were Virginia State University President Dr. Eddie N. Moore Jr., to whom the organization presented its Educational Leadership Award, and Sony Music Chairman & CEO Thomas D. Mottola, who received the organization’s Corporate Leadership Award.
The festive gala drew a crowd of more than 1,000 to the midtown Sheraton Hotel & Towers. It was co-chaired by Denny’s President and CEO James B. Adamson and Aetna Financial Services President Thomas J. McInerney. Emceeing the ceremony were acclaimed actress and Howard University alumna Lynn Whitfield, and Judge James Curtis, star of King World Production’s television series “Curtis Court.”
Flyte Time Productions founding executives Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis made an appearance at the dinner to announce that a bid whist tournament has been added to their annual celebrity golf and tennis classic, which raised $100,000 for the organization last year. This year’s tournament, they said, would be sponsored by Aetna and Miller Brewing Co. and held Nov. 10-12 in southern California.
Eighty-nine of this year’s scholarship winners filled the stage, prompting a standing ovation from attendees. The mean grade-point average for the undergraduate students who won scholarships was 3.8. For MBA students, it was 3.62 and for law students, 3.26.
The organization, whose members include the nation’s 40 public historically Black colleges and universities, invited the crowd to observe a moment of silence in special appreciation of former board vice chair, the late H. LeBaron Taylor, a senior vice president of corporate affairs for Sony Music, who died earlier this year.
Perhaps, the most moving speech of the night came from a student who is attending Marshall’s alma mater, Howard Law School. Elaine Wynn, a third-year student, put the evening’s festivities into context when she told the audience how on at least three occasions money was the primary obstacle standing between her and a higher education degree. She thanked her mother and the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund for providing the sorely needed financial means that have enabled her to fulfill her academic dreams.
“It is because of my mother and the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund that I will receive my law degree from Howard University Law School,” Wynn said.
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