To honor the groundbreaking experiences of Northwestern's African American alumni, NUBAA, the Northwestern University Black Alumni Association, inducted 10 outstanding graduates into its inaugural Hall of Fame class (listed at left) at a May 4 ceremony at the JPMorgan Chase Tower in downtown Chicago.
"It's hard to put into words what a huge sense of connection we felt," says NUBAA president C. Cole Dillon (SESP78). "It felt like a family reunion - coming together with people of like education and values and recognizing that we experienced Northwestern in different ways."
Dillon says the ceremony, that included a keynote address by Chicago Urban League CEO Cheryle Jackson (WCAS88) (see "Forming a New League"), emphasized peer recognition - the highest honor a person can achieve. "We wanted to hold the inductees up as beacons and recognize the deep, rich history black alumni have at Northwestern."
The inspiring ceremony gave recipients the chance to share their struggles and successes while reflecting on and claiming their Northwestern identities.
"It was extremely humbling and moving for me," inductee Daphne Maxwell Reid (WCAS70) said of the ceremony. Maxwell Reid recalls that she distanced herself from the University because of the isolation and hostility she felt as an undergraduate, especially after being named Northwestern's first African American Homecoming queen in 1967. The following year she joined other black students in taking over a University administration building to bring attention to the issues they faced. The May 1968 takeover ended peacefully and led to agreements that gave African American students a greater voice in campus matters.
"It meant so much to be recognized by the people who were there with me," Maxwell Reid says, "and by those who recognized the foundation that we laid."
Dillon's longtime friendship with classmate Thayer James Herte (SESP78), managing director of private client services for JPMorgan Chase, helped set the stage for the event. Herte, who works to expand opportunities for people of color at JPMorgan Chase (currently 40 African American Northwestern alumni work in the firm's offices nationwide), recognized how her firm's diversity efforts closely matched NUBAA's goals, so the two organizations agreed to co-host the ceremony and explore future collaborations.
"Seeing how far we've come makes those of us who didn't have to struggle during our time at Northwestern realize that we have an obligation to mentor students and help younger people along the way," explains Herte.
The induction ceremony was part of a weekend of events that included a 5K run to raise money for scholarships, and an alumni/senior-class reception. NUBAA plans to continue the annual event in commemoration of the anniversary of the May 1968 takeover.
"The student leaders of the '60s created a significant legacy in Northwestern's history, and we're proud to support NUBAA as it continues that legacy for today's students and alumni," says Catherine Stembridge (GC00), executive director of the Northwestern Alumni Association.
To nominate alumni for NUBAA's Hall of Fame, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.