Wittenberg’s Concerned Black Students (CBS) will host its second annual Black Congratulatory Dinner honoring students of color and those representing various nationalities as one of many celebratory events leading up to the university’s 169th Commencement Exercises.
Ten students will be recognized at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 9, at the Central Dining Room (CDR) of the Benham-Pence Student Center. Awards range from top academic honors to the student who “passes their light on to others” the most in the eyes of their peers. New this year will be the Jimmy Williams Memorial Award in honor of the late Jimmy Williams, senior associate director of admission and coordinator of multicultural recruitment, who passed away last year. This special award will be presented to a student, staff, or faculty member who goes far beyond the call of duty to make Wittenberg more accommodating for all students. There will also be a live band and a performance by the Imani Gospel Choir.
“This year 50 students who self-identify as “black” or “mixed-raced” are scheduled to graduate from Wittenberg,” said Associate Professor of Philosophy Julius Bailey, who also serves as faculty director of diversity. “Not only is this a larger than normal number and a testament of their individual determination; but of our university which has represented itself as a place welcoming to these students of color. For many of these students and their families, still often lost in the overwhelming pomp and circumstance of Commencement day, this night is for them.”
Cost of the dinner is $25; however, graduating seniors and two guests can attend for free. Bailey is expecting the dinner to draw approximately 200 attendees.
Four seniors will be speaking about their Wittenberg experience and they are Cori Cleveland, a philosophy and psychology major from Hilliard, Ohio; Gloria Craig, a sociology major from Indianapolis, Indiana; Donna Hill, a sociology major from Fairborn, Ohio; and Dorian Hunter, a marketing major from Springfield, Ohio.
Others speaking at the event include President Michael L. Frandsen; Molly Fannon Williams, interim vice president of advancement and alumni relations; Ron and Wendy Woods, class of 1969 and 1971, respectively; Raymond Jones, audio/video specialist; Joshua Moore, assistant dean of diversity and inclusion; Mary Jo Zembar, interim provost and professor of psychology; and Bailey.
Bailey added that he wants students of color to leave Wittenberg with a positive experience, and this is yet another way to add to that positivity.
“As the final activity of their undergraduate experience, we can either leave them with that 'thank you God I am done,' or we can build a memory that re-binds them to a common experience, a shared narrative and collective successes,” Bailey said. “Hopefully this annual program will leave these alumni, and those following in their footsteps, with hope, anticipation and a renewed enthusiasm to pass the light, in the name of Wittenberg University.”
The following awards will be presented this year:
- Academic Excellence: This award is presented to the student with the highest grade point average (GPA) of the graduating class.
- Athletics Excellence: This award is given to the student-athlete who has achieved the most recognition for their performance on and off the field of play.
- Bridge-Builder Award: This award is given to a student who was committed to diversity and insistent upon cross-cultural conversation across campus with faculty, students and staff.
- Outstanding Scholar: This award is given to an outstanding student with a 3.0 GPA or better, whose research has been presented in the form of a publication, public venue and/or a conference.
- Pan-Africanist Award: This award is given to a student whose advocacy and student leadership as an international student demonstrates service, compassion and justice across the Black Diaspora.
- “Passing The Light”: This award is given to a student of faith who exemplifies and promotes ministry in its best forms within the campus community.
- Perseverance Award: This award is given to a student whose commitment to the completion of the degree, while overcoming obstacles along the journey, is awe-inspiring.
- The “Jimmy” Williams Memorial Award: This award is given to a student/staff or faculty member who consistently goes above and beyond the call of duty to their normal responsibilities on campus.
- Lifetime Learner: This special award is given to an exemplar of dedication as a non-traditional student.
- CBS Dedication Award: This award is given to someone whose years of service, love and dedication to Wittenberg and Concerned Black Students has made this campus a much better place.