WASHINGTON – More than 1,200 students, faculty, alumni, administrators, and friends gathered to celebrate the 153rd Howard University Charter Day during the annual Charter Day Dinner held at the Washington Hilton on Saturday, March 7. As Howard’s largest fundraising event, this year’s festivities reached milestone records for the highest grossing revenue, highest net revenue and record paid attendance. The evening signified an increased surge of unwavering support for Howard’s mission as community stakeholders gathered in celebration of Howard’s 153-year legacy.
“Whether you had the opportunity to attend Howard, send your child to Howard, or know a friend who attended Howard, this place is absolutely essential to America’s fabric,” said Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick. “There’s a lot going on in our world, a lot for us to be pessimistic about, but I hope that when you come to these types of events and you meet our Howard University students, staff and faculty, you would immediately realize exactly all that’s good in the world.”
Following the opening jazz cocktail reception, guests entered the beautifully decorated ballroom where a three-course dinner was served. Award-winning journalist Lesli Foster was a gracious mistress of ceremonies. Foster introduced Grammy award-winning vocalist Yolanda Adams, who serenaded guests with a beautiful rendition of two of her well-known musical selections, including “Open My Heart.” Adams noted that she felt the song was especially timely given many of the recent events happening around the world.
“With the world focusing in on this horrible thing that’s happening to us, more than uniting to come together and be of service to one another, I thought that this song right here would be appropriate for the evening,” said Adams.
In addition to Howard’s Board of Trustees, notable guests included several public officials like DC city council member Vincent Gray, Tallahassee, Florida County Commissioner Bill Proctor, and Patricia T. Walters, the widow of long-time Howard professor Ronald Walters, Ph.D., who recently donated the couple’s $2.5 million art collection to Howard.
Four exemplary Howard University alumni were honored at the dinner with the Alumni Award for Distinguished Postgraduate Achievement: research engineer Dereje Agonafer; sports journalist Stanley R. Verrett; and Tanya M. Walton Pratt, the first African-American federal judge in Indiana’s history. Howard University Board of Trustees Chairman Stacey J. Mobley, Esq., and President Frederick introduced the honorees who provided anecdotes from their history with Howard and words of gratitude for the impact the University has had on their lives and for so many others.
“We left Howard with a tape in hand of a show that we had anchored and produced,” said Verrett, who catapulted his college experience in the School of Communications to becoming an Emmy-award-winning journalist with ESPN. “Leslie Hale in her speech at the convocation said Howard nurtures you and then it propels you. That tape is what propelled us into our careers.”
Odessa Scott, an administrator in the Howard University Division of Fine Arts who has worked for Howard for nearly 50 years, was honored with the LaRue V. Barkwell Capstone Distinguished Service Award. Although Scott did not attend Howard University, she is the proud parent of a Howard University alumna. She shared a heart-warming story about her desire to give her daughter the best and noted her pride for having achieved the goal by sending her to Howard University.
“My commitment and diligence are unwavering because of my love for Howard University,” said Scott. “Howard University is the maker of all HBCUs. I am so proud to be a part of the Howard University community.”
A number of Howard’s student leaders and scholars were able to attend the Charter Day Dinner thanks to generous corporate sponsorships, including members of the 1867 student leadership organization, the Howard University Student Association and the Howard University Royal Court. The students were able to network with donors and extend personal thanks for their philanthropy.
“This is my third Charter Day in a row,” said Sydney Dixon, a junior biology major and chemistry minor from Los Angeles, California. “I always enjoy coming here and interacting with all of the trustees, cabinet members and my deans and professors, and to get to see them on a more intimate level. It’s always a great time to see all that Howard has to offer and embrace this moment and celebrate Howard’s birthday.”
The evening came to a close on the dance floor as guests sang, danced, laughed and embraced one another. As always, the annual gala proved to be a memorable evening for the Howard community- one that will launch the University forward.
“We continue to remain in awe of the generosity of our individual and corporate donors who are partnering with us to ensure that Howard University reaches its full potential to provide an excellent education to our diverse student population,” said David P. Bennett, vice president of Development and Alumni Relations. “These generous donations move us one step closer to filling the financial gaps that our students face while attending college as they strive to reach their career goals. On behalf of a grateful Bison community, thank you!”
About Howard University
Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 13 schools and colleges. Students pursue studies in more than 120 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced one Schwarzman Scholar, three Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 11 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows and more than 70 Fulbright Scholars. Howard also produces more on-campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, visit www.howard.edu.
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