Music from Xavier’s Jazz band filled the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency as executives of the United Negro College Fund and alumni from across the country came to New Orleans to honor its longest-serving member institution’s president and welcome his successor. The UNCF, which supports historically black universities and provides scholarships for African American students hosted its Leadership Conference Legacy Gala on Feb. 19, 2016, which coincided with Xavier’s presidential inauguration events.

The Legacy Gala celebrated the 70th anniversary of the National Alumni Council, which is an organization within the UNCF that works to keep strong relationships with the alumni of UNCF member schools. The gala recognized alumni who graduated from the organization’s member schools and executives involved with the UNCF and the alumni council.

Dr. Verret
Xavier President Dr. Verret

“Together, everyone achieves more,” said Dorothy Colson, the president of the alumni council as she received a Legacy award at the event, and urged alumni to continue to support HBCUs through the UNCF. Colson said that her involvement with HBCUs started early in her life because both of her parents graduated from HBCU’s and she was around them all of her life.

At the event, alumni from across the country were inducted into a Hall of Honors for their achievements in the professional world, as well as for their civic contributions. Mark Tillman, the national president for Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity was recognized alongside the fraternity for their work in inspiring young black men to positions of leadership. The Alpha’s, which was the first incorporated African American fraternity, played a key role in shaping male solidarity and assisting other black Greek organizations to get incorporated, Tillman said.“We do not need another black man being shot on the street, and being brought to a funeral home,” said Tillman about the struggles that African American men still face. He said that the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity has been influential in fostering great men such as Martin Luther King Jr., adding that King was the first African American to have a monument placed on Washington.

Alpha President Mark Tillman
Alpha President Mark Tillman

Local HBCU leaders: Francis; Xavier’s new president Dr. C. Reynold Verret; DillardUniversity president Dr. Walter Kimbrough and Dr. Michael C. Lomax, who was a former president for Dillard University, spoke of the need for HBCUs to adapt to the changes in society. Lomax, who is the current UNCF president and CEO said his goal has been to assist HBCUs in becoming more self-sustaining through fundraising for both the universities and their students.

The UNCF recognized Francis for his support of the organization and his record years of service to HBCUs as the longest serving president of an HBCU, and for being one of the longest serving presidents of any university in the U.S. The organization welcomed Verret in his new position as Xavier president and thanked him for his commitment to the UNCF.

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