Connections Section Title
Alumni Association President Michael Kennedy Garrett
‘Tomorrow is our responsibility’
Remarks from Alumni Association President Michael Kennedy Garrett '07

As I write, it's the weekend before the Fourth of July, our Independence Day. On the Fourth many will enjoy the beautiful Carolina beaches, cookouts, ball games, fireworks, friends and family. It is also a day when we can reflect on those moments, those challenges, and those people who shaped our nation and are shaping our nation. As alumni we can all be proud of the contributions our Alma Mater and her sons and daughters have made to this state, nation and world.

There are serious challenges facing our university. If from time to time these challenges seem too great to overcome, we need look no further than the lessons taught by the rich history of this institution and the women and men who wrote them.

Yesterday it was our Woman's College alumnae who stood up, and stood strong to propel the civil rights movement, to use their voice and their lives to ensure minorities had the same rights as every other citizen of this country. Yesterday it was the women of the Woman's College that shattered glass ceiling after glass ceiling to fight for women's rights in the work place and in our communities.

Today it's the nursing student who takes on substantial personal debt to care for our most vulnerable neighbors. It's the student committed to becoming a teacher who will touch the lives of generations to come. It's the business student committed to entering the world as an entrepreneur to create jobs and help solve our nation's challenges.

Tomorrow is unclear, but tomorrow is our responsibility. There is no constituency of this university larger or stronger than our alumni. As alumni, we assume a trust to care for and protect this institution. That trust is our personal and collective responsibility to defend and promote the future of UNCG.

Your Alumni Association has launched a major strategic initiative to advance our university. The Spartan Legislative Network is off to a strong start, but we will need everyone's support to ensure its success and strength. Please find out more about the Network and consider signing up. It's easy. Just visit spartanadvocacy.info.

I thank you again for giving me this opportunity to serve you and our university. As a native North Carolinian, I am proud of the commitment to education our state has made and kept for centuries. I do not take lightly my responsibility by the charge you have given me to keep that promise for generations to come.

Michael Kennedy Garrett '07
UNCG Alumni Association president

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Spero pumps up the crowd at last year's Homecoming pep rally.
Spero pumps up the crowd at last year's Homecoming pep rally.
Come on home

Are you ready to see the refurbished Quad? Meet up with old friends? Have fun with the family? Then make plans to return to UNCG for Homecoming Oct. 29-Nov. 4.

While Homecoming activities will be held all week, Spartan Village with live music, food, beer garden and more will be Saturday, Nov. 3. In addition to Spartan Village fun, alumni can enjoy a men's basketball exhibition game, tailgate party, parade and family-friendly activities such as inflatables and games. There's also a chance we could be cheering for our Spartans during the Men's Southern Conference Soccer championship, which UNCG is hosting.

Homecoming is also the fifth reunion of the Class of 2007 and the 25th reunion of the Class of 1987. More than 20 alumni groups, from rugby players to Greeks, have planned reunions as well.

For more information, contact Donegan Root '87, associate director of development for Alumni Relations, at (336) 256-2013 or email d_root@uncg.edu.

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Living legacy

One by one, the women stood up and told their stories. Stories of what it was like to have an entire residence hall floor to themselves. Stories of professors who would never call on them in class. Stories of little acts of prejudice, such as the bookstore cashier who would lay change on the counter, rather than risk touching their hand.

At this year's Reunion, African-American alumni from the 1960s gathered in the Multicultural Resource Center to share with current students what it was like on campus for them.

With students and alumni crowded in to almost every corner and some standing along the wall, the discussion kicked off with moderator Charlotte Williams '97. “The word ‘legacy’ comes to mind,” she said, encouraging students to learn from the experiences of alumni. “What legacy do you want to leave? That's what you have to live.”

JoAnne Smart Drane '60 and the late Bettye Ann Tillman were the first African-American students admitted to Woman's College. JoAnne said she had no idea what to expect when she arrived.

“Jim Crow was alive and well during that period. We came from an era of separate water fountains and restrooms,” she said. “I expected students to think blacks were lazy and dumb.”

But she fondly remembers Adelaide Bennington, who took her under her wing during orientation. As they walked in their group of 15 or so students, there was a gap between the rest of the students and JoAnne and Adelaide. Her acceptance made an impression on JoAnne.

“I learned everybody is not alike," JoAnne said. “Everyone has the opportunity to treat another individual as a human being.”

Dr. Ada Fisher '70, who came along 10 years after JoAnne and Bettye Ann, still had challenges but worked hard to make a difference. Activism was more the norm.

She helped found the Neo-Black Society and skipped her spring break to march for striking women cafeteria workers.

“My best experience — Chancellor Ferguson. He became my friend. He asked me to be on the chancellor's cabinet.”

He told her if she could prove racism in the classroom, those professors would be removed. Five left the university.

As her friend Kathryn Jordan Pierce '70 reminded her, “There were lots of negatives and positives. We are the sum total of our experiences. You put it in its place and keep on moving.”

Linda Seals Dark '68 remembers seeing a book of all the student names in her residence hall. Four had red dots. Those were the African-American students.

“I had a white roommate, which freaked me out,” she said. “But we talked. I asked, ‘Why do you press your hair?’ She would ask, ‘Why is your hair so oily?’ She was a wonderful person. She got me out of the black student mentality. She helped me see the whole person.”

Edith Mayfield Wiggins '62 gave a shout out to their housekeepers, Annie Graves and Victoria Johnson.

“They were like mothers to us,” she said. “They took us to church, brought us snacks and food and put their arms around us. They were a support system to keep us here.”

Her roommate, Jewel Anthony '62, said this gathering shifted her thinking about her role on campus. “Listening to JoAnne, I realize I am part of a legacy.”

Other alumnae who spoke included Myrna Colley-Lee '62, Brenda Joyce Roberts '62 (Mtume Imani), Sheila Cunningham Sims '62, Marian Thornhill McClure '64, Alice Brown '65 and Paulette Jones Robinson '66.

“Don't let this end here," said Williams, when the time drew to a close. “Share what you learned. We all have a voice.”

Read another account of this session.

Read transcripts of oral history accounts for the Institutional Memory Project

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Alumni Events
  • July 19 – Freshman Summer Sendoff, Wilmington
  • July 22 – Freshman Summer Sendoff, Apex
  • July 25 – Freshman Summer Sendoff, Asheville
  • July 29 – Freshman Summer Sendoff, TBD
  • July 30 – Freshman Summer Sendoff, Winston-Salem
  • Aug. 1 – Freshman Summer Sendoff, Washington, D.C.
  • Sept. 7 – Alumni Association Board of Directors Retreat
  • Oct. 29-Nov. 4 – Homecoming

Dates and times subject to change. For more information about alumni events, email the Alumni Relations Office at alumni@uncg.edu or call (336) 334-5696.