Center: Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole accepting UNCF President’s Award from Dr. Michael L. Lomax (l) and UNCF Board Chairman Milton H. Jones, Jr.,(r) and joined on stage by UNCF-Member Presidents.
UNCF’s prestigious National “A Mind Is …”® Gala convened March 2 in the nation’s capital was a night to remember, raising more than $1 million to support UNCF-member institutions, other HBCUs and students of color to go to and through college.
More than 500 guests, including several UNCF board members, member presidents and alumni from UNCF’s 37 member institutions were in attendance. Legacy sponsors of the gala were Chevron and ExxonMobil.
UNCF Board Chairman Milton H. Jones, Jr., delivered opening remarks, sharing his major priorities as chairman to continue UNCF’s legacy of success. “We are redoubling our efforts to elevate respect for the UNCF brand and HBCU graduates. The UNCF brand is one of the strongest in the nation. Our motto, ‘A mind is a terrible thing to waste’® is known worldwide. However, we cannot rest on our laurels. That’s an easy way to lose our brand presence and momentum. Complacency is not and will never be in our vocabulary,” Jones said.
In his remarks, UNCF President and CEO Dr. Michael L. Lomax made a call to action to UNCF donors, partners and HBCU alums “to stay the course” with UNCF.
“HBCUs are changing the world and their graduates are major contributors to America’s success. UNCF and HBCUs are doing great work in America. We’re thriving,” Lomax said.
“Now that doesn’t mean all is perfect. We still have work to do. It is the work of all of us. The call to action is to stay the course. We have an extraordinary story to tell and we’re telling it…unapologetically,” said Lomax.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer received UNCF’s highest honor, the Frederick D. Patterson Award, for his outstanding support of UNCF and HBCUs and for being a key supporter of the bipartisan bill known as the FUTURE Act, which provides annual funding to strengthen the academic, administrative and fiscal capacities of HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions.
In his acceptance remarks, Schumer said, “It’s truly an honor to be here with you all. And it’s deeply humbling to receive such a prestigious award from one of the greatest forces for good in our country.”
He went on to praise UNCF’s mission for significantly helping bridge the equality gap within college education for more than seven decades.
UNCF’s coveted Keeper of the Flame Award was presented to a longtime corporate partner of UNCF—Delta Air Lines—that last year contributed $1.5 million to support UNCF events, provide emergency student aid and technology grants. Over several decades, Delta Air Lines has demonstrated its corporate commitment to UNCF programs and students. This generous support totaling almost $5.8 million to date, has provided much-need student scholarships, emergency aid and technology assistance grants. The award was accepted by Delta Air Lines Vice President for Government Affairs Cherie Wilson.
This year’s UNCF President’s Award was presented to anthropologist and educator
Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, the first female college president of UNCF-member Spelman College and former president of UNCF-member Bennett College.
The Virginia Union University Chorale performed the national anthem and “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” and the gala audience grooved to the music of the iconic Tina Turner performed by Leandra Ellis-Gaston from the cast of Broadway’s “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.” The evening’s dining experience was complemented with elegant wines provided by the McBride Sisters Wine Company of Oakland, CA.