AVBA Celebrates 25th Anniversary

Eugene Watkins, BS’77, the first president of AVBA
Eugene Watkins, BS’77, the first president of AVBA

Reunion and Homecoming Weekend in October kicked off a yearlong series of events commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Association of Vanderbilt Black Alumni (AVBA).

Tremayne Anderson, BE’95, the current AVBA president.
Tremayne Anderson, BE’95, the current AVBA president.

AVBA was founded as part of the Vanderbilt Alumni Association during Homecoming Weekend in 1983, the same year as the first Vanderbilt Accolade, a gala affair that raised money for minority scholarships and recruiting efforts. The Special Committee on Minority Affairs, with the support of the Office of Alumni Relations, was instrumental in laying the groundwork for AVBA’s establishment.

On Oct. 28, 1983, following a “town meeting” of black alumni, students and faculty, black alumni met in Sarratt Cinema and voted to form an Association of Black Alumni with Eugene Watkins, BS’77, as its first president. That same weekend the Black Cultural Center was renamed to honor the late Bishop Joseph A. Johnson Jr., BDiv’54, PhD’58, Vanderbilt’s first African-American graduate.

Twenty-five years later AVBA has nearly 3,400 members and a growing number of programs and events throughout the year, including a student recruitment program, a welcome reception for new African-American students, and a reception honoring graduating seniors. AVBA also interacts with African-American student organizations and promotes interaction with Vanderbilt chapter events.

Seniors Briana
Seniors Briana Johnson, left, and Hamida Labi attend an AVBA event, one of several planned year-round by AVBA and its representatives nationwide.

In conjunction with the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center, AVBA supports the annual Martin Luther King Lecture Series, events celebrating Black History Month, the Living History Series, the Black Graduate Ceremony, and various other programs throughout the year.

AVBA has regional alumni representatives in California, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, D.C., who help to organize alumni events. The organization’s current officers are Tremayne Anderson, BE’95, president, of Nashville; Antonio Britton, MEd’04, vice president, of Nashville; and Kim Wright, MEd’00, secretary, of Rock Hill, S.C.

As part of its 25th anniversary celebration, AVBA is sponsoring the Vanderbilt Travel Program’s alumni trip to South Africa on May 9–18, 2009. Leading the excursion is David Williams, Vanderbilt’s vice chancellor for university affairs and athletics, general counsel, and secretary of the university. Call 615/322-2929 for more information about the trip.

The AVBA anniversary year culminates with a recognition banquet and other activities during Reunion Weekend 2009. Until then, check the AVBA Web site regularly for updates on other anniversary-related events during the coming year, or e-mail carolyn.dunlap@vanderbilt.edu for more information.

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