In summer 2022, Deion Garner ’17, Jamaal Doran ’14, Syntina Nesbitt ’14, Jerome Purdie ’14, Brandon Sparrow ’17, in addition to Jay Carroll II ’15, Antjuan Jones ’14, Lorenzo Jameco McKenzie ’15, Shawntavia Smith ’15, and Jason Sparrow ’17, approached MU Alumni Relations with a proposal to form the Black Alumni Chapter (BAC).
In summer 2022, Deion Garner ’17, Jamaal Doran ’14, Syntina Nesbitt ’14, Jerome Purdie ’14, Brandon Sparrow ’17, in addition to Jay Carroll II ’15, Antjuan Jones ’14, Lorenzo Jameco McKenzie ’15, Shawntavia Smith ’15, and Jason Sparrow ’17, approached MU Alumni Relations with a proposal to form the Black Alumni Chapter (BAC). In collaboration with the University and MU Alumni Association, this group quickly formalized some Black alumni homecoming traditions and established an endowed scholarship.
Each of these individuals served in leadership roles at MU, as elected Student Government Association reps and founders of Divine Nine fraternities or sororities; as resident advisors and club presidents. When recalling their achievements, these trailblazers are quick to praise earlier Black MU student leaders in shaping their own undergraduate successes.
The legacy of Black student leadership and mentorship motivated these 10 students to establish the BAC to celebrate the MU student-of-color experience and raise scholarship funds for future MU students of color.
Approximately one-third of the MU student population is comprised of students who are African American, American Indian, Asian/Asian American, Hispanic/Latino American, Multi-racial American, or International citizens. “We are proud MU graduates and we [as students of color] have a unique experience of finding our MU family,” Doran said.
Like college students across the country, many MU students are away from their homes for the first time. While they treasure the abundant diversity on campus, they also yearn for familiar traditions, foods, language, and hobbies over which they can bond with new friends.
The Black Alumni Chapter of the Alumni Association is a natural extension of cultural celebrations most MU students experience on campus. MU students have sustained culture-celebrating groups for decades and any student is welcome to join. Currently active clubs on campus include the African Student Organization, Black Student Union, LatinX Club, and International Student Association.
By the conclusion of Homecoming 2022 in October, the BAC had already met its goal to raise the first $5,000 for a new scholarship for MU students of color: the Dr. Mary M. Atwater ’69 Endowed Scholarship. Atwater, a Fayetteville native, was the first African American student to enroll in and to graduate from Methodist University.
The idea to name the BAC’s new endowed scholarship began with Tracey Sherrod, MU’s director of Library Services. Sherrod met Dr. Atwater in 2018, when Atwater gave the keynote speech for MU’s Spring Convocation. “People should know how much courage and determination Atwater had when she was at Methodist,” Sherrod said.
Atwater enrolled at Methodist in 1965. In the Civil Rights era of the 1960s – and when there were no Black faculty or students at MU – one can imagine Atwater’s determination to enroll and complete a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with honors. She later earned a Doctorate in Science Education and helped establish the field of multicultural science education in the U.S.
Upon agreeing to have the new endowed scholarship named after her, Atwater expressed her gratitude to receive this honor in her lifetime. In personal notes to each of the BAC founders, Atwater shared: “[I hope] that others receive the foundational knowledge and skills I received at Methodist University to be successful in their careers and lives.”
Like all endowed scholarships at MU, the Atwater Scholarship will be endowed and begin disbursing awards when it reaches $25,000. The BAC goal is to raise at least $5,000 per year for the next four years to achieve full endowment, but there is no limit to how large it can grow. A larger endowed scholarship will support more MU students of color.
All MU alumni and friends are invited to contribute to the Atwater Scholarship. To connect with the Black Alumni Chapter and hear more details about alumni events in your area, sign up for the Alumni Newsletter or contact Taylor Murphy, Alumni Relations Director at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910.630.7485.
This story was published in the Spring 2023 edition of “MU Today Magazine”. The magazine is available digitally on the MU website.