Carthage hosts Black Alumni Network’s inaugural reunion
Carthage hosted the first reunion of the Wiggan-Kenniebrew Black Alumni Network Oct. 11-13, a weekend filled with stories of past challenges and growing momentum.
The reunion was part of the Homecoming 2019 celebration. Organizers welcomed African-American and biracial alumni, those who participated in Black Student Union, and all others who support the W-K Network’s efforts to support students of color through fundraising, mentoring, career development, and advocacy.
Although many attended the College at a time when the black student population was significantly smaller than today’s, they instead focus on the quality of the people they met.
From their widely dispersed hometowns, network co-founder Alan Mills ’79 said he and five fellow Carthaginians still make a point to gather each year or so.
“Those were friendships for life,” Mr. Mills, a partner at Barnes & Thornburg law firm in Indianapolis, said during a reunion dinner program. “They happened because I was at Carthage College at that time.”
The three-day event opened with an alumni panel that offered career tips for students. In a way, the panelists agreed, being a distinct minority on campus solidified the confidence they’ve needed to become pioneers in fields where racial diversity continues to lag.
Jamin McGinnis ’06, a marketing manager for Breakthru Beverage Group, advised African-American students to “make sure that, no matter what room you’re in, you’re heard and you’re comfortable and you’re being your authentic self.”
Speakers applauded the major strides Carthage has made toward an inclusive culture in recent years. President John Swallow highlighted some of the ongoing initiatives, including the hiring of Roger Moreano as director of equity and inclusion; the DEIL Fellows Program; and new requirements in the faculty hiring process.
Panelists shared some of the support systems they developed here. Now a licensed psychotherapist, Dominique Pritchett ’07 called the late Ruth Fangmeier both her social work faculty mentor and her “interim grandmother” in the college years. Jaime Fluker ’03, a four-year letterwinner for the women’s track and field team, gravitated to her coaches.
“In this small community, people were family,” said Ms. Fluker, now a doctoral student at Chicago Theological Seminary. “It wasn’t just about me being an athlete. It wasn’t just about me being a student. It was about me being a person.”
The Saturday evening dinner honored some of the trailblazing individuals at Carthage, plus long-standing campus organizations such as Black Student Union and United Women of Color and new men’s leadership group My Brother’s Keeper.
The W-K Network, Carthage’s first official affinity-based alumni group, is named for its first African-American female and male graduates: Lorraine Wiggan ’46 and Alonzo Kenniebrew ’54. As of Homecoming, 117 donors had contributed more than $125,000 to the network’s scholarship and experiential learning funds.
Mr. Mills and Hoyt H. Harper II ’77, both trustees of the College, issued a fundraising challenge. Together, they pledged to match up to $10,000 in contributions to the W-K funds by the end of 2019.
“This generation is looking up to us,” said Shebaniah Muhammad ’98. “Set that bar high, then help them achieve and overcome it.”