More than 100 people celebrated the 25-year history of the Illinois State University Black Colleagues Association at an event in Chicago at Navy Pier hosted by President Al Bowman and his wife, Linda.  Although the Association’s charter started in 1997, its roots go back to the 1980s when the group began working to connect African-American alumni and strengthen their bonds with each other and the University.

Speakers and notable guests at the event included Julie Robinson, president of the Black Colleagues Association; Anne Davis, Illinois State University Board of Trustees member; Jaime Flores, former Board of Trustees member; David Strand, president-emeritus of Illinois State and founder of the Strand Diversity Award; Andrew Purnell, alumnus; Wayne Watson, chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago; Dianne Ashby, vice president of Illinois State’s University Advancement: and Stephanie Epp, executive director of Alumni Relations.

Purnell was one of many alumni volunteers who worked to reinvigorate the Association and to award close to 50 scholarships for deserving students.  President Bowman told the group that Illinois State’s underrepresented group applications for new students this fall jumped 23 percent, from 2,800 applications in 2007 to close to 3,500 for this coming fall.  He added that new transfer underrepresented student applications are up 10 percent for this fall, including a 21 percent increase for African Americans, and that the University offers more than a half-dozen programs to welcome, retain, mentor, graduate and jump-start careers for people of color.