Alumni conference to celebrate diversity milestone

Since Wheaton opened its doors to men in 1987, more than 100 men of color have graduated from the college. To celebrate this milestone, the Alumnae/i Association will host a conference on campus Saturday, April 12, 2008, from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Entitled “Building Bridges: A Celebration of 100 Alumni Men of Color,” the event seeks to highlight the experiences and accomplishments of alumni and current male students of color, said Tony Laing ’96, chair of the conference planning committee.

“The message I hope people get is that it’s important to come back and participate.” Although the conference is aimed at men from many ethnic backgrounds, Laing (pictured, left) stresses that the entire Wheaton community is invited to take part.

The conference fits perfectly into the Alumnae/i Association’s 2014 vision to inspire pride and passion for a lifelong commitment to Wheaton and to help alumnae/i engage with each other in innovative and diverse ways.

“Hosting the conference is an important way to connect, reconnect and engage one of the association’s critical growth populations, namely, young alumni, to one another, to the campus community and especially to the students on campus today,” said Sharon Howard ’87, executive director of alumnae/i relations and annual giving. “These graduates may be small in number, but they are strong in spirit, accomplished in their life’s work and volunteer leaders in their communities. They are models for our current students and the future volunteer leaders of the association and college.”

A planning committee and advisory board have spent months planning the conference. The event will feature a networking social with students of color and a luncheon awards ceremony to honor Dean of Students Sue Alexander, Professor of Political Science Darlene Boroviak, Assistant Professor of History Dolita Cathcart and other champions of diversity on campus.

A roundtable discussion will provide everyone the opportunity to hear about the college’s commitment to inclusive excellence and the ways various college departments are meeting President Ronald Crutcher’s strategic plan to make Wheaton a preeminent college by 2014.

Guy Mark Foster ’94, assistant professor of English at Bowdoin College, will be one of two opening speakers at the conference. He will share his unique perspective as one of the first men of color to graduate from Wheaton, said Laing, diversity and exchange programs advisor at Massachusetts College of Art. Foster also will moderate a panel discussion on the professional and personal experiences of alumni at Wheaton and beyond.

Several alumni were asked to write reflection letters leading up to the conference to share their Wheaton experiences. Patrick Summers ’94, vice president of PrestoSports, wrote one.

“I think recognizing who you are and where you come from regardless of race is an important thing. This opportunity to me celebrates a very important milestone for the campus and I am glad to be a part of its history,” said Summers.

“Wheaton is a constant resource for me that helped me get to where I am today and I hope that I can give something back.”