Texas Exes ‘Black Homecoming’ recognizes distinguished black students, alumni

Anna Lassmann

Hundreds of black UT alumni descended on Austin over the weekend for the Texas Exes Black Alumni Network’s ninth annual Alumni Homecoming. 

The group began the weekend Friday with a legacy dinner, celebrating the accomplishments of black students and alumni.

Alumni from a wide variety of decades attended the dinner, including Leon Holland and Cloteal Haynes, who were among the first black students to attend UT.

“We were the pioneers at this University,” Holland said. “Every year we get together and it’s a time of camaraderie, renewing friendships and reliving stories from years past.”

This year, the Texas Exes Black Alumni Network chose to spotlight the four UT Student Government presidents who were African-American: Toni Lockett, Daron Roberts, Marlen Whitley and Eric Bradley.

“Thank you so much for making your mark on history and on UT’s history,” said June Deadrick, an organizer of the weekend.

Soncia Reagins-Lilly, vice president for student affairs and Dean of Students, spoke about the current challenges in higher education and the necessity to build a relationship between alumni and students.

“What’s important to me is the word ‘student,’” Reagins-Lilly said. “Together we provide this network of support. I want the students to know: If you did it, they can too.”

Three alumni were recognized for their contributions to the University and the community. Lonnie Fogle received the Alumnus of the Year Award, Henry Kopia Keculah Jr. received the Young Alumnus Award and Alshare Hughes received the Unsung Service Award.

“Everyone can do something,” Hughes said. “When we see something wrong in the world, the only wrong thing we can do is to do nothing.”

Two students in attendance were recognized as recipients of Black Ex-Students of Texas scholarships. Undergraduate studies freshman Cierra Lane received the Almetris Duren Scholarship, and architecture sophomore Eleanor Wakou received the John S. Chase Legacy Scholarship.

“I hope to gain connections that will help me once I graduate,” Lane said. “I enjoy talking to the black alumni and hearing what they’ve gone through. It makes you feel less lonely.”

To conclude the evening, the Black Ex-Students of Texas, who helped organize the weekend, announced the creation of their first fully-funded scholarship endowment with the Black Studies collective.

“It is important to come back and make changes for future students,” alumnus Stephanie Johnson said. “This is an opportunity for us to raise money and engage black alumni.”

The Black Alumni Homecoming held additional events throughout the weekend including Soul Night, Homecoming Tailgating and Game Viewing, Overtime and Sunday Brunch.