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Duly Honored

Afro-American Alumni Association adds awards to annual celebration

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The Afro-American Alumni Association has added several awards to recognize student and alumni excellence while renaming two of its long-standing awards – all to benefit current BSU students. The awards will be presented at the organization’s annual dinner in March.

Michael P. Henry, ’92, president of the association, said the organization has always had a focus on student success.

“We wanted to be more than just a dinner or a social group,” he said. “We are a student-based organization for alumni that is focused on undergraduate and graduate students of color. We want to highlight students and alums who are doing phenomenal things in the community, which speaks to Bridgewater’s commitment to social justice.”

The association’s awards program at its annual dinner seeks to do just that by recognizing individuals with significant impact and contributions to the university and in communities across the United States, Mr. Henry said.

“Reflect, Connect, Make a Difference,” the motto of the organization, is borne from what it seeks to accomplish while “building on the shoulders” of its founders and inspirational predecessors, after whom several awards have been created or renamed.

“Bridgewater now has more than 20 minority student groups who’ve branched out,” said Mr. Henry. “They would not be here if not for the shoulders of the Afro-American founders. Through these awards, we are showing the legacy and history of the institution.”

New awards include the Attorney Alfred J. Gomes Community Service Award, which is given to a member of Afro-American Alumni who shows dedication to the ideals of social justice, fosters authentic relationships with the greater community, and empowers peers to serve or increase awareness of injustice.

The Afro-American Founders Award of Excellence recognizes the 22 founders of the organization who rallied in 1990 to have students of color recognized by the campus community and the Alumni Association. The award will recognize a student for his or her contribution to the BSU community through ethical decision making, sound judgment, and a commitment to academics and extracurricular activities.

The Henry Hampton Bridge Builder Award will be given to a student or a student group of color on campus that has sought to address campus unity. The award is named for Henry Hampton, renowned producer of the documentary, “Eyes on the Prize.”

The association has also renamed two of its annual awards. The Distinguished Afro-American Alumni Award has been renamed on behalf of Sarah A. Lewis, Bridgewater’s first graduate of color in 1869. The award, created in 2010, is granted annually to an alumnus who has distinguished him or herself professional and through service to Bridgewater State University.

Also, the Alumni Achievement Award is now named after Paul Gaines Sr., the first minority affairs director appointed at Bridgewater in 1968. The award, created in 2001, is given to current member of the faculty, administration, librarian or staff member who has works on behalf of students of color.

The Afro-American Alumni Association is leading the nomination process for all awards.

As it has throughout its 25-plus-year history, the Afro-American Alumni Association partners with organizations across the campus to work with current students. From the offices of Multicultural Affairs to Career Services to Internships and others, “we are a support and a support system for students,” Mr. Henry said.

Toward that end, the Afro-American Alumni Association is always seeking to increase participation from recent alumni “to pass the torch” to current students, Mr. Henry said.

For more information or to register to attend the annual dinner on March 25, visit The association is listed under Classes, Clubs & Chapters. (Story by Eva T. Gaffney, G ’01, for University News & Digital; file photo)

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