Elon University students, families, alumni, faculty and staff gathered together in Alumni Gym to celebrate Black excellence and community on campus on Saturday,
For the past 30 years, the university has been awarding Black undergraduate and graduate students that excel academically and embody the five Elon experiences, as well as faculty and staff who have had a substantial impact on Elon’s Black community.
The Phillips-Perry Black Excellence Awards are named in honor of Glenda Phillips-Hightower and Eugune Perry ’69, Elon’s first Black student and Black graduate, respectively.
The two were present at the awards, alongside Gail Fonville ’70, the first Black female to graduate Elon, and Bryant Colson ’80, the first Black president for the Student Government Association and the first Black editor in chief of The Pendulum. Janice Ratliff, who worked in administration from 1981 to 2016, led efforts to ensure the success of Black students and was part of the team that established Elon’s Black excellence awards, was also in attendance.
Perry and Fonville sat down with Elon News Network after the ceremony to share their experiences at Elon and what it meant to be back.
“It's really refreshing to see that some real diversity has taken hold and that Elon University has accepted assuming responsibility of educating these young, Black minds,” Perry said.
Perry said he has never come to an Elon homecoming event and neither him or Fonville plan to soon. Perry said while he occasionally comes to events, such as these, it can be hard to return to campus.
“I have a hard time coming back,” Perry said, “At some points in life, in order to move ahead emotionally and spiritually, you have to face your demons. And so, I'm thinking I didn't realize how, what a shitty experience, for lack of a better word, that I had at Elon.”
Fonville said it is encouraging to see how the school climate has changed and it was exciting to see the amount of students winning awards and being honored for their work in the classroom.
“It’s great to see all of the young people and the advances they’ve made,” Fonville said. “It’s even more fascinating to see how many young people are really scoring high in the class, in their majors. It’s just a lot of kids, times have changed.”
Awardee and Elon senior Gloria Cadet said the awards merge Elon’s celebrations of diversity and academic accomplishments. She said the best part of the day was seeing her friends and classmates go on stage for their awards.
“I really feel the solidarity of it all,” Cadet said. “We have all these great Black folks that I see on campus and like we are all together and celebrating one another.”
The biggest award of the evening was the Elon Black Alumni Scholarship, an award spearheaded by the Elon Black Alumni Network. Alex Bohannon ’17 is the scholarship chair of EBAN and announced the award at the end of the ceremony on Saturday.
“To date, alumni and friends have donated over $970,000 to the scholarship fund,” Bohannon said in his speech.
The scholarship is awarded in a one time allotment. This year, the scholarship was worth $31,905.
“This year's recipient is a bastion of humility, and the quintessential Elon student driven by a passion and purpose beyond self,” Bohannon said. “What's shown through during the process is a clear commitment to the students of Elon and to create a better campus for all Black students.”
Bohannon then presented the award to junior Ethan Lane-Blake.
“I’m ecstatic, right now I am just in the moment,” Lane-Blake told Elon News Network. “I was honestly surprised.”
Lane-Black said the scholarship will help with housing, undergraduate research and tuition.