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African American and Latino alumni return to campus Sept. 25-28 as ‘Coming Back Together’ celebrates 25 years
African American and Latino alumni return to campus Sept. 25-28 as ‘Coming Back Together’ celebrates 25 years September 12, 2008Sara Millersemortim@syr.edu
Twenty-five years ago this fall, a special reunion weekend took shape that celebrates the pride and dignity of African American and Latino alumni at Syracuse University, while providing opportunities for returning alumni to renew and build ties to one other, the University and its current students.
This year, the Coming Back Together Reunion (CBT) celebrates a quarter century of these memories and gatherings with its silver anniversary reunion weekend, CBT IX, Sept. 25-28.
Several hundred alumni will converge on the SU campus for three days of workshops, seminars, anniversary celebrations, arts and music, and other special events. Held every three years, CBT is a chance for SU alumni to re-establish contact with old classmates, interact with current students, and celebrate the accomplishments they have made since graduation. This year’s reunion chairs are Debra A. Mercado ’82 and Deryck A. Palmer ’78.
CBT IX’s featured events for returning alumni include art exhibitions, including the major SUArt Galleries exhibition “Michelangelo: The Man and the Myth” and Light Work’s “Ernesto Pujol-Walk #1”; a home football game against Big East rival Pittsburgh; music and drama performances; and a gala dinner dance. Attendees will also meet Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor at the Chancellor’s Reception for Alumni and Students.
On Thursday evening, the featured entertainment will be a jazz cabaret with the Charles “Rahmat” Woods Trio, along with comedienne Gina Brillon. Friday evening will feature a performance by multitalented soul singer Chrisette Michele. Both events will take place in the Hildegarde and J. Myer Schine Student Center.
As part of the silver anniversary reunion, the Syracuse University Library has put together a collection of memorabilia drawn from the Special Collections Research Center. Items of interest to African American and Latino alumni include “Letter from Mecca: Malcolm X (1925-1965) to Alex Hailey-April 1964”; “Woodcut Prints: Carlos Cortez (1923-2005), Mexican American poet, printmaker, and political activist”; “Pamphlet”; “Vacation & Recreation Without Humiliation, NAACP Travel Guide, 1955”; and “Papers of Diego Rivera (1886-1957)” relating to Rivera’s U.S. mural work in Detroit, San Francisco and New York City. The exhibition will be available for viewing on Sunday, Sept. 28, in the lower level of Goldstein Auditorium from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Activity is also being offered off campus at locations such as the Community Folk Art Center, where the art exhibition “Founding Visionaries: Herb Williams and Jack White” is on display and art demonstrations will be held.
For those interested in enriching their lives through career, culture, education or personal finance, CBT IX offers many opportunities to learn and grow via seminars and workshops. Distinguished panelists will lead sessions that cover topics on professional development, post-graduate studies, entrepreneurship, society, real estate, family and investing. All workshops are free and open to the public.
“The entire campus is excited about CBT IX,” says Larry Martin, associate vice president of program development. “Having talented alumni from all parts of the country will enrich and energize the University. I can’t wait.”
A centerpiece of CBT IX is the presentation of the Chancellor’s Citations for Distinguished Achievement, awarded this year to five individuals in recognition of significant civic or career achievements of alumni age 40 or younger. The citations will be presented during Saturday evening’s reception and dinner dance in the ballroom of the Oncenter in downtown Syracuse.
Vincent H. Cohen Jr. ’92, L ’95Chancellor’s Citation for Distinguished Achievement in Law
Cohen is a trial attorney and a partner in the Washington, D.C., law firm of Schertler & Onorato, LLP, which he joined in 2006. In a wide-ranging practice that spans state and federal jurisdictions, he has handled representations involving such criminal matters as public corruption, bank fraud, antitrust violation and health care fraud, and he has represented both plaintiffs and defendants in such civil matters as product liability, employment discrimination and personal injury cases. Before entering into private practice in 2003, he served for six years as assistant U.S. attorney in the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. Like his father, Vincent Sr. ’57, L’60, Cohen earned both bachelor’s and law degrees at SU.
Cohen is a founding member of the Young Executives Board of Governors of the City Club of Washington and an active member of 100 Black Men of Greater Washington, D.C., Inc., which focuses on improving the quality of life for African Americans-particularly young men-through programs focusing on health and wellness, economic empowerment, and education and mentoring. He is a member of the bar in the District of Columbia, Maryland and New Jersey, and is admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Department of Justice has honored Cohen twice, with its Special Achievement Award in 2002 and its Employee Volunteer Service Award in 1998. He is also a recipient of the Outstanding Prosecutorial Contribution Award from the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of State.
Shane W. Evans ’92Chancellor’s Citation for Distinguished Achievement in Visual Arts
Evans is a multitalented visual artist who works in a wide range of media, including book illustration, oil painting and computer-generated imagery. His clients for graphics and Web design include such varied and well-known names as House Beautiful magazine, Nike, the Kansas City International Jazz Festival and Hallmark Cards, where he was a major contributor to the Mahogany line of greeting cards directed toward African American consumers.
Evans, who earned a bachelor’s degree at the College of Visual and Performing Arts, has conceptualized and illustrated some 20 children’s books for such major publishing houses as Disney/Hyperion Books, Simon and Schuster, and HarperCollins. His illustrations of children’s literature have prompted discussion on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and “Today,” and the characters Evans created for the “Shanna” book series were adapted by the Disney studio into an animated television series.
In 2002, Evans was recognized by First Lady Laura Bush at the Library of Congress National Book Festival for his achievements in the field. Evans takes his talents beyond the printed page as well, to painting, photography and the design of handcrafted furniture, clothing and other custom-made items. A passionate believer in every individual’s creative development, Evans offers workshops and lectures that include storytelling, art projects and slide presentations in which he makes use of his work and his extensive travels within the United States and around the world to the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.
Josephine Gomez ’90Chancellor’s Citation for Distinguished Achievement in Urban Education
Gomez has devoted herself to serving the educational needs of urban children in the Chicago area for 17 years as a science teacher, Spanish teacher and administrator in public, private and charter schools. As an undergraduate biology major at Syracuse, she was active in the Chi Omega sorority and won assistantships in the microbiology and fine arts departments. Pursuing graduate studies in education, she earned a master’s degree at the University of Illinois at Chicago and is currently a doctoral candidate there.
In 2007, when Chicago Public Schools invited the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) Charter School Network to operate a new secondary school on the city’s Southwest Side, she was asked to design its curriculum. The UNO High School opened this fall with Gomez as founding principal. At North Lawndale College Prep High School, where Gomez served as dean of academics, she helped raise student academic performance so that college acceptance and retention rates rose significantly at the school, whose student body is composed almost exclusively of African Americans and Latinos.
Her transformative accomplishments at Lawndale included ensuring adequate funding for advanced placement courses in several subjects, including AP Spanish, which she taught, and funding a Saturday Enrichment Program that offers students cultural experiences to complement their academic educations. An imaginative innovator, she instituted and directed service-learning projects in garden architecture at two Chicago schools in which students built study environments and meditation gardens in and around their schools.
Geronimo M. Rodriguez Jr. G ’93 Chancellor’s Citation for Distinguished Achievement in Public Service
Rodriguez is an administrator, educator, political consultant and counselor, serving as vice president of diversity and community outreach with the Seton Family of Hospitals in Austin, Texas.
Growing up in a family of migrant agricultural workers, he spent most of each year following the harvest from Texas to the Pacific Northwest. With the aid of a College Assistance Migrant Program Scholarship, he attended St. Edward’s University in Austin, where he was elected student body president and graduated cum laude in 1990. A Woodrow Wilson Fellowship brought Rodriguez to SU’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs to study public administration. Upon his return to Austin, he enrolled at the University of Texas School of Law, earning his L.L.D. degree in 1996. Rodriguez served in the Clinton administration in multiple capacities, which included advising the president on matters pertaining to the Seattle Round of the World Trade Organization negotiations and acting as the secretary of labor’s liaison to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. His experience in state government includes service as legislative liaison for Texas Attorney General Dan Morales.
Rodriguez is a member of the national advisory board of the American Democracy Institute, the Texas Advisory Board for Environmental Defense, and the board of the Hispanic Bar Association of Austin Foundation, of which he is a former chair. He also serves Austin’s public television station as a member of the KLRU Hispanic Network of Advisors. Rodriguez is an adjunct member of the St. Edward’s University faculty, teaching courses on political leadership, political crisis management, and mass media and politics.
Marcus J. Solis ’91Chancellor’s Citation for Distinguished Achievement in Journalism
Solis is a broadcast journalist who has been covering the New York City metropolitan area for more than 15 years. As a general assignment reporter, he has produced a remarkable range of stories that run the gamut from human interest and sports items to his station’s Peabody Award-winning coverage of the 9/11 attacks. Solis has chased police sirens to bring home stories on fires and murders, and he has flown to Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico to cover stories of special interest to the region’s large Latino populations.
A member since 1997 of WABC-TV’s Eyewitness News team, one of the most watched local television news operations in the country, he was previously a reporter and anchor for NY1, Time Warner’s 24/7 all-news cable service for New York City. A Bronx native, Solis majored in broadcast journalism at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. After earning his bachelor’s degree, Solis returned to the New York City area, finding his first job in radio, at station WFAS, White Plains, in suburban Westchester County. He broke into television in 1992 as anchor of the evening news at WDTV in Clarksburg, W.Va.
As a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Solis has engaged in numerous community activities, including giving talks to New York Police Department commanders on improving media relations and participating in the Principal for a Day program at city schools. He has lectured in broadcast journalism classes at Lehman College, Columbia University and SU. In 2007, he served as a judge in the inaugural year of the Newhouse School’s Mirror Awards, which recognize excellence in reporting on the media industry.
For more information on Coming Back Together IX and a complete schedule of events, visit http://sumweb.syr.edu/progdev/CBT9/welcomepage.htm.