On Valentine’s Day morning, the receiving area of the Syracuse University Bookstore in the lower level of the Schine Student Center was bustling. Fruit baskets lined one shelf. Other shelves held large bags called the Valentine’s Snack Attack—filled with cookies,…
12th Coming Back Together Set for Sept. 14-17
With the 12th Coming Back Together (CBT) reunion set to begin on Sept. 14, it is an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of the University’s many African American and Latino alumni. The triennial event also allows black and Latino alumni to return to campus, engage with the University, current students and one another, and see how the campus community has changed and evolved.
Launched in 1983, Coming Back Together (CBT) became the first reunion of its kind in the country, strengthening Syracuse University’s reputation as a leader in diversity and inclusion. The initial concept for CBT started with a group of alumni in New York City, including Gwynn Wilcox ’74. Wilcox, a partner in the New York law firm Levy Ratner, has been involved with CBT since its inception, having helped plan the first reunion in 1983 with the late Wayne Brown ’78, Walter Braswell ’71 and Alfreda Mayer ’78, under the direction of Robert Hill, who led the Office of Program Development at that time.
“A couple alumni from New York City started an alumni club called the Friends of Syracuse University, and the goal was to give back to students and recognize the fact that Black and Latino alumni can contribute to the University and have a lot to offer,” says Wilcox, an alumni co-chair for CBT 2017. “The concept eventually expanded into what is now known as Coming Back Together.”
“CBT gives us an opportunity to network with other alumni of color and develop a friendship and a fellowship where we can bounce different ideas off of one another, possibly start new business ventures or, on a personal level, help us overcome some professional challenges,” says Jesse Mejia ’97, alumni co-chair for CBT with Wilcox. “Regardless, it’s our community that brings us together and makes us stronger and that is why CBT was created.”
By attending, CBT alumni—who represent diverse alumni achievement—are supporting current and future Black and Latino students.
“Our young Black and Latino scholars benefit when they network with alumni who return to campus during CBT because they gain knowledge that will propel them forward as they go out into the world,” says Rachel Vassel, assistant vice president of the Office of Program Development.
Mejia echoes those sentiments and feels that as an alumnus of color he shares a responsibility to come back to campus so that the current Black and Latino students can see the example of professional alumni of color doing well. “We want to make sure those students today know they have someone who cares about their success,” says Mejia.
Our Time Has Come Scholarships
As CBT continued to grow, it was not long before those involved realized the reunion could be leveraged to provide financial support for current and incoming Black and Latino students. So, in 1987, the Our Time Has Come (OTHC) Scholarship began, born out of conversations of former Program Development leaders Robert Hill and Evelyn Walker and alumnus Dave Bing ’66, H’06.
The primary idea behind the scholarship, now celebrating its 30th anniversary, was that no one understood the challenges of African American and Latino students better than African American and Latino alumni. That shared experience would inspire alumni to support scholarships that would create and promote a diverse student body.
This is why today, while on campus for CBT, alumni are encouraged to give to the OTHC scholarship fund benefiting black and Latino students. Proceeds of events like the CBT Celebrity Classic basketball game, the Chancellor 5K Run/Walk/Roll and the CBT Gala Dinner all benefit the OTHC Scholarship Fund, supporting student recipients who may otherwise be unable to attend SU.
“If I didn’t receive the scholarship, I would be working full time while attending school full time,” says Yvette Asumeng ’18. “So the scholarship has allowed me to focus on and pursue my actual dreams in public health. It shows that there are people out there that care about people like me.”
“Before the scholarship it was definitely a struggle to be able to afford college, and so when I got accepted to a college that I really wanted to go to, I was very happy that that dream had come true,” says Avery Callahan ’19.
Full Schedule of CBT events
Many events are planned for CBT. Among them are:
Celebrated journalist/news anchor/documentary producer Soledad O’Brien will speak on Thursday, Sept. 14, at 6:30 p.m. in the Schine Student Center’s Goldstein Auditorium. This event is included in CBT 2017 registration to give reunion attendees an opportunity to hear from O’Brien first hand as she shares her personal story and kicks off the fall University Lectures series.
The opening reception will take place Friday, Sept. 15, from 5-7 p.m. at the Chancellor’s House. It is open to alumni and students.
The dinner gala, a highlight of CBT weekend, is Saturday, Sept. 16, at the Marriott Syracuse Downtown, 100 E. Onondaga St. NY1 journalist Cheryl Wills Singleton ’89 will emcee the sold out event, with a keynote address by NBA legend, entrepreneur and former mayor of Detroit Dave Bing ’66 H’06. Both the Chancellor’s Medal and five Chancellor’s Citation Awards will be presented to diverse alumni.
The Southside Art Mural Project, a community service opportunity, will take place on the city’s South Side. Alumni and students will focus on mural prep, which includes staging setup, clearing the adjacent storage area, painting the base coat on the two walls, and putting up the project sign.
Grammy Award-winning artist Lalah Hathaway will perform in concert on Friday, Sept. 15, from 9-11 p.m. in the Schine Student Center’s Goldstein Auditorium. Tanksley is the opening act at this must-attend event. CBT registrants receive one ticket with their registration. Otherwise, tickets may be purchased here.
Closing out the weekend, on Sunday, Sept. 17, at 10 a.m., is a worship service at Hendricks Chapel featuring recording artist Kurt Carr, the Black Celestial Choral Ensemble (BCCE) and the Alumni Group of the Black Celestial Choral Ensemble (TAG-BCCE), with a sermon by Bishop Norman Lyons, Jr. ’81.
Interest in CBT 2017 has been overwhelming. Online registration for CBT is now limited to current students only. Students with a valid SU ID can register online through Sept. 13. Alumni and students may register onsite as of Sept. 14.
Learn more about Coming Back Together 2017 here.