Black Alumni Chapter Raises $25,000 for Black Scholars Endowment

Posted: October 26, 2011 at 3:21 pm, Last Updated: October 26, 2011 at 3:25 pm

By Lisa M. Gerry

Board members of Mason's Black Alumni Chapter at an alumni mixer. From left, Shawn Williams, Kevin Holmes, David Atkins, Timothy Cotman Jr., Allen Johnson, and Michael Wilson. Photo courtesy of David Atkins

David Atkins is writing the latest chapter in his ever-evolving, 25-year relationship with Mason — first as a student, then as an employee for more than 18 years.  In 2003, he was one of the founders of the Black Alumni Chapter, and now he can proudly say that he is chairman of the brand-new Black Scholars Endowment.

The scholarship was organized by Mason’s Black Alumni Chapter and will be distributed to the first recipient(s) in 2013.

“A big part of the chapter’s mission is to advocate for black/African heritage students at the university,” says Atkins, BS Decision Science ’90, who is currently the director of contract management and licensing at Mason. “It made sense for us to establish an endowment that would live way past any of us and [fulfill that] mission in a very substantial way.”

In 2010, two successful fund-raising efforts were inaugurated to raise money for the endowment: the Black Greek Challenge and the Alumni Weekend Step Off.

The Black Greek Challenge is a fund-raising competition between the National Pan-Hellenic Council members in which fraternities and sororities solicit donations to the Black Scholars Fund from their alumni, members, families and friends. This year, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. won the challenge for the second year in a row, raising more than $9,400 (up from $7,300 last year).

On Oct. 1, the second annual Alumni Weekend Step Off was attended by almost 450 people. Performances at the step show competition, which is held during Alumni Weekend, included six National Pan-Hellenic Council fraternities and sororities composed of alumni and students, dance troupe Urbanknowlogy 101 and the Herndon High Step Team. It was because of this event that the Black Alumni Chapter reached the $25,000 minimum for an endowed scholarship.

According to the Black Alumni Chapter, the endowment will provide scholarships for undergraduate students from an underrepresented student population, with first preference to black/African heritage students. The recipients must have a minimum 3.0 GPA, and candidates must have completed at least one course within the African American Studies minor; or must be an active or contributing member of a Mason student organization that promotes the advocacy and support of black/African heritage students.

As for Atkins, it was during his tenure as president of the Black Alumni Chapter in 2005 that he first had the idea for the endowment, but his dedication to and passion about Mason reaches back to when he was a student at the university.

“I received a number of grants and scholarships in order to attend Mason,” he says. “And I know that without those, I may not have finished, or it may have been a harder [goal] for me to achieve. I think that it created a greater commitment from me to the university — even as a student.”

Atkins was a charter member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. and a treasurer of the Black Student Alliance, among other activities he was involved in as a student. He wants to engage future alumni by encouraging and empowering black Mason students.

“In looking at the mission for the Black Alumni Chapter, it makes perfect sense for us to create an opportunity to acknowledge and support students, to encourage [a high] level of involvement with the university,” Atkins says.

Chapter members are so excited about their accomplishment — and motivated to keep up the momentum — that they have already set a long-term goal to grow the endowment to $100,000.




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