Commentary: HBCU alumni must give of our resources to assist our schools

Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

Commentary: HBCU alumni must give of our resources to assist our schools
September 26
04:00 2019

By Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

I always knew I would attend a black college. There was one in my hometown of Winston-Salem and several in the state of North Carolina. As an added incentive, there were HBCU graduates in my community, so the foundation had already been laid.

So I went to Johnson C. Smith University, an HBCU in Charlotte. The ride there was exciting but at the same time, I was apprehensive. New beginnings and new surroundings! Was I prepared for it? Could I handle it? Of course, my dad and my uncle Pap drove me there because I didn’t own a car; I didn’t even have a driver’s license.

Upon arriving to the campus, there were several things I noticed. First, there were a lot of people giving directions. I had a room assignment in Carter Hall. It was big, at least in my young mind. My roommate was not there yet, but I was told he was from South Carolina. The dynamic of having a roommate would be new for me.

Our campus had a number of buildings, so we had tour guides who showed us around and got us acclimated. Afterward, my dad and uncle left.

I was alone … a 17-year-old on a college campus … with people I didn’t know. This is where my journey started.

That was the backdrop, and now I fast forward. If I had to write a script detailing what I wanted my college experience to be, I couldn’t have written a better one than what I experienced.

We who are HBCU graduates had different starts, but we had the same finish and that was we graduated. We came in raw and we left polished. Our uncertainty turned into confidence and our meekness turned into boldness.

This confidence and boldness gave us a difference-maker mindset. We owe this to the faculty, staff and administration at our institutions.

Now – right now – is the time to give back to our beloved HBCUs. We can’t wait for Pell grants to increase, for our student loans to be forgiven, or for corporate support.

We, the graduates, must be the ones giving of our time and of our treasure. There isn’t one of the over 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities and, of course, UNCF (United Negro College Fund) that will not accept our checks. Some checks will be larger than others, but we must give. It’s the spirit of the gift that counts.

National alumni associations are a good way to stay connected to our schools. They develop ideas and plan events that bring alumni and friends together. Find out more about your HBCU alumni association. They will welcome your creative thinking and suggestions. There is probably a modest fee, but it is well worth it.

Our alumni associations need us to become more active. We can serve as recruitment ambassadors and host activities for prospective students and their parents. Homecomings are big affairs at HBCU institutions. Your alumni association will have a booth or table, so sign up and become a doer for your alma mater. Return to your school when they host career fairs to offer your advice and expertise to future graduates. Just think, that was you on the other side of that table or in that seat a few years ago.

There are multiple ways we can help our beloved schools. We need to sound the clarion call so that we can become champions for our institutions. Personally, I know I couldn’t pay for what Johnson C. Smith University gave me. I am happily indebted to them for life. JCSU gave me more than a propitious episode in my life. It gave me the strength and persistence to never give up.

Some reports suggest some of our schools are struggling. Don’t fall into that media trap. Pick up the phone or send an email telling your school that you want to help. Remember the future leaders of our country are on our campuses now. Help them!

James B. Ewers Jr., Ed.D., is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University where he was all-conference for four years. He is a retired administrator and can be reached at

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