Class of 1972 Returns to ASU 50 Years Later With Historic Gift
By Hazel Scott/ASU
At Alabama State University’s Spring 2022 Commencement Convocation brunch on Thursday, May 5, the Golden Class of 1972 presented a gift of $170,324 to their beloved alma mater, which will go toward supporting the Strategic Initiatives of the University. This is the largest class reunion gift since the events began.
“We are so grateful to the class of 1972 for their extraordinary generosity and commitment to serving the ASU community. As a result of their service and generosity, a new bar for other graduating classes and future alumni to follow has been set,” said Cromwell Handy, Director of Alumni Affairs.
Handy stated that hosting the Golden Class is one of the most significant things the institution has the honor of celebrating annually. “Fifty years later, you still can see the vitality, the impact, and the love that they have for their institution and the communities they serve. When the class of 1972 walked across the stage along with the newest crop of Hornets at Friday’s commencement, it was truly a testament to the impact of the Marion Nine.”
Each year, a group of Alabama State University alumni returns to ASU’s campus to celebrate their 50-year class reunion and walk across the graduation stage for the second time and be honored by the University’s President as being members of ASU’s Golden Class.
Virginia Joyce Harper, Chair of the 1972 Golden Class Reunion, said the effort to raise funds began one year ago (2021) when the class of 1972 set out to do something special to recognize their 50th year.
“We took up the task of raising more than $100,000 in the one year leading up to our golden reunion. We formed a committee and went to work. The committee contacted our former classmates and asked them to each contribute to the fund by giving as much as their hearts desired. And they delivered.”
Beatrice “Bea” Forniss, Reunion Co-Chair and former two-term president of the National Alumni Association, said because of the lack of outside support for HBCUs, it's important to provide support from within.
“I’ve learned that even a small monetary gift makes a big difference. You know, when we didn’t have anywhere else to attend school… we knew we could attend Alabama State and receive a quality education equal to any ivy league school. ASU prepared us for our future and here we are today as leaders of the future. Giving back to O’ Mother Dear helps give back to the next generation of students,” Forniss emphasized.
Having been students during a time when the struggle for civil rights and political activism had reached an incredible peak, the class of 1972 developed a sense of pride and determination that has carried them through the last 50 years.
“We were young, gifted and black, and we faced all kinds of challenges. It was not just financial challenges. You have to remember in 1968, we came up during the civil rights movement. So, we remember Martin Luther King, Jr., and ASU and the North Carolina student lunch counter sit-ins. Montgomery was the hub of the movement. We got a firsthand education with the Civil Rights Movement. We are products of that environment,” Forniss said.
Harper remembers during that time, “Alabama State University’s doors were open to us. We had very good instructors who helped facilitate us growing up.”
Both then and now, Harper and Forniss said ASU has provided African-American students with access to opportunities that they may not have otherwise had.
“It is in this acknowledgment of the role that ASU and other HBCUs have in addressing educational gaps for African-American students that the class of 1972 dedicated themselves to their fundraising goal,” Harper said.
Despite the restraints of COVID-19, ASU’s planning ensured the class of 1972 had a memorable reunion. For three days, May 4-6, the reunion events included a reception, a luncheon, a tour of the campus, a visit to Montgomery’s Equal Justice Initiative, socializing with classmates, the Golden Gala, and the highlight — walking with the current graduating class during the Spring Commencement.
“Reunion events bring a special sense of joy and homecoming to ASU’s campus, as former classmates and lifelong friends return to the place where so much of their life’s path began,” Handy said. “These special events help mark the 1972 Golden Class Reunion.”
Handy noted that all events were mask mandatory, as dictated by University protocol.