First of all, I want to thank you for entrusting the leadership of this great organization to my care. The organization has been blessed with a broadly diverse, competent, considerate, compassionate and multi-talented Board of Directors. It is my aim to lead by example, not only in word but in deed.
Since the inception of the BAS, I have remained committed to the uplifting of this organization and its primary purpose of promoting the U of A as “our” university and supporting the students of color who matriculate through her doors. My family and I have traveled from afar (Hawaii twice and Germany once) to attend the BAS Reunions, only missing one. It is this same level of commitment that I offer and pledge to you now as your president and henceforth fellow alumnus.
As I reflect upon my time at the U of A, simply put, it was a challenge. Working three part-time jobs simultaneously, while being a full-time student was not only challenging but often times difficult. I am sure each of you had your own set of challenges. However, we did it because success demanded it of us. Some of the same struggles we encountered are ones our minority students still encounter today. Additionally, they are faced with new challenges. Regardless of the type of challenge or degree of difficulty, just as we needed assistance back then, so do they now.
We began our scholarship program in 1998. And in the past few years, our scholarship awards to minority students have averaged $30,000 annually. Yet and still, year after year, we remain unable to meet the needs or sometimes even fill the gap for every student who reaches out to us, often in desperation. Several years ago, we were challenged with matching funds, dollar for dollar. Corine and I accepted that challenge seven years ago by establishing the “Sammie Perry-Earnestine Jones Perseverance Scholarship,” which is a $2,500 scholarship given annually to an upperclassman from Jefferson, Phillips or Ouachita County. Several others have stepped up and done similarly, including the T.A., Vivian, Sheila (Moore-Walton) Walton family, Representative Reggie and Mrs. Willie Mae Murdock, and Emmanuel and Alice Banks just to name a few. However, we remain short of our goal of a $1 million endowment. Your Board of Directors has developed several initiatives aimed at accomplishing this achievable goal. I am confident we can and will achieve it but only with your help and support.
Our students not only need our financial support, they need our voices; a voice of greeting, support, encouragement and mentorship. Additionally, they need to see our faces; the faces of others who have matriculated through the valleys of the U of A campus and made it to the hilltop of life. As we plan for, return to and culminate the 2013 BAS Reunion, in an effort to meet the needs of our students and fulfill our personal obligations to each other, I humbly ask that each of us “Think Back, Look Back, Come Back and Give Back.” If untoward experiences at the U of A cloud your conscious, totally disregard the university and focus your thoughts, compassion and support toward our minority students.
A Luta Continuum,
Bobby W. Jones, M.D.
President, U of A Black Alumni Society