Coalition honors members, students

Rachel Droze, Assistant Editor

On Thursday, Feb. 12, the FMU African-American Faculty and Staff Coalition (Coalition) hosted their 20th Anniversary Celebration Gala at the Performing Arts Center (PAC) to honor their 2014-2015 scholarship recipients and award winners.

The semi-formal event began with a reception where guests mingled and were entertained by the Faithful Few Band.

The Coalition titled the gala “Honoring the Past, Valuing the Present, Embracing the Future.” The gala replaced the Coalition’s annual scholarship banquet, and the money raised through the gala will support future scholarship recipients.

During the ceremony that followed the reception, the Coalition honored the 2014-2015 scholarship recipients, recognized three former members of the Coalition and presented the 2015 Diversity Award.

The scholarship recipients were chosen after going through an application process that included an interview with the Coalition’s Scholarship Committee. In order have to been eligible for the scholarship, a student must have maintained at least a 2.5 GPA, and they are encouraged to remain active on campus and in the community. They are also required to attend all Coalition events and the gala in the spring.

The 2014-2015 recipients were Brittani Aiken, Kahlil Champange, Aaliyah Edwards, Nyesha Elmore, Justin Gaskins, Kimberly Gray, Jordan Griffin, Justina Jones, Tevin Leary, Brandon McDowell, Candy McKinney, Shannon Scott and Nadine Smith.

The Coalition also recognized three former members, Dr. Joseph E Heyward, Dr. Pete Peterson and the late Rebecca Salena Lunn, for their service and dedication to the Coalition during their time at FMU.

Heyward was on the executive staff at FMU for 30 years. Twenty-three of those years were served as the university vice president. Peterson is a professor of chemistry and was a Trustees Research Scholar in 2011. Lunn was a counselor at FMU from 1979-2005 and was a founder of the Coalition.

“We were celebrating our 20th anniversary, and our scholarships bare [the former members’] names,” Steven Sims, chair of the Coalition’s Planning Committee, said. “The Coalition agreed this was the ideal time to recognize these three members due their integral parts in the Coalition.”

The Coalition also presented their annual Diversity Award. The 2015 award was presented to Crystal Graham, a nursing instructor and simulation coordinator at FMU.

“The Diversity Award was established in February 2009 to honor a permanent, full-time employee of FMU who works diligently to promote ethnic understanding and diversity across the FMU campus,” Theresa McDuffie, chair of the Awards Committee, said. “The award recognizes the faculty [or] staff member’s commitment to diversity at the university and community at large.”

Any member of the administration, faculty or staff at FMU can make nominations for the Diversity Award.

In addition to the recognitions and presentation of awards, FMU’s Young, Gifted and Blessed Gospel Choir; Mayo Stars and Phoenix Phame from Mayo High School in Darlington; and Justine Roberts and The Performing Arts Academy performed during the ceremony.

The ceremony concluded with a video presentation commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Coalition and closing remarks from FMU’s president, Dr. Fred Carter, and the Coalition’s president, Dr. Daphne Carter-McCants.