UT Martin’s Black Alumni Council raised $25,000 during the council’s first inaugural scholarship fundraising gala June 25 in Memphis. The gala, themed “A Salute to Black Excellence,” served over 100 guests and successfully endowed the Black Alumni Scholarship.
In 2016, the Black Alumni Council was officially recognized as an affiliated program of the UT Martin Alumni Council after many years of creating engagement opportunities and programs for the university’s Black alumni. The official recognition came 10 years after the initial alumni event in Memphis that drew more than 300 alumni and led to the eventual creation of the council. Since then, the council has supported scholarships, red carpet tours, events, and student recruitment events.
During the event, five alumni received the Black Excellence Award, which recognizes highly engaged alumni within the organization who make positive impacts on student recruitment and retention as well as their community. This is the first year that the award has been given. Those receiving the award were:
- Benjamin Hartsfield earned his Bachelor of Science and his Master of Science in Education in 1992 and 1998 respectively. He has experience teaching at McKenzie High School and Memphis City Schools, and he has served as an administrator for 20 years. Hartsfield is known for his recruitment efforts, which consist of bringing Shelby County students to tour the UT Martin campus.
- R. Lemoyne Robinson received his Bachelor of Science in Communications at UT Martin in 1993 and went on to receive his Master of Science in Organizational Communication from Murray State University and complete a doctoral degree at the University of Memphis. He currently serves as the chairman of the board of trustees for Memphis Public Libraries and helped lead the system to become the first-ever two-time recipient of the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ National Medal for Museum and Library Service. In the past, he has served on the University of Tennessee Board of Governors and as president of the UT Martin Alumni Council; in 2011, he received the Outstanding Young Alumni Award from UT Martin.
- Ivana Cherry earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from UT Martin in 2020, and in May 2022, she earned her Master of Business Administration at Christian Brothers University. After realizing her passion for education, Cherry obtained her teaching certification in two and a half months. She plans to teach business and finance at the Memphis School of Excellence while coaching the track and cheer teams; she also has plans to earn a doctoral degree in education.
- Toni Franklin is a 1983 graduate of UT Martin, where she earned a degree in merchandising and marketing. She has worked for the United States Postal Service for 32 years and became the first African American woman to serve as postmaster in the Nashville Metropolitan Area. Franklin served as the gala’s keynote speaker.
- Anthony Prewitt received a Bachelor of Arts in History from UT Martin in 2005, a Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration from Murray State University with an emphasis in Student Affairs in 2019, and he is currently completing his Doctor of Education degree at Murray State University. He worked at UT Martin for 17 years in both the Offices of Resident Life and Student Life and Multicultural Affairs and helped establish the Multicultural Center on Campus. He recently began a new position at UT Knoxville as the director for Multicultural Student Life and the director of the Frieson Black Cultural Center.
For more information about the Black Alumni Council, contact the Office of Alumni Relations at 731-881-7610.