College Seal Symbolizes Service
What inspires leadership - It may well be another ingredient that is necessary for leadership - the ethics of leadership. Educated scholars must know what inspires or motivates one to act on that inspiration. The Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary was renamed Spelman Seminary in April 1884. The first graduates of the Spelman Seminary were Ella N. Barksdale, Clara Howard, Lou E. Mitchell, Adeline J. Smith, Sallie B. Waugh and Ella L. Williams. On September 22, 1924, Spelman Seminary became Spelman College, now the oldest and largest historically black college for women in the world. However, through a collaborative arrangement between Spelman Seminary and the Atlanta Baptist Seminary (now Morehouse College) , Claudia White and Jane Anna Granderson became the first college graduates in 1901. Under the College's motto, "Our Whole School for Christ," each prepared leader was encouraged to adopt values grounded in Christian teachings. The star of service was the center and soul of the institutional seal. The star was surrounded by the triangle of life which represented areas that integrated one's life - the intellectual, spiritualand industrial. The students' daily lives were immersed in a regimented environment rooted in a strong work ethic but never a prayer away from its spiritual founding. Inspirational experiences such as vespers or motivational speakers were paired with practical teachings to help students to be well-rounded citizens. Throughout the century, there had been changes in the daily lives of the students. However, Spelman has not strayed away from the founding principles that was the hallmark of the institution - to develop prepared leaders who followed a spiritual roadmap or, in more simple terms, "inspired leaders."
Through examples of collaborative efforts, the development of Spelman College and the National Alumnae Association of the Spelman College are inextricably intertwined. The National Alumnae Association of Spelman College (NAASC) was not born in 1976 as the articles of incorporation suggests. In fact, the Alumnae Association began in May 19, 1892 with the encouragement of President Harriet Giles and Dean Lucy Upton. Alumnae history began with the notion that Negro women could be the object and sole beneficiaries of a liberal arts education that included the study of Greek mythology as well as domestic skills or practical skills such as printing. This was certainly central and in keeping with a broader debate in education circles. But the "useful lives" alluded to in writings by the founders was very much in keeping with an African proverb, "Teach a woman and you teach a nation."
To move from the education of individual women to an organization of women poised for action and pointed in a common direction was simply the next phase of the evolution of alumnae leadership. It was the seed of collaborative leadership. The alumnae association was a unique model of women's leadership and Negro leadership. Race and gender represented a unit through which such women's organizations could exemplify the strengths of both. The alumnae association could be allowed to manifest itself by drawing on the best of both attributes.
A First Among Women's Organizations
The Alumnae Association itself was a trend-setter among women's organizations. The first national Negro sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority did not start until 1908, almost two decades following the Alumnae Association. Even the Women's Club of Atlanta started in 1896, a few years following the beginning of the Alumnae Association. Many other women's groups were inspired to serve simply because there was a spiritual duty to do so. The Atlanta Club of the Alumnae Association adopted the motto, "Lift as we climb," which encouraged members to "enkindle other souls as one lamp lights another." It may have been the College's motto, "Our Whole School for Christ," that gave the Alumnae Association its life, but it was the adopted motto, "Lift as we climb," that gave it breadth and focus. A white rose and colors "white and gold" were selected to represent the Alumnae Association. And it was through that prepared and inspired leadership that Spelman women were able to implement collaborative leadership efforts.
The earliest available constitution and by-laws of the Alumnae Association indicated that its name was The Alumnae of Spelman Seminary. Just from the name, one can form an opinion - that it was the expectation that all affiliated with the Seminary would be associated with the Association. The alumnae themselves would drive the organization by promoting the interests of the school, fostering regard among the graduates and assist graduates in procuring vocations. Though the earliest historical account of the Alumnae Association is sketchy, there is some indication in the Spelman Messenger that Victoria Maddox Simmons, HS'88, provided leadership in the early days of the operation of the infant Alumnae Association. However, the first elected president of the Spelman Alumnae Association was Clara Howard, H.S.'87, who served from 1892 to 1923. She entered Spelman in the spring of 1881, completed a certificate in the preparatory normal course in 1885 and in 1887 graduated from the higher normal course as the valedictorian of the first Seminary class. Clara Howard was a missionary in the Congo and then in South America before returning home to Atlanta. She worked at Spelman as a teacher, hall matron and dining hall matron until she resigned in June 1928 due to failing health.
Claudia White Harreld, C'01, the daughter of the founder of Morehouse College, William Jefferson White, became the second president of the Alumnae association in 1923. According to her daughter, Josephine Harreld Love, C'33, who was herself president of the Alumnae Association from 1954 to 1959, Claudia White Harreld became the first alumnae secretary for the College. She prepared exhaustive alumnae records on graduates by obtaining their occupations and other information about alumnae. This information was used by the institution for reports for the Woman's American Baptist Home Mission Society.
Early efforts in the development of the Alumnae Association focused on bringing together alumnae within local communities for the purpose of obtaining information on alumnae accomplishments and forwarding this data to the Seminary. Each graduate was expected to give one dollar to support the alumnae fund which was used to purchase books for the library. The dollar represented the "dues" or the minimum amount each alumna "owed" to Spelman. In 1899, the Association employed one of the missionary graduates, Miss Emma B. Delany, HS'94, to do mission work. On May 15, 1898, the alumni of the Atlanta Baptist Seminary and the alumnae of the Spelman Seminary collaborated to publish a literary publication of a monthly magazine called The Athenaeum.
The Association's first alumnae club was comprised of graduates and was organized in Atlanta in August 1914 as The Spelman Graduates Atlanta Club. Following the custom of many colleges, President Lucy Tapley suggested class reunions so that graduates could meet on certain fixed anniversaries. The Alumnae Association was supportive of the idea and worked with the College to help arrange the first reunion May 1915. The proposed plan called for each class to hold a reunion on the following anniversaries; the first, the third, the fifth, the tenth, the fifteenth, the twentieth and every five years thereafter. Therefore for the inaugural May 1915 reunion, alumnae from the classes 1914, 1912, 1910, 1900, 1895 and 1890 were expected to return to Spelman for class meetings.
Clubs Created in the Twenties
Most of the clubs organized in the twenties were located in Georgia and Florida. However, Chicago, Cleveland, Prairie View ( Texas) and Detroit also initiated clubs. A rallying slogan was crafted, "Wherever there are four or five graduates or ex-students, we will start a Spelman Club." The Packard-Giles Club in Atlanta was organized for ex-students on March 16, 1921. The purpose of this club was to "keep alive the spirit of the founders by doing uplifting work." In April, 1923, the Spelman Graduates Atlanta Club gave to worthy causes like the Associated Charities. The Alumnae Association as a whole identified goals that sparked focused efforts among the local clubs. One such goal was to support the Library Endowment Fund where proceeds of the fund would be used to purchase books for the library. Through the establishment of an endowment, this fund provided a permanent source of income to purchase books. A pageant entitled "The Star" was first produced by the Spelman Graduates Atlanta Club to generate funds for the alumnae fund - an unrestricted annual giving effort. One of the first restricted fundraising efforts embarked by the Alumnae Association was the Grover-Werden Fountain which was dedicated in May 1927. The significance of this effort was that the fountain was the only place in the campus area that anyone could get cold drinking water. Not only did students, faculty and staff enjoy the water but community residents could drink from the fountain due to its easy access.
In 1923, aware of the difficulty experienced by faculty in moving around the city, automobile transportation was provided by the members of the Spelman Graduates Atlanta Club to visit the leading Negro enterprises in Atlanta. The purpose of the outings was to educate the faculty and ultimately help students to connect their studies with the realities of the growing and prosperous Negro community in Atlanta. The faculty visited the Ashby Heights community, Auburn Avenue, the Citizens Trust Bank and the Standard Life Insurance Company. Between 1887 and 1928, the potential pool of alumnae who could work within the Association had expanded due to the 1200 degrees and diplomas which had been awarded by Spelman College (Atlanta Female Baptist Seminary).
The Thirties – The Loyalty Fund
The thirties revealed club development in Alabama and Louisiana. In 1933, the Packard-Giles Club purchased a new flagpole for the College. The most significant development for the College as a result of the efforts of the Alumnae Association was the Loyalty Fund, which was the first reunion-giving program. This was initiated by the alumnae with the encouragement of the College. The Class of 1929, at their ten-year reunion in 1939, pledged to give annually to the College. Each class was to give during the reunion and designate the gift for the Spelman College Loyalty Fund. The Loyalty Fund early on targeted the traditional Thanksgiving Rally donations in support of the five alumnae missionaries in Africa. Other projects funded by the Loyalty Fund included the chimes and the light near Giles Hall. The Loyalty Fund was later disbanded and the funds given to the College but annual giving by alumnae during reunion has continued to the present. An outright initial gift of $150.00 by the Alumnae Association to President Giles in 1909 has grown to an annual outright gift of $25,000 by the Alumnae Association. Sixty years later, reunion giving by alumnae has grown to over $300,000 annually.
The Forties – The War
Though the world was consumed by war in the forties, the Alumnae Association continued to support its mission of supporting Spelman. It was certainly a challenge for a liberal arts institution for women to continue to function while the world was at war. Many of the men were in the services and the women had to go to work. However, the student population at Spelman continued to thrive. The alumnae joined the national efforts to win the war. Patriotism was exhibited by embroidering V's on clothing in red, white and blue. Citizens were asked to "Buy a stamp and help make the champ" through the purchase of stamps and war bonds. Alumnae, students and faculty volunteered regularly at the USO Centers and Red Cross service stations. They became air-raid wardens and blood donors. The College cooperated with the national initiatives and adopted an austere existence - "plainly and patriotically... economical old-fashioned New England thrift." The alumnae held meetings to plan for a "Food for Victory" campaign. The campaign was to be carried out in schools in Georgia employing vocational and home economics teachers. The trained teachers were disbursed to local school districts to help others to learn the point-rationing systems for foods and to prepare for the changes in menus and nutrition due to the impending cutbacks.
The Fifties – The West, Midwest and Northeast Club Growth
During the fifties, the Midwest and Northeast areas blossomed in club development in Ohio, Indiana and New York. In March 1955, the first alumnae club began in California. The Alumnae Association sponsored a variety of local community service projects. The Atlanta Spelman Club, which by the fifties included graduates and ex-students, began a Spelman College Founders Day annual broadcast on WGST in 1953. The Atlanta community was treated to musical selections by the Spelman College Glee Club and inspirational words contained in the Founders Day speeches. The Atlanta Spelman Club was instrumental in the formation of a pre-school speech and hearing clinic, the only of its kind at the time. The purpose of the clinic was to identify and serve children with speech and hearing defects in hopes of helping to alleviate potential problems that could impede the education of children entering elementary school.
The Sixties – The Naming of Howard-Harreld Dorm
The sixties brought a time of explosive growth that yielded several additional clubs to established "sister" clubs. Houston and Dallas joined Prairie View in Texas. Baton Rouge joined the New Orleans Chapter. Gary joined Indianapolis while Northern California (Bay Area-Sacramento) joined the Los Angeles Chapter. Baltimore and Philadelphia represented the states of Maryland and Pennsylvania in the expansions nationally. The alumnae clubs followed the growth of alumnae concentration throughout the United States . The slogan, "wherever there are four or five alumnae or ex-students, there will be a club," was not just a rallying call, it was a reality.
In May 1967, the Alumnae Association celebrated its 75th Anniversary. The crowning achievement for the Alumnae Association was the naming of the Howard-Harreld dormitory in 1969 after the first two presidents of the alumnae association - Clara Howard, C'87 and Claudia Harreld, C'01.
The Seventies – The Quiet Evolution
At the dawn of the seventies, there was a quiet evolution in the Alumnae Association that prompted revolutionary results. At the heels of the Civil Rights era, the Alumnae Association did some soul searching as to what its role relative to the College would be in the future. As an organization that had been born and nurtured by the College, was it now time to grow up as a self-governing entity? What face would be presented? What were the needs of the Association and the College at this juncture. A new organizational plan was adopted which called for middle managers who would communicate with the fast-growing clubs and provide support to the clubs with fundraising, student recruitment and other college initiatives. A regional structure was adopted similar to the sorority model where clubs were assigned to a region and supervised by a regional coordinator who monitored the health of each assigned club. The first regional meetings began in 1972 with the first Southeast regional in Albany, Georgia and the Great Lakes Regional in Detroit, Michigan. The Alumnae Association was no longer arranged simply as a grouping of independently operating clubs but had evolved into a whole - a network of clubs that were responsible to and for the parent organization who in turn was responsible to and for Spelman College.
New Demographics of the Alumnae Population
By 1970, the demographics of the alumnae population were changing. The first class that totaled more that 100 graduates was the class of 1960. The class of 1973 boasted the first class that was over 200 graduates. At this point in college history, the largest percentage of the total alumnae body was comprised of women who were less than forty years of age. The largest percentage of the alumnae body still lived in the metro Atlanta area. Yet the national Alumnae Association leadership was older. There was a need for a dramatic shift in the face of the association to reflect the new demographics of the alumnae population. The pressure to plan programs that would appeal to the diverse alumnae population led to an experiment by the Atlanta Club - the YASA (Young Atlanta Spelman Alumnae). Members were limited to alumnae up to their tenth anniversary. After ten years the members were to join the Atlanta Club, which was a more mature group.
The YASA experiment was disbanded due to intergenerational misunderstandings and conflicts. The YASA members failed to "graduate" to the Atlanta Club. Against regulations, they chose to continue membership in the YASA. Intergenerational conflicts were a source of tension between members. The relationship was akin to "the over-protective parent and the rebellious, independent teenager" scenario that was being replayed daily across the country. However, the increased communication between generations led to opportunities for growth of the individual members and the Alumnae Association as well. Seeds sown that produced strong roots yielded beautiful foliage.
There were many lessons learned from the YASA experiment. The greatest benefit was that the future leaders for the Atlanta Club had been the same YASA alumnae who had matured and had been properly trained as a result of their participation in YASA. The YASA members later moved on to fully participate in Clubs all over the country. Younger alumnae who had honed their skills in YASA under the tutelage of the Atlanta Club had practiced their leadership craft by starting local chapters such as those in Decatur, Georgia and Charlotte, North Carolina. YASA members later became presidents of the Atlanta chapters in the eighties. And in this case, as was experienced by other women's organizations, the Alumnae Association drew on its collective faith by exhibiting "guts" in trying something new in order to foster growth for the good of the overall organization. As painful as it may have been as the script was unfolding, the "punch line" was worth the struggle.
In its continued campaign to foster a paradigm shift in the organization, the Alumnae Association initiated a plan that would structure an inclusive Spelman College Board of Trustees that represented students, faculty and alumnae who could provide input by utilizing the various constituents in the formation of Spelman's policies. The Board of Trustees initiative included two positions - an alumna trustee as well as an alumnae representative to the Board. Faculty and students would also have trustee and representative positions. The plan called for the Alumnae Association to be represented by the alumnae trustee position. However, though the overall constituency-based representation idea was adopted by the Board of Trustees, the plan was amended so that the president of the Alumnae Association became the representative to the Board, lacking voting privileges. Disappointed, members of the Alumnae Association lobbied for the President of the Alumnae Association to be the alumna trustee. This strategy worked for the first alumna trustee. But there was no precedent or official indication that this would be the case for subsequent alumnae trustees.
1976 – A Nonprofit Organization
In 1976, as the College was considering a new college president following the retirement of Dr. Albert Manley, there was the expectation that the next president of Spelman College would be an African American woman. When Dr. Donald M. Stewart was appointed as the sixth president, the Association struggled to reconcile its time-honored promise to support the institution yet do what it knew was necessary. Pearline Davis, C'58, President of the Atlanta Club, was hired by the College as the Director of Alumnae Affairs. This move helped to bridge an emerging nonprofit organization with a College under new leadership.
The Association leadership knew that the Association must position itself to reduce its dependence on the College yet increase its financial strength and clout by putting itself in the position to obtain independent funding. The result was the incorporation of the National Alumnae Association of Spelman College in 1976 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization as orchestrated by Henrietta Turnquest, C'68, who was the attorney of record for the incorporation. The NAASC was to be a separate corporate entity whose defined role was to support Spelman College yet which would be self-governing. This led to a shift in the image of the Association. It was clear that this step was a change in the relationship between NAASC and the College. A new NAASC logo was designed and a new image was launched. However, the future nature of the new alumnae association was yet to be revealed.
The separation was not intended to put the NAASC at odds with the Institution. According to the constitution, the Director of Alumnae Affairs, an employee of the College, was to be the vice-president of the NAASC. Therefore, the College would always be aware of the NAASC plans. The NAASC could present annual reports to the Board of Trustees. Annual meetings, as required by the articles of incorporation, would be held on campus in May. President Stewart initiated a fundraising campaign that included the NAASC. All of these efforts were carefully planned to answer the question whether the NAASC was still true to its organizational and collegiate roots and promises. The difference was that the NAASC was laying a foundation for the next millennium - to clarify roles and identify and communicate needs - and it was orchestrating a plan of action utilizing collaborative leadership to meet those needs.
Programmatic Initiatives – The SASE Program
The College faced pressing challenges in the seventies – lowered applications (which threatened the student population), financial pressures and the need for diverse student experiences to help students to move beyond the traditional social work, teaching and business careers. The College launched an outright effort to attract students in the sciences for the purpose of producing more scientists, doctors and researchers. The Association responded by collaborating with the Admissions Office to recruit students for Spelman. In 1976, armed with a manual for alumnae, the Admissions Office held recruitment-training sessions to train alumnae on the latest methods in recruiting students. The NAASC worked with the Office of Career Planning, and the Spelman Alumnae-Student Externship (SASE) was started. This program paired alumnae with students for a career exploration experience during spring break. Two separate corporate entities - Spelman College and the NAASC - were collaborating to meet the needs of the students and the Institution.
NAASC Scholarships and Awards
The eighties were the years of visibility and image building for the newly incorporated association. Alumnae were awarded the first NAASC Hall of Fame Awards and Merit Awards. The College recognized several long-term active Alumnae Association members by naming lounges in the Donald and Isabel Stewart Living Learning Center. The NAASC established the Donald M. Stewart Endowed Scholarship, which provided annual scholarships to students. The National Emergency Student Loan Fund was established with contributions from the Baltimore, Columbia, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles Chapters. To date, more than thirty students have borrowed from the Emergency Loan Fund. The Glee Club had been touring nationally for decades, the newly organized Spelman College Jazz Ensemble (1987) began touring nationally with the assistance of the anchor chapters - the Detroit and the Northern New Jersey Chapters. The NAASC, in conjunction with the New York Chapter, created its first national raffle, which netted $35,000 for the College. In 1981, the NAASC created a Landscape Planning Committee that worked with the School of Environmental Design at the University of Georgia to develop a campus beautification campaign for Spelman.
State Marker for Centennial CelebrationDuring the nineties, several collaborative projects were completed - the national service project with the Children's Defense Fund, a joint fundraiser by students and the NAASC to restore the Grover-Werden fountain to working order and the opening of the first campus-based NAASC office in Manley Center in December 1991 under the first African American woman president, Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole. In 1998, under an initiative of the first alumna president, Dr. Audrey F. Manley, Spelman leased some off-campus property to the NAASC to make possible association programming in the Atlanta community, to house current records and soon to set up the office of the first executive director of the NAASC. The NAASC Centennial Celebration was held in 1992. A Georgia state marker was placed at the entrance of the campus near the Dorothy Shepard Manley residence hall. This was the first time ever that a state marker was given by Georgia to recognize a group of people as opposed to an event or place. The NAASC, by providing enough documentation to the State to prove that the alumnae should be recognized, was responsible for making this a reality. It certainly was an appropriate recognition of the alumnae commitment to a century of service. During 1992, the NAASC reached its highest membership base of 1302 members. Chapters formed in the nineties, such as Huntsville and the Bahamas , are being led by Spelman alumnae who graduated within the past five years. Visionary alumnae tried bold fund-raising efforts like those of the Los Angeles and the Hollywood/San Fernando Chapters. The $50,000 proceeds funded the Los Angeles Area Chapters Endowed Scholarship.
Major Giving – A New Step in Alumnae Giving
Selected leaders and members within the NAASC were among the alumnae targeted for leadership in the Spelman Campaign, Initiatives for the '90s. For the first time, alumnae were specifically asked to provide major gifts of $10,000. They were also asked to provide bequests to Spelman, or establish charitable gift annuities or trusts. These individual alumnae exhibited their faith and stepped up to the plate by establishing alumnae as a new major financial resource stream for Spelman College. It is with this new image of alumnae and, again, the unwavering support of the Alumnae Association that Spelman could confidently step into the next millennium.
As with any association as seasoned as the NAASC, the state of even this dynamic organization fluctuates. As some chapters die, others are born to provide an infusion of life to the Association. New experiments are tried, others are blocked. All of these circumstances give life and breath to the NAASC. It is necessary for the NAASC to question its existence, affirm its purpose, dispose of practices that are ineffective but always be reminded of its original purpose for over one hundred years. "The Alumnae of Spelman Seminary," now the "National Alumnae Association of Spelman College" was born to promote the interests of the school and to assist alumnae in assisting each other. If that mission is in fact accomplished, then the Spelman motto, "Our Whole School for Christ," will also be manifested throughout the world.
Members who are a part of the National Alumnae Association of Spelman College know that they are daily nurtured as Spelman's prepared leaders who are "inspired to serve". They step into the millennium not afraid to build bridges of collaboration between yesterday's, today's and tomorrow's leaders among other diverse organizations. However, they know that they can come back to the NAASC and Spelman College to be replenished and to find the energy to continue. This awareness is truly a lifelong benefit to alumnae.
Patricia Graham Johnson, C'73
A partner of Howell & Johnson, a firm
specializing in the inventory of private collections, is currently working on a book manuscript
on the life of her father, the late Reverend John H. Graham. Formerly, Ms. Johnson served Spelman
for fifteen years as an acting director of admissions, the director of Alumnae Affairs, and a
planned giving officer for the College.
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