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Hilda Richards, right, recipient of the Ohio University Diversity and Inclusion Award and Col. Frank Underwood, recognized by the OHIO Ebony Bobcat Network with the Trailblazer Award, pause for a photo before the start of the Gala.

Hilda Richards, left, recipient of the Ohio University Diversity and Inclusion Award and Col. Frank Underwood, recognized by the OHIO Ebony Bobcat Network with the Trailblazer Award, pause for a photo before the start of the Gala.

Photographer: Kayla N. Hoffman

Guests of the Gala gather outside the Baker University Center Ballroom for the pre-Gala event.

Guests of the Gala gather outside the Baker University Center Ballroom for the pre-Gala event. More than 300 black alumni attended the Celebrating Black Heritage at Ohio University Through the Decades Gala alongside students, faculty and staff.

Photographer: Kayla N. Hoffman

The 2013 Black Alumni Reunion Gala Master of Ceremonies Dell Robinson, a 1988 graduate from The Patton College, leads guest through the Gala.

The 2013 Black Alumni Reunion Gala Master of Ceremonies Dell Robinson, a 1988 graduate from The Patton College, leads guest through the Celebrating Black Heritage at Ohio University Through the Decades event Saturday, September 28, 2013.

Photographer: Stephen Reiss

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Black alumni celebrate the 2013 reunion at signature gala event

Gala brings alumni together and honors two outstanding OHIO members


More than 300 black alumni and friends gathered at the 2013 Black Alumni Reunion Gala, Celebrating Black Heritage at Ohio University Through the Decades in Baker University Center Ballroom Saturday to highlight their connection to Ohio University and to each other. The event was hosted by the Ohio University Alumni Association (OUAA).

A dramatic premiere screening of "A Monologue by John Newton Templeton" kicked off the event. The work was produced by alumnus Kyle Bowser, a 1980 graduate from the Scripps College of Communication and owner of multimedia company Res Ipsa Media, Inc. in Beverly Hills, California. The video features an actor portraying 1829 graduate John Newton Templeton, OHIO's first black graduate and the nation's fourth. Dressed in early 19th century clothes and using the era's vocabulary, "Templeton" asked the gala audience to "recognize our kinship and the inextricable bond between my basis and their present day existence" and posed "this axiom: our merit is measured by our commitment to preserve the path that has delivered us. It is datum that our deliverance is the manifestation of sacrifice and contribution that precedes our arrival."

Dell Robinson, a 1988 graduate of The Patton College of Education, served as Master of Ceremonies at the black tie affair and the Honorable William T. Newman, Jr. a 1972 College of Fine Arts graduate, gave the invocation.

Jennifer Neubauer, assistant vice president of alumni relations and executive director of OUAA, welcomed guests by relating her initial response to learning about the traditions and the strength of connections among black alumni when she began at OUAA in December 2012.

"When I first arrived at OHIO, the staff began to describe for me Black Alumni Reunion Weekend. Right away, I was struck by the rich history and deep commitment of our University's black alumni," she said. "It is evident from the photographs, the stories and the people gathered in this room that this is a singular alumni celebration."

Two awards were presented in recognition of the accomplishments of extraordinary individuals in the OHIO community. Hilda Richards was honored with the Ohio University Diversity and Inclusion Medal of Excellence. In 1979 Richards became OHIO's first female dean, the first black dean and the first dean of the newly-formed College of Health and Human Services, renamed the College of Health Sciences and Professions in 2010. Richards' long list of accomplishments beyond her service to OHIO include serving as the provost and vice president for academic affairs at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in Indiana, Penn. from 1986-1993 and as chancellor of Indiana University-Northwest in Gary, Ind. from 1993 to 1999. Richards also has held many professional, academic and administrative positions in the nursing field throughout her career. Click here to watch the video tribute produced in her honor.

"I want to tell you: we don't get her by ourselves," Richards said as she accepted the award. "I'm grateful for you. I thank you for all the love you are showing me. I really believe my time as dean was the best position I ever had."

Col. Frank Underwood, a 1954 graduate of the College of Business, was honored with OHIO's Ebony Bobcat Network's Trailblazer Award. Underwood was one of the first two black students in the history of Ohio University to receive an athletic scholarship to attend OHIO. He played on the OHIO Football team and was on the 1953 MAC Championship team, the first team in OHIO's history to win the MAC. Underwood, a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, served in the U.S. Army for 29 years. He was the first black alumnus to be inducted into the Army ROTC Hall of Fame. Underwood served on the Ohio University Foundation Board for seven years and was instrumental in bringing together black OHIO alumni who graduated in the 1950s, nicknamed The Soulful Bobcats. He was awarded the Medal of Merit by OUAA for service to OHIO in 1995. Click here to watch the video tribute produced in his honor.

"There are two things that are important to me," Underwood said as he accepted the award. "First, my family, and then, this university. To today's students I say: Never lose sight of your goals or dreams. Always continue to pursue them."

President Roderick J. McDavis, OHIO's first black president, closed the evening's festivities invoking the experiences of John Newton Templeton and recognizing all who came before him both as an alumnus and as OHIO's 20th president.

"I stand here today because of you. I lead with you. Don't forget where we've been," he said.

He also encouraged alumni to keep the evening's events in their memories.

"This is a special moment. Let us seize and remember this moment and remember when Ohio University became a special place for you," he said.

Following his remarks, the Ebony Bobcat Network presented McDavis with a check for $20,000 for the Urban Scholars Program. The evening closed with attendees viewing a video about the current black student experience at Ohio University as told by four current black students. Click below to see this video.