The Lincoln University Alumni Association is gearing up for its 73rd National Convention to be held July 25-28 in Jefferson City.
Although the event is often held around the nation, hundreds of alumni are expected to visit the Capital City not only to reminisce about their alma mater, but also to build support for the university. Attendees are expected to divide their time between the DoubleTree Hotel on Monroe Street - for social events - and Scruggs University Center Ballroom - for the educational events.
Sylvia Wilson, LU's director of auxiliary services, said organizers wanted to hold part of the event on campus "so that faculty and students can see the alumni at work and see what we are charged to do."
Wilson said the organization - which has a new president, Alfred L. Harris Sr. - is working to reinvigorate itself.
"Our new president is trying to re-energize the national association and get people gainfully engaged so we can support the institution through financial support," Wilson said.
In a letter to Mid-Missouri alumni, Harris noted that for some graduates LU was a convenient place to get a quality education; for others it was the dream of lifetime. And for many it was the launching pad for a successful career in one of any number of professions.
"Regardless of our diverse beginnings, we are kinsmen now because we all drew intellectual sustenance from a common root - Lincoln University," he wrote.
Wilson, an LU alumna herself, said many students close to graduation have spent all they saved and have maxed out their ability to borrow. And yet they have one more $300 textbook to purchase or one more lab fee to pay. She said alumni-supported scholarships help students weather those storms so they can graduate on time.
She noted the university will sign "memorandums of understanding" that can help alumni dictate the how, and to whom, their donations are expended.
For those alumni who are still digging their way out of debt or might have their hands full raising families, one way they can help is by donating their time.
"Taking one hour a month to attend an event or a meeting goes a long way," she said.
Planning meetings for the national convention are scheduled at 6 p.m. tonight and on July 17 at Page Library on the first floor.
She personally donates a small amount every month to help provide scholarships for textbooks. The contribution isn't extravagant, she said, but it adds up over time.
"I let it come out of my check and it builds up over time. I don't know who gets it. But what I do remember is that I was on track to graduate on time, but I needed a little boost. And someone thought enough of me to help. It's my turn to give back. We need more people to do that."
A more vibrant alumni association, said Wilson, will benefit other events beyond the national convention, she said.
"That makes all the difference in the world for many, many of our students," she said.
Some of the highlights of the convention include the band Chump Change performing at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Welcome Reception. On Friday, a Distinguished Alumni luncheon is scheduled at 12:30 p.m. and the LU Presidential Reception is scheduled for 6 p.m.
Saturday starts with a prayer breakfast at 8:30 a.m. and ends with the Hall of Fame Banquet at 6:30 p.m.
At that latter banquet, one central Missourian, Kenneth Dean, will be inducted in the Hall of Fame. Dean currently serves as deputy provost at the University of Missouri; he graduated magna cum laude from LU in 1969 and received a law degree from the University of Missouri School of Law in 1976.
The event also features education sessions throughout the day.
On Saturday, life coach Kenneth Mitchell will deliver sessions about dealing with the millennial generation, or people born after 1983. His keynote address is entitled: "OMG! They are different from us! LOL ... SMH." (For the uninitiated, LOL means "laughing out loud" and SMH means "shaking my head" in text-speak.)
Wilson said she's hopeful younger people will join their alumni chapter, and lamented that most of the people involved are now in their 60s and 70s.
"We need some of these "younger bloods' to be heard, recognized and become viable to the organization," she said.