Gary Bushrod, MEd ’14, (center) was one of the 40 honorees of the evening. / Photos by Christopher Bobo
“You have exhibited the power within you to be a pillar of change,” said David Atkins, president of the George Mason University Black Alumni Chapter, to the 40 alumni being honored at the chapter’s ‘Forty Under 40’ event, held Saturday, October 19 on the Fairfax Campus.
The event marked a milestone in the Black Alumni Chapter’s 16-year history. Over 230 people crowded into Dewberry Hall—a reunion for some, a chance to meet new people for others—to welcome the 2019 Forty Under 40 class. The night was the first of its kind for the chapter.
“Black excellence is on full display tonight,” said Julian Williams, vice president of compliance, diversity, and ethics at Mason. “Black excellence is a mindset, not just a hashtag. It is a way of carrying yourself, succeeding, helping others, and exuding unapologetic blackness and beauty.”
The individuals honored spanned disciplines and decades, but they were united in their ability to create an impact on the world around them. Their impact was recognized in the evening’s ceremony as, one-by-one, awardees walked the stage while their accomplishments were read aloud.
“[Mason is] a place where each of our outstanding honorees started on their pathway to success and fulfillment,” said Williams. Those honored included individuals such as:
- Dr. Alexandra Sims, BA ’09, a primary care pediatrician and health services researcher at Children’s National Health System.
- Doreen Joseph, BS ’19, a University of California, Davis PhD student and the first African-American woman to receive a BS in cybersecurity engineering in the United States.
- Henry Jones, BA ’07, MA ’11, an accomplished scriptwriter who has worked on shows such as black-ish, Dear White People, and The New Edition Story, and is working on his first feature length film
Learn more about all 40 honorees here.
The Black Alumni Chapter Board also recognized Dr. Benson Cooke with an honorary membership. Dr. Cooke oversaw the Black Peer Counseling Center, later the Peer Empowerment Program, for many years at Mason, becoming an advisor, advocate, and mentor to many.
The event was also a chance to give back. Over the past two months, the Black Alumni Chapter raised over $5,000 for the Black Scholars Endowed Fund by encouraging people to give in the name of one of the honorees.
The Black Scholars Endowed Scholarship helps students like Egette Danny Indelele, who took the stage that evening. A first-generation student and daughter to survivors of the Rwandan and Burundian genocides, she came to the United States at eight years old. Today, she and fellow students have created Safe Haven, a non-profit organization that aims to help Burundian children who have suffered from traumatic events re-integrate themselves into society through sports therapy, behavioral therapy, and cognitive interventions.
“As we continue to celebrate your achievements and honors tonight, I encourage you to remain connected and involved with the Black Alumni Chapter,” said JaPrince Carter, senior assistant director of Alumni Relations and liaison the the Black Alumni Chapter. “To continue supporting diversity and inclusion at Mason by depositing into the lives of the many students who look like you and I, and to proudly represent Mason in your communities.”
Christopher Bobo / October 25, 2019