Black Alumni Endow George Floyd Fund to Support Office of Inclusion and Engagement A group of dedicated alumni took action to leverage meaningful changes on campus to increase inclusion and diversity.
“Together, our students and faculty are making changes that not only enhance our memories of the institution but help evolve it into the kind of place where our children and their children will want to come study and, eventually, lead our nation forward.” ~Dana Bolden ’89
The death on May 25 of George Perry Floyd Jr., a Black man killed by police during an arrest in Minneapolis, sparked protests across the United States and around the world in response to police violence against Black people. After the president of North Central University in downtown Minneapolis challenged “every university president in the United States to establish [their] own George Floyd Memorial Scholarship Fund,” a group of dedicated W&L alumni took action in a way that will have an immediate impact on all members of the university community.
“Washington and Lee is not immune to the challenges we’re facing as a nation in the area of race relations and inclusion,” said Dana J. Bolden ’89, a member of W&L’s Board of Trustees. “We are, however, well equipped to manage these challenges as they impact our students and faculty. We’ve proven our acceptance of change and resilience in this area.”
Bolden along with fellow trustee William Toles ’92, ’95L; emeritus Board of Trustees members William Hill ’74, ’77L and Robert Grey ’76L; William Thornton ’88 and Jonathan Wortham ’04 have come together with other Black alumni to establish the George Floyd Endowment to support the Office of Inclusion and Engagement (OIE). The OIE offers programs that explore, promote and celebrate the increasingly diverse backgrounds of W&L students, faculty and staff in the undergraduate college and the School of Law.
According to Bolden, it was important to him and his fellow donors to create a mechanism for students and faculty to leverage meaningful changes on campus to increase inclusion and diversity.
“It is not our place to stand on the sidelines and shout about how things should or should not be the same as when we walked the Colonnade,” said Bolden. “Together, our students and faculty are making changes that not only enhance our memories of the institution but help evolve it into the kind of place where our children and their children will want to come study and, eventually, lead our nation forward.”
Bolden feels strongly that such an effort needs to start with Black alumni, sending a clear message that they support the progress happening on campus and are invested in that work. The Office of Inclusion and Engagement is certainly part of the progress and has advanced the university’s mission by striving to foster a culture in which all members of the W&L community feel fully welcome and able to participate in everything the university has to offer.
“I am truly overwhelmed with the generosity of our alumni and grateful for their commitment to W&L and, more specifically, to the Office of Inclusion and Engagement,” said Tammy Futrell, dean for diversity, inclusion and engagement. “This amazing gift will allow us to enhance our programmatic endeavors as we continue to educate the community about issues related to social injustice, inequality and systematic racism.”
Among the priorities of the university’s strategic plan adopted in 2018 is to increase the racial, socioeconomic and international diversity of W&L’s students, faculty and staff. An additional priority, with a working goal of $2 million, is to deepen student connections to the university through the OIE. The Class of 1994 committed to raising $1 million for OIE to mark its 25th reunion in 2019. With additional support from the George Floyd Endowment, this division of Student Affairs will continue to provide vital services and educational opportunities to all students, such as virtual forums held earlier in June for W&L students and faculty and staff to discuss racism, public policy issues, social justice movements, allyship and activism in America. OIE is currently hiring an assistant director of inclusion and engagement to support this work.
For William Hill, the George Floyd Endowment supports W&L’s motto of being mindful of the future and is a beneficial step in helping Washington and Lee become an even stronger institution.
“W&L changed the trajectory of my life and expanded my horizons,” he said. “I am happy to support W&L and I feel obligated to give to ensure life-changing experiences are available for the next generation of students to come.”
While not a Black alumna, fellow law classmate and Emeritus Trustee Pamela J. White ’77L has joined the effort to support critical programming objectives by OIE in memory of Debra Yarbrough ’77L, a black alumna.
“Debra was one of 10 women law students graduating in 1977 who endured and persevered when the academic environment at W&L was not particularly hospitable to women or minority law students,” said White. “In the 1970s, a ‘no-speaking tradition’ encompassed women students on the Colonnade, and campus integration came slowly.”
The movement for change that has grown rapidly since Floyd’s death heightens the role the Office of Inclusion and Engagement will play in the months and years ahead, said Bolden, adding that it will support all students and the greater W&L community in reckoning with racial inequities in our society.
“The experiences of my fellow Black alumni and I may have been different than most alumni but, if given the opportunity, each one of us would repeat our educational journey right there in Lexington,” said Bolden. “That is why we created the George Floyd Endowment for the Office of Inclusion and Engagement. It will help the W&L community in the coming academic year and for years to come.”
To make a contribution to the George Floyd Endowment for the Office of Inclusion and Engagement, please contact Susan Cunningham, director of leadership giving, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 540-458-8489.