The success of the University's comprehensive fundraising campaign, Aspire: A Plan for Princeton, in securing a strong future for Princeton depended on the full involvement of all its alumni.
Connect: A Black Alumni Leadership Initiative grew out of the overwhelming desire of black alumni to create a focused fundraising effort, which was expressed at the 2006 campus conference known as Coming Back and Looking Forward.
This effort was subsequently launched by a group of current and former black trustees led by co-chairs Dennis Brownlee ’74 and Brent Henry ’69. Fourteen Princeton alumni compose the steering committee that has been charged with setting the strategy for the initiative and overseeing its implementation in the final three years of the Aspire campaign.
The Connect initiative was publicly announced at a 2009 conference called Coming Back and Moving Forward. As part of the Aspire campaign, which ended June 30, 2012, the Connect Initiative had the following goals:
- Increase cumulative participation by black alumni in the Aspire campaign to 65%
- Raise $5 million for Aspire campaign priorities
- Recruit volunteers from within the black alumni community to serve within the Aspire campaign
The Connect Steering Committee noted in its 2009 Strategic Plan:
"Princeton’s black alumni now represent a critical mass in the alumni body, and the time has come to ensure that we play an integral part—and that our voices are heard—in this crucial endeavor. To sustain Princeton’s excellence in teaching, learning, leadership, and service, we seek to engage all black alumni deeply in the life of the University, and to strengthen our role as donors and volunteers in the Aspire campaign. To accomplish this mission, Connect aims to expand the role of black alumni as volunteer leaders for Princeton and increase overall participation and giving by black alumni."
Princeton has further expanded its commitment to diversity since the Coming Back and Looking Forward conference in 2006, which coincided with the establishment of the Center for African American Studies (CAAS).
CAAS has recently relocated to historic Stanhope Hall. The core faculty has grown from two to 15, with an additional 18 faculty members from other departments contributing to the center as associated and affiliated members. CAAS currently offers 30 courses and a summer internship program.
Other campus initiatives include renovating 58 Prospect as the new home of the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding and Community House; reaffirming Princeton’s commitment to the strongest possible undergraduate financial aid program; and increasing the internationalism of the campus by expanding opportunities for study and service abroad.
Fundraising efforts are currently underway for all of these initiatives.
Video: Bob Durkee at Coming Back and Moving Forward 2009
Observations by Robert K. Durkee ’69, Vice President and Secretary of Princeton University, on the history of black alumni and students at Princeton.
The Class of 2015 is one of the most diverse ever. Black Princeton alumni have increasingly played larger roles in University leadership as trustees and volunteers, and as mentors and role models for new generations of students.
The Connect initiative presents an opportunity to further strengthen our voices and expand our reach as Princeton moves into the future.
Video: Student Panel at Coming Back Moving Forward
Undergraduates Jared Crooks '11, Daniel Dickerson '10, W. Keith Griffin '10, Margaret Harris '11, and Shannon Walker '11 talk about their Princeton experiences.