TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Division of Community Affairs advisory board highlighted its fall meeting with the announcement of an endowed scholarship and a rousing pep talk from a lifetime leader in community service.
Tyrell F. Jordan, a Birmingham attorney and member of the board of advisors, has created a $25,000 endowed scholarship to support students from underrepresented urban communities.
A product of the Birmingham City Schools, Jordan graduated from The University of Alabama in 2001 with a degree in accounting. He received his JD from the UA Law School in 2004. “I always dreamed of serving my community through the practice of law,” said Jordan. “The University of Alabama’s commitment to helping all of its students reach their full potential provided me with an opportunity to fulfill that dream. I want to do my part to ensure that others have that same opportunity.”
Dr. Cathy Randall served as guest speaker for the “Coming Back, Giving Back” dinner gathering, which took place on campus at the Bryant Conference Center Monday, Sept. 26, following one-and-one half days of idea sharing by members of the board of advisors, who also heard from a cross section of UA students. Community Affairs board members and guests, University deans and vice presidents and current student leaders filled the Rast Room as Randall delivered words of encouragement.
Randall, chairman of the board of Pettus Randall Holdings, LLC, and director emerita of UA’s Honors Program, as well as the former chairman of the board of Randall Publishing Company and a former news anchor at CBS-affiliate WCFT-TV, recognized the vision of Dr. Samory Pruitt, vice president for the Division of Community Affairs, in the formation of this board of advisors, as well as the members’ commitment to community engagement and student success.
“Collecting this much talent, in one room, for one cause, has the potential to make a dramatic difference on this campus and in the lives of so many students,” Randall said. “I know of no university that has the vision that Dr. Pruitt has had [in order] to enable, to empower, and to inspire recent student leaders to directly impact a university.”
Randall told board members that they cannot begin to fathom how they can change the world of one individual by their involvement in that individual’s life, and that devising strategies to connect them to their fellow alumni and to individual students could truly be world-changing.
“Through Dr. Pruitt, the University of Alabama is laying at your feet resources to put legs on these proposals and others that you will develop that will emerge from your collaborative imagination, passion and experience,” Randall said.
Randall spoke about the definition of alma mater, which literally means fostering, or nurturing, mother. “This University served as our foster mother for those critical first years after leaving our families,” she said. “Your presence on this board demonstrates that you are the rare young person who responds in gratitude with action.
”You’ve been giving back since your undergraduate days and now you’re back to continue to give back in gratitude to this nurturing parent,” she said.
Randall quoted the late Sen. Robert Kennedy from his speech to the young people of South Africa on their Day of Affirmation in 1966. He said, “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. … It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice. He sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
“The extraordinary generosity with which you’ve given your time to send forth one of those tiny ripples of hope,” Randall said, “will build a current together that will make better this University, this state, this world and the individual worlds of so many students. The opportunities before you are limitless — opportunities to impact the world, to impact the state, and to impact the individual students.”
Randall, who earned two PhD degrees from UA and has been named one of the top 31 women UA graduates of the century, was greeted with thunderous applause and a standing ovation upon the conclusion of her talk.
During the dinner meeting, members of the board of advisors executive committee gave their reports. While on campus, board members participated in “Listen, Learn and Lead” committee work groups and spent time hearing from three student panels on topics including academic success, global leadership and entrepreneurship. Outcomes of this second meeting since its formation in early 2016 included commitments of both time and money from board members in an effort to help current and future students find their roads to success at UA.
The Global and Community Leadership Committee, recognizing the importance of exposure to people and cultures different from your own, will provide financing for two $2,500 scholarships. One will be utilized to offer support for a foreign study opportunity, while the other will finance a local study project.
The Academic Success and Student Retention Committee has committed time to provide mentoring services to upperclassmen, with plans to help their mentees do the same by aiding them in developing a program of peer-to-peer mentoring with sophomores and freshmen.
The Student Entrepreneurship and Innovative Initiatives Committee recognized the need to pull different groups on campus — who are offering similar opportunities to students — together through their common goals. Additionally, this group desires to find ways to empower students to explore untraditional paths and to place UA graduates in incubators and businesses around the globe. The group has committed to having financial donations in place in the amount of $15,000 by their spring 2017 meeting, for the purpose of funding entrepreneurship projects by students.
The board of advisors is comprised of outstanding UA alumni committed to community engagement and student success. Members mentor current students and assist in recruiting outstanding future leaders. They also support campus-wide initiatives that increase student success and retention, facilitate student involvement in entrepreneurship and innovative initiatives, and support the development of thoughtful global and community leaders.
“It was amazing to see the passion, energy and drive to make a difference displayed by this group,” said Pruitt. “I look forward to the contributions these servant leaders will make to our University and its students.”
Katie Boyd Britt, board president, in recognizing Jordan’s scholarship gift, said, “I applaud Tyrell for his leadership and generosity in establishing this scholarship and am enthusiastic about how this board and its members will support and serve our University.”
Britt went on to say that this group recognizes that, as the inaugural board of advisors, they have a responsibility to set the bar high for those who will follow them.
The Division of Community Affairs was created in 2004 and is recognized nationally and internationally for its leadership in community engagement. The division provided the leadership for the recent reaffirmation of the University’s Carnegie curricular and community engagement classification. The division also publishes the Journal of Community Engaged Scholarship, one of the leading refereed journals in the field.