Many institutions across the United States are preserved by their alumni associations. USC, UCLA, Brown, Harvard and hundreds of other institutions all have progressive alumni who give thousands and sometimes millions of dollars. While HBCUs do have active alumni chapters, there is a push to engage alumni to do more financially.
Grambling State University, an HBCU, is preparing to host its National Convention here in Los Angeles. GSU Alumni from across the country will descend upon Los Angeles, July 20-23. The weekend will include a Dodger game, All White Mix and Mingle Comedy Show, Life Members Luncheon, Black and Gold Gala and a State of the University address from GSU president Richard Gallot, Jr.
Gallot is the tenth president of Grambling State University. He is a former Louisiana state senator, state representative and a Grambling alumni who is from Grambling, LA. He became president of the HBCU August 1, 2016.
We caught up with Gallot on his drive back from Baton Rouge where he had just left the Board of Nursing with good news. The Board of Nursing in Baton Rouge approved the university to move forward with plans and preparation to reopen their undergraduate-nursing program, with a target date of fall 2018.
LAS Sentinel (LAS): Congratulations! You had some more goals for your first 100 days can you tell us about them?
Gallot: Bringing stability in the leadership turnover and the other thing that has been more critical than ever has been the re-establishment of a strong working relationship with the Alumni Association. Grambling University has a Grambling Alumni National Association that had been operating without a formal agreement for over 10 years and that’s essentially unheard off for a University Alumni Association to be divided in that way for so long. So, we were able to find a cooperative endeavor agreement with our Alumni Association back in January of this year.
LAS: Would you say the struggle you identified with the Grambling Alumni goes the same for other HBCU’s?
Gallot: Unfortunately, we were not unique in terms of there being division between the university and the Alumni Association and I really can’t speak to or for other universities but I will say my wife and I are both lifetime members of the National Alumni Association; my parents, my sister, there’s a whole family of lifetime members. So, when you think about [Grambling] and its alumni, for me, the two are one. There’s no us or them and I think that could be part of the reason why there has been such a division. There has never been a true relationship between many of my predecessors as president and the Alumni Association – the power-struggle and the other strains that continued to exist. Quite frankly, I don’t have those issues; I got 99 problems and alumni’s not one. We just don’t experience those kinds of problems, we have found ways to work together, that hasn’t been done in a really long time. I’m excited about that.
LAS: Are HBCU Alumni Associations as a whole advanced, equal or behind as compared to non-HBCU institutions?
Gallot: I’d have to say, as a whole, we are behind and there are a lot of different reasons for that. If you look at Claflin University (South Carolina), who was sighted as being the HBCU with top percentage of alumni giving, and that was somewhere in the 48% or 49% of their alumni who contributed to that university. You do have some HBCU’s who do a better job of counting it and that’s one of the things we’ve seen at Grambling, it’s not that our Alumni don’t give, we just have not done a good job of tracking and documenting their giving. So that’s something we immediately began to put structure around when we hired a new Advancement VP, who started in November. That was one of the first things we talked about we needed to do. Spellman and Hampton [University] do a good job in terms of alumni giving as well. Hampton, under the leadership of Dr. William Harvey, for three decades had endowment increase under his leadership from roughly 20 million to almost 300 million. So, stable leadership and alumni involvement can certainly make the difference.
LAS: Now you were one of the HBCU presidents who attended a meeting at the White House in February. Looking back, in retrospect, what are your thoughts about the meeting with Trump’s budget cuts and such?
Gallot: Well to the contrary, in terms of the budget that he proposed, it maintains our funding for Pell grants, which was one of the top priorities that we as HBCU leaders expressed to this president and to the Whitehouse, that that was important. At Grambling, nearly 90% of our students are Pell eligible, meaning students have a financial need and the majority of HBCU’s will tell you the same thing. So, the ability to at least maintain level funding and to be able to access it during summer was something that had been cut out during the previous administration, so from that stand point, HBCU’s win. Now obviously it is a process regardless of what the president puts in the executive budget. It’s up to Congress to pass the budget so there is still work to be done.
Grambling State University is a comprehensive, historically Black, public institution that offers a broad spectrum of undergraduate and graduate programs of study. Through its undergraduate courses are the major areas of study, through its graduate school, which has a professional focus, the university embraces its founding principle of educational opportunity. With a commitment to the education of minorities in American society, Grambling University seeks to reflect in all of its programs, the diversity in the world. The university advances the study and preservation of African American history, art, and culture.
For more information about GUNAA-Grambling University Alumni Association National Convention visit www.gunaa.net.