One of the guests of honor didn’t make it, but that didn’t deter the Northwest Indiana chapter of the Neal-Marshall Alumni Club from paying tribute April 26 to the night’s other honorees, to this year’s graduates, and to the alumni whose accomplishments inspired the group’s existence.
Emmy Award-winning TV news veteran and ABC Channel 7 feature reporter Harry Porterfield was not in attendance to receive the club’s Legacy of Leadership Award, but the night’s other two honorees addressed the audience of alumni, University officials and 2007 graduates. IU Northwest Associate Professor of African-American Studies Earl Jones, Ph.D., was the recipient of the Outstanding Faculty Award, and he told the crowd that education, to him, means having the ability, the initiative and the information needed to make changes whenever necessary.
“It’s all about change,” Jones insisted during his brief remarks. “It’s about knowing where you want to go and doing what you need to do to get there. That’s what education is all about.”
Jones has taught at IU Northwest since 1989 and has previously served as chair of the Department of Minority Studies. In addition to his teaching duties, Jones has engaged and energized the Gary community with his involvement in such endeavors as the Gary Historic Midtown Project, which seeks to promote the preservation of Gary’s Midtown district and to encourage the development of an economic-revitalization plan for that area. Jones also serves as an advisor for the IU Northwest Black Student Union, and he works successfully to help bring a variety of guest speakers and events to the campus.
Interestingly, local business owner Sharon Mallory, recipient of the Emerging Leader Award, is not an IU graduate. Mallory confessed to feeling some initial perplexity when she was notified of the honor, especially since she’s a Purdue grad.
“The first thing I thought was, ‘What’s my connection to IU?’ And let me say that I appreciate the alumni association reaching out to graduates of other universities,” Mallory said. “The connection is that my mother is a graduate of IU Northwest.”
Mallory, who is the CEO of SDM Investments, the first investment firm in Northwest Indiana to be owned by an African-American woman, credited her mother, Dianne Mallory, with setting a positive educational example by returning to school. Despite having four children during her teen years, Dianne Mallory found the time and determination to earn multiple nursing degrees and forge a better life for her family, her daughter said.
“That determination I saw as a young child instilled in me the idea that education is important,” Mallory said. “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have to do to get an education. Just get it.”
In addition to her job as financial adviser, Mallory is also the host of “Pocket Change,” a financial-education TV show that airs on local cable-access stations. She also writes for assorted publications in Northwest Indiana. Mallory is also involved in efforts to promote financial literacy among children and young adults in the region.
Later in the program, Clarence C. Boone, national director of the Neal-Marshall Alumni Club, reflected on the two groundbreaking IU alumni — Marcellus Neal (B.A. in mathematics, 1895), the first African-American man to graduate from IU, and Frances Eagleston Marshall (B.A. in English, 1919), the first African-American woman to do so – for whom the organization is named.
Boone said he once met Marshall, and he described her as a “phenomenal woman.” He noted that Neal became a great teacher and wrote a widely used math textbook.
“It just so happens that he died in a freak hit-and-run accident at a fairly young age,” Boone explained. “But he left his mark. I challenge you to leave your mark.”
IU Northwest Chancellor Bruce Bergland congratulated the award recipients and the graduates. He pledged to the group that the University would continually seek to improve its communication with and responsiveness to all of its constituent groups, including the African-American community. The Chancellor asked those present never to hesitate in offering constructive criticism whenever it’s warranted.
“We want to hear the good things, too, of course,” Bergland said. “But we also want to hear about where we’re missing the boat or where we can do better. Because that’s how we’re going to improve.”
The Neal-Marshall Alumni Club was organized in 1977 to meet the needs of African-American alumni from Indiana University. The organization also seeks to address the needs of African-American students, faculty and staff while promoting awareness of the history, traditions and legacy of African-Americans at all IU campuses.