For the Black Alumni of Dartmouth Association (BADA), September 28-October 1 will be a weekend of celebration. BADA members will return to Hanover to mark the 45th anniversary of an organization that has impacted the lives of so many Dartmouth graduates.
In 1971, members of the Afro-American Society of Dartmouth and a group of alumni discussed the formation of a joint organization that would create a community through which black alumni could support each other and current students. One year later, Garvey Clark ’57 led the efforts to organize BADA, which today is a thriving source of friendships and connections formed both on the Hanover Plain and around the world.
The organization’s 10 regional chapters offer programming that includes everything from career networking events and student mentorship opportunities to voter registration drives, film screenings, and conversations with authors, all with the goal of providing meaningful engagement opportunities for Dartmouth’s black alumni.
An entry point for black alumni
BADA is an important entry point for black alumni who may have complicated relationships with the College, says Adrienne (Tee) Lotson ’82, former vice president of BADA and president-elect of the Alumni Council.
“Without BADA, a lot of African American alumni would not be connected to Dartmouth. BADA allows us to anchor ourselves in Hanover,” she says. “I wouldn’t be president of Alumni Council if not for BADA – and not just because I’m a BADA representative. BADA made it so crystal clear that there was a place for all of us at Dartmouth. They encouraged us to get involved with the larger college community and dream big – to know that you could take on a significant role. They nurtured an entire generation of alumni.”
Todd Cranford ’85 expressed a similar sentiment. “I was fortunate to have what I considered to be wonderful role models in how to be a loyal alum – these were alums who were not only active with BADA, but also the wider, broader Dartmouth community. I saw that as the roadmap for how my alumni engagement would play out.”
Creating support systems for students
These dedicated alumni recognize the role that the black graduates who came before them played in their sense of connection to Dartmouth, and are eager to pay it forward.
“For me BADA has been a family,” explains current BADA president Leah Bojnowski ’01. “As a person who grew up in a predominantly white suburb of Syracuse, I loved coming to Dartmouth and really getting to engage in, and fit in with, a strong black community of students. I met so many mentors as a student and then once I got out into the working world, that did not stop. I have always tried to help with BADA as a way to try and repay the big part of my development that this community has been for me.”
Lotson agrees. “BADA nurtured us and took us under their wings when we matriculated. It’s because of BADA that I stayed connected to Dartmouth.”
Cranford’s time on campus introduced him to generations of other black alumni, dating as far back as graduates from the 1940s. “Because many of them went out of their way to be accessible, I developed relationships with many of them. Since graduating I’ve been able to do the same for those who came after me.”
Raising the profile of Dartmouth’s black alumni
For Ellis Rowe '74, past president of BADA, and Cranford, raising the profile and voices of Dartmouth’s black alumni is a critical part of the BADA mission.
“It’s important for the campus community to realize that with each passing year there’s a deeper bench of black alumni who feel connected to the college,” says Cranford. “Being visible, I think it’s important to all undergraduates, and also to show the college administration that we are a particular voice that matters.”
Rowe notes that when he first enrolled at Dartmouth in 1970, the College’s black alumni numbered only 170. Today, Dartmouth counts 4,000 black graduates within its alumni community.
“For those people who were here in ’65 and ’68, they never could have conceived that those numbers would exist. It certainly wasn’t all BADA that made that happen, but BADA has been a bit of the impetus and bit of the catalyst, and everyone who’s been involved has been a part of that.”
Coming full circle
Raising the profile of Dartmouth’s black alumni has made an impact on the undergraduate community. Two of today’s most involved BADA volunteers, Cranford and Lotson, were first introduced to BADA during their respective Sophomore Summers.
“I was aware of the organization when I first matriculated because upperclassmen talked about it and alums who came back talked about it, but in terms of seeing it in action that time was Sophomore Summer,” Cranford says. “I thought it was wonderful that there was a group of alumni who had banded together for the common purpose of supporting each other and supporting undergraduates at the college.”
Lotson’s story is strikingly similar. “I was working for Conferences and Reunions during my Sophomore Summer, and one of the BADA founders was staying in the dorm that I was assigned to for a BADA reunion. They told me about the history and all embraced me as a new student at Dartmouth, and they just went out of their way to make me feel a part of the Dartmouth community. Those relationships have continued to this day.”
The BADA reunion – “Lifting as We Climb” – will connect alumni with one another and current students through student panels, networking and mentoring sessions, and opportunities for socializing. The weekend includes remarks by President Philip J. Hanlon ’77 and Chair of the Board of Trustees Laurel Richie ’81, tours of the new House Community, and faculty lectures.
To register, visit BADA online.