This summer the Georgia College Alumni Board approved the creation of the African-American Alumni Council (AAAC), an affinity group made to help connect the school’s current African-American population with alumni in the real world.
One of the council’s first orders of business upon establishment was to organize an event honoring those who integrated the Georgia College campus back in the 1960s. That effort will become a reality Friday night when the Georgia College AAAC hosts a gala recognizing Dr. Thelmon Larkin, Jacquelyn Waller-Nelson, Joyce Hill-Vasser, Cellestine Hill Hunt, Dr. Helen Hill and Dr. Lucretia Coleman. Each is being presented with the alumni council’s Keepers of the Promise Award.
“The reason it’s named that is these people kept their promise, which was to pave the way for others to have a higher education,” said Pamela Trawick, event coordinator for the AAAC. “I can’t imagine living in the 1960s and being the first to do anything, especially in a time of such racial turmoil. I cannot imagine being able to walk onto campus as a young person and not knowing what I would experience. For them to pave the way and do what they did, you have to know that they are truly keepers of their promise. All of them have given back to Georgia College and the community over the years, it’s just that we never knew how instrumental they were.”
Mrs. Joyce Hill-Vasser was the first African-American student to integrate Georgia College and State University when she enrolled in a summer course in 1964. Her first cousin Cellestine Hill Hunt followed her onto campus not long after and went on to become the college’s first African-American graduate in 1968. Dr. Thelmon Larkin was the first African-American male to attend GC. He went on to graduate in 1970 and is now retired in Atlanta following a career in education and social work. Jacquelyn Waller-Nelson was accepted into Georgia College for the 1967 fall quarter and graduated in summer of 1971. She went on to work as a dietitian in Cincinnati, Ohio before returning to GC to complete her Masters in 1974. In 1988 Waller-Nelson received the Georgia College Outstanding Young Alumni Award for her notable work as a professional in her field. Dr. Helen Hill was a former GC faculty member who is being recognized for her extensive work in helping students of color and those with disabilities in being successful on campus. Dr. Lucretia Coleman is a 1969 GC graduate as well as a former faculty member who spent more than 30 years teaching graduate and undergraduate students in and out of the classroom. She has served as a guest lecturer at various universities and also has the title of professor emeritus from the Georgia College School of Business.
The gala is set to take place Friday from 7 to 9:30 p.m. with a short reception from 6:30 to 7 p.m. at the Georgia College Magnolia Ballroom, located across from front campus. In addition to those first six individuals mentioned, Mr. Kenneth Washington will also be honored as he is set to receive the Trailblazer Dove Award for his longstanding work as a National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) advisor for GC.
“The African American Alumni Council is really excited and humbled to have the opportunity to honor these people,” said Pamela Trawick, event coordinator for the AAAC. “I think this is going to turn out to be a very, very great event. If the community gets involved I think we can really showcase the individuals who have paved the way for us at Georgia College.”
Online registration for Friday’s gala is closed but tickets are still available. They can be purchased Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on front campus from Tre’ Johnson, GC assistant director of alumni awards, reunions and collaborations. A table will be set up on front campus selling tickets, which are $30 for an individual or $50 for a pair.