Washington University’s Black Alumni Council was founded in the spring of 1983, coinciding with the 10th Reunion of the Class of 1973. That year, Alex Carroll, AB ’73, expressed an interest in celebrating the university’s largest graduating class of African-American students. Cynthia Cosby, BS ’93, a staff member in the Program in African and African-American Studies at the time, saw potential.
“It was a perfect opportunity to ask our African-American alumni to get involved with the university on a new level, something I had been thinking about for some time,” Cosby says. By the end of Reunion 1983, the Black Alumni Council (BAC) was born.
A core group of volunteers formed an initial steering committee and identified three guiding goals: to support the professional and personal development of black alumni; to assist with recruitment and retention of African-American students; and to enhance the continued growth and development of the university. This mission has remained central to the council’s priorities and activities for 35 years.
In addition to organizing social and networking activities in St. Louis
and beyond, the BAC helps with student recruitment, organizes community service projects, sponsors campus panel discussions and provides mentorship for student organizations such as Black Senior Alliance and the Association of Black Students.
In 1989, the council created the Black Alumni Council Emergency Fund to provide immediate resources for students with unanticipated financial need. Six years later, the group established the Black Alumni Council Endowed Scholarship (formerly the Washington–DuBois Endowed Scholarship). More than 100 students have received financial assistance from one of these two funds.
Upon Cosby’s retirement in late 2015, the BAC transitioned to the Alumni Association, which boosted engagement across the university and the nation. Today, there are more than 7,800 African-American WashU alumni worldwide. There are active BAC chapters in Baltimore, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., and the university anticipates increased involvement nationwide.
Kandyce St. Clair Woods, AB ’07, a BAC volunteer, organized an inaugural BAC happy hour attended by nearly 50 alumni in Chicago last August. “I have heard from many enthusiastic alumni — the desire is there,” Woods says. “We want to be more engaged with the university, reconnect with each other and offer current WashU students mentorship and networking opportunities.”
For more information, contact Elizabeth Williams-Johnson at 314-935-4557 or