Evelyn Walker, director of program development for SU's Division of University Relations, acts as a liaison between the University and African American and Latino alumni.
Evelyn Walker never planned to work at Syracuse University for 22 years. In fact, she almost didn't work here at all. In 1977, after seven years in Upstate New Yorkshe earned a bachelor's degree at the SUNY College at Cortland and studied at Cornell University's Africana Center-the New York City native returned home to work for the National Audubon Society. But Barry Wells, a friend she'd met at Cornell, asked her to interview for the position of program coordinator in the Office of Minority Affairs (OMA), which Wells had recently established at SU."|
I was not looking forward to moving back Upstate, because I hate snow," says Walker, now director of program development for SU's Division of University Relations. "But I had to admit Barry was right-the position offered a whole array of challenges he knew I couldn't resist."
Wells, now SU vice president for student affairs and dean of student relations, says Walker has worked hard and achieved much for the University, and for its students. "My respect and admiration for Evelyn's work ethic and concern for students and their needs increased markedly over the years as we worked together to assist many students," he says. "Her work at Syracuse has been nothing short of remarkable."
At OMA, Walker created services and activities for African American, Latino, Asian American, and Native American students. "By the time OMA was discontinued in the early eighties," she says, "we had a great variety of cultural activities for various student organizations and administrative offices. We had a whole arm that helped establish student organizationsmany of the organizations we have now were the result of working with the Office of Minority Affairs."
OMA also produced an alumni newsletter called SUmmit. "Even back then, we realized the need to somehow bring students together with alumni, partly because alumni contacted us," she says. "We did a number of career days here and in New York that were precursors to some of the things that go on at the Coming Back Together (CBT) reunions."
The CBT reunions are organized by the Office of Program Development, where Walker has worked since 1985. The office acts as a liaison between the University and its African American and Latino alumni, providing numerous programs and services for alumni and students. Its Our Time Has Come scholarship campaign has raised $1.2 million for 11 endowed scholarships. Phase II, which is part of SU's Commitment to Learning campaign, aims to raise an additional $2.2 million. In 1990, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education recognized the office with a Gold Medal Award in Alumni Relations Programs for the previous year's Coming Back Together III.
Walker says CBT combines educational, social, and cultural activities with an emphasis on bringing together alumni and students. The reunions are usually held every three years. "With each reunion we try to do something different," she says.
CBT is like no other reunion, Walker says. "For that weekend, our students take center stage. They are given the opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life who have been where they're going. Whatever questions they may have in terms of potential career opportunities or what they might face as persons of color, these people can pretty much answer. But, more importantly, they can also give them advice. It may be the same advice the Center for Career Services is giving them, but because it's coming from alumni, there's an added validity."
"Evelyn has done an outstanding job," says Larry Martin, assistant vice president for program development. "She has come up with a number of unique programs and concepts that our alumni have taken advantage of and supported." In particular, he notes programs at SU's Lubin House in New York to give younger alumni information about career enhancement, and alumni trips to the Bahamas and Jamaica.
Walker believes SU has an obligation to students from the time they enter as freshmen until the end of their lives. "To do that, we have to be current with their needs," she says. "In this day and age when time is at a premium and you've got everyone pulling at you, the organizations you think are important to your life are the ones you're going to keep. I'm excited that we're continuing to make sure Syracuse University is one of the pieces people keep in their lives."