The Capitol Times Newspaper
Madison, WI

By Aaron Nathans
November 23, 2005

Group plans $10M African-American Alumni Center


By honoring Madison's African-American history, this city can enliven its future. That's the message behind plans to build the Wisconsin African-American Alumni Center in Madison. The $10 million project would house a performing arts center, living space for historically black fraternities, and on the first floor, a historical center.

The project is led by the new African-American Alumni Foundation Inc. of the University of Wisconsin. The foundation's chairman, the Rev. Ronald Myers, a 1985 UW Medical School graduate, said in an interview at the Inn on the Park on Tuesday that it's important to bring Madison's black community together.

Myers, a crusader for social justice, also announced a University of Wisconsin African-American Alumni Reunion for July 20-23. It will include a concert honoring Jimmy Cheatham, a former professor of music at the UW. Ada Fisher, the first female African-American graduate of UW-Madison (Medical School), will also speak at the reunion.

Myers, whose plans for the center and reunion were previewed Saturday by Doug Moe in his column, said he envisions building the alumni center between the campus and Madison's south side. He has no site planned for the facility and offered no drawings, although he suggested it might be 10-12 stories tall.

Myers said the foundation will kick off fundraising for the alumni center at the reunion. The foundation has no formal ties to the university, but is working on it, Myers said.

The Wisconsin Alumni Association already has an African-American Alumni Association within it which holds homecoming reunion dinners and sponsors scholarships. The current chair of the WAA board of directors is African-American, Gilda Hudson-Winfield, the first in WAA history. Local students need role models to find inspiration, said Linda Hoskins, president of the Madison chapter of the NAACP, at the news conference held by Myers and his group.

"We need history to stand and stay standing as long as there is a Madison, and not see it erased," Hoskins said.

Myers, who lives in Mississippi, where he practices medicine in poor areas, said he will be making frequent trips to Madison to get the project underway. He said he is considering relocating to Madison.

Ald. Isadore Knox said celebrating the city's African-American history will honor its present black residents. The city needs to reach out to its young black population, namely students, and give them a reason to stay in the community after they graduate, he said.

"There is a lot of rich history we need to go back and capture," Knox said.

E-mail: anathans@madison.com


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