Harris-Stowe State University will celebrate HSSU alumni at the Outstanding Alumni Leader Under 40 Awards on Friday, October 25 from 7 to 9 pm at the Missouri Athletic Club. This event is for alumni members who have completed outstanding achievements in their various fields and communities in addition to giving back to HSSU.
“The purpose of the Under 40 event is to raise scholarships for students and to recognize our alumni,” said Lea Sutherlin, interim director of Alumni Relations and liaison to the Board of Regents.
The HSSU Alumni Association holds the annual Gold Gala and the Distinguished Alumni Awards to celebrate previous classes.
“Traditionally, the institution and the alumni association holds events like the Gold Gala and the Distinguished Alumni Awards to celebrate previous classes from 30, 40 and 50-plus years,” Sutherlin said.
According to Sutherlin, alumni members asked why there was no event to recognize alumni of all ages. So then-President Dwaun Warmack introduced the Under 40 awards last year because “it was also important to recognize younger alumni members who have made outstanding achievements in their fields,” Sutherlin said.
Chris “CJ” Bilbrey, head baseball coach at HSSU, received the Under 40 award last year.
“I had the honor of representing HSSU at the first Under 40 awards dinner,” Bilbrey said.
Bilbrey chose to attend HSSU because his good friend, Dan Parmeley, was a member of the baseball program and the tuition was affordable.
“I originally wanted to be a teacher so I could coach high school baseball,” Bilbrey said. “After a couple years, I realized my classroom was the baseball field; the college level was a better fit for me.”
Bilbrey said he and the baseball team dedicate some of their time to community service, working with the Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital each semester.
Nia Smith, African American Studies and AVID elective educator, will be among the 17 HSSU alumni to receive the 2019 Outstanding Alumni Leader Under 40 award. She attended HSSU from 2005-2010, earning her BS in Secondary Education.
“Harris-Stowe gave us ample knowledge and showed me how to do my job effectively,” Smith said. “When I graduated, I already had my foot in the door, in addition to knowing how to run my own classroom. Harris-Stowe placed me in a teaching position before I graduated. This institution has been instrumental in me getting a job in my degree field.”
Outside of the classroom, Smith does community service work, including coaching step teams, conducting a summer reading program, doing philanthropic work through her sorority and being the youth advisor to the Archonettes, where she mentors high school-aged girls. She also sponsors the 8th grade college tour at Riverview Gardens Middle School.
Kalifa Gray, senior financial analyst and accountant at the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, is another alumnus receiving the 2019 Under 40 award. He graduated from Harris-Stowe with his BA of Science and Accounting in 2009.
“I chose to attend HSSU because it was a HBCU,” Gray said. “I wanted to have a college experience where I felt I could identify with the faculty and staff.”
Gray is now a leader in the St. Louis area with an extensive list of community service projects and programs. He has been involved in back-to-school programs for the past 14 years and in mentorship programs at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis, Urban Future, the 100 Black Men, Collegiate 100, Arches and Vashon High School.
The HSSU alumni who will receive a 2019 Outstanding Alumni Leader Under 40 award are JaNae’ L. Alfred (’08), Ashley Byington ’13, David Estes (’08), Kalifa Gray ’09, Rashidah Ivory (’12), Quinton R. Jackson (posthumously, ’12), Jazzmine Nolan (’16), Cornelius Robinson (’12), Stacy L. Shaw (’06), Nia Smith (’10), Brianna Taylor (’15), Jonathan Thomas (’11), William Brion Floyd Whigham (’12), Roy Whitley (’14), Ribbon Williams (’16), Sir Ervin Williams III (’15) and Aaron Willis (’05).
For tickets, visit hssu40award.eventbrite.com.