Mr. Alumni encourages young alumni to ’make a difference’
You might say it was a long stroll down the royal blue carpet but Nathaniel Grant Jr., declares he was honored to finally sit in the seat reserved for “Mr. Alumni.”
On October 15, the names of 14 contestants and escorts were recited during the opening session of the annual alumni coronation. The ceremony showcases alumni who raised the most money for the university over the last year. The National Alumni Association president, Dr. Jeanette Evans, challenged every alumni chapter to send a candidate. Grant was the last to walk the carpet and he was crowned “Mr. Alumni.” He was pleased to complete the fundraising contest that yielded $100,000 in support of ECSU. Contestants worked much of the last year taking pledges and collecting donations from family, friends, alumni and more to vie for the top three spots in the contest. Grant says he couldn’t have run a successful campaign without the help of generous contributors.
“I received donations from people I’ve known for years. Some were people I knew 30 years ago when I worked in the Connecticut school system. In addition to donations I held three fundraisers to reach a personal fundraising total of $14,700.”
Grant admits he was reluctant to become a candidate. Ultimately, he recalled the importance of the contest-- raising scholarship funds. If anyone could realize the importance of scholarships, this 1968 graduate could. He first arrived on campus of ECSU as a student in 1960. As the oldest of 15, he was the first to enter college and could only afford a small course load. He would complete a semester then take off the next to earn money for the following semester. Since he wasn’t a full-time student, he was drafted into the military during one of those enrollment gaps. As a clerk in the U.S. Army, he typed numerous notices to inform other Black males that they had been drafted and ordered to Vietnam. He said it was common to meet men in his age group whose education was interrupted by military duty. Eventually, funds from the G.I. Bill allowed him to return without worrying about tuition and book costs.
“When I returned there were more buildings on campus and about seven veterans. I was one of the few students who had a car. Even though the government funds were better than nothing, we had to stretch those dollars and share the cost of gas if we traveled to events at other Black universities,”
Grant said, “After graduating, I got involved with alumni chapters.”
Grant also worked as a teacher, assistant principal and principal in Connecticut. He founded a New England alumni chapter and volunteered steadily in alumni chapters after returning to North Carolina in 1999 to retire. Over the years, he played in golf tournaments to help the university earn scholarship funds and supported other fundraisers. He encourages young alumni to get involved and join the older alumni who have been faithful for decades.
“I am proud to represent my graduating class and the students who graduated in the 60’s,” Grant said. “I suspect we will see future growth in metro area alumni chapters because that’s where the jobs are. We tell all the young alumni, come on in and bring a friend. You can make a difference.”
The 2016 Royal Alumni Court included:
Barbara White, first runner-up from the Washington, D.C. Metro Chapter
Melrese Barnes, second runner-up from the William T. Bowser Alumni Chapter
Linda Peele, third runner-up from the Bertie County Alumni Chapter
Timothy Rodgers, fourth runner-up, from the Peninsula Alumni Chapter
Donna Pierce, fourth runner-up from the Eva J. Lewis Alumni Chapter