*In 1990, Dwight C. Johnson, PhD (B.I.D. ’72) founded the Black Alumni of Pratt (BAP) with a small group of proud and determined students to identify and advance scholastic and professional opportunities for Pratt Institute students and alumni of African and Latino descent.
Since its inception BAP initiatives have included high school career days; high school summer scholarship program; history/herstory holiday parties; and “celebration of the creative spirit” scholarship fundraisers.
Today, BAP, under Johnson’s tutelage, has evolved into a tight knit village of alumni, friends, and corporations, who have accomplished: $2.2 million dollars in stipends and scholarship funds (as of 3/10/10), $1.6 million in endowed scholarship fund, $193,000 in full-time scholarships and room and board for seniors, and $335,000 in stipends for materials and supplies.
Now some twenty years later Johnson is hanging up his top hat and moving on. Claudine Brown and Gerri Brown, both Pratt Institute alumnae, prepare for a transition with Denise Wiggins who will continue in her invaluable role as manager of special events.
On Wednesday, May 26, 2010, the illustrious BAP celebrated a milestone anniversary at an elegant evening of pageantry at The Four Seasons Restaurant on tony Park Avenue that was attended by 300 staunch supporters and raised more than $400,000.
The ambience of the room was breathtaking with soft lighting adding a glimmering glow. Each table contained fantastic designer centerpieces made up of BAP pencils and formed in the shape of a floral arrangement. Orchid floral arrangements placed around the room, created exclusively by the floral design company Color Of Magic, added to the room’s exotic mystique.
After an idyllic reception, guests took their seats for a three course dinner. During the break for the first course, jewelry designer Kenneth Jay Lane, made an announcement that floored guests. “When I was honored by Pratt, I gave nothing. I apologize. So, I would like to give $100,000 to the Black Alumni of Pratt.” The rich sound that followed was from the ladies clutching their pearls.
Cynthia and Dan Lufkin with Jane and David Walentas served as the evening’s co-chairs of the benefit dinner and Gayle Atkins Perkins and Malaak Compton-Rock served as vice chairs. ABC News correspondent Deborah Roberts and her husband, NBC weatherman Al Roker, served as the evening’s emcees.
The Honorable David N. Dinkins and his wife, Joyce, served as honorary patrons. Mica Ertegun, Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., Casey Ribicoff, Prudence Solomon Inzerillo and Julian Niccolini and Alex von Bidder of The Four Seasons Restaurant were honorary patrons.
During the “celebration of the creative spirit,” the distinguished patron of the arts award was presented to Annette de la Renta by her husband, Oscar de la Renta; creative spirit awards were presented to Lee Daniels by Grace Hightower, and Naeem Khan and Ranjana Khan by Linda Fargo.
The distinguished alumna award was presented to Marisa Acocella Marchetto by Cynthia Lufkin. The pinnacle alumni in art & design award were presented to Peter Max by President Bill Clinton through a video presentation assisted by Dr. Thomas F. Schutte, president of Pratt Institute.
Proceeds from the annual dinner support BAP initiatives as well as scholarships for Pratt Institute students of African and Latino descent. Since its founding in 1990, BAP has enabled thousands of young men and women to pursue their educational and creative dreams.
Guests departed the event with gift bags containing a beautiful 20th anniversary commemorative journal. “This journal is a testament of how a small humble group of talented, determined alumni and friends have expressed their appreciation for Pratt Institute,” said Johnson. (Photos by Crystal Cotton)
Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.