Celebrating Gilman’s First Black Alumni

A weekend that has been 50 years in the making took place in October 2018: the commemoration of the first black students to graduate from Gilman in 1968, and a celebration of the more than 480 black alumni who have followed. 

A tireless committee, chaired by Marcus Simms ’95 and Karlo Young ’97, began planning almost two years ago for a special weekend commemorating the 50th anniversary of Gilman’s first four black graduates – David Robinson '68, Stuart Simms '68, Willard Wiggins '68, and the late Greg Emery '68 – and recognizing other trailblazing students, faculty, administrators, and parents. 

Friday’s schedule opened with town hall-style assemblies for Middle and Upper School students, the latter featuring a panel discussion emceed by Gerard “Rock” Harrison ‘93 and including former Assistant Headmaster Dr. Mercer Neale, long-time faculty member Dan Christian, Dave Irwin ‘66, former Athletic Director Sherm Bristow ‘67, and Simms and Wiggins. That afternoon, current students led alumni on campus tours. In the evening more than 225 alumni, faculty members, and guests gathered at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History & Culture for a festive welcome reception. 

Saturday morning kicked off with a mentoring event, allowing alums to connect with current students in an intimate and productive setting. Sessions included Cool CareersEntrepreneurshipManaging Your Network, and Drone Camp, and were led by alums including Geoff Berry ‘92, Austin Brown ‘05, Khalil Uqdah ‘06, and Terrance Whitehead ‘95. Saturday afternoon brought a varsity football game against Loyola. Simms and Wiggins, both former football players themselves, served as honorary captains before the game. Unfortunately, the Dons topped the Greyhounds 7-6.

The weekend’s marquee event – a Recognition Banquet – was held on Saturday night in the Redmond C. S. Finney Athletic Center, which had been transformed into a dazzling party venue, and was filled with number of touching moments as well as a few tears. A cocktail reception preceded the formal banquet and included a special recognition – and happy birthday song – to Reddy Finney ‘47. Harrison again emceed the formal banquet, which included the premier of a video documenting the early years of Gilman’s integration and an award presentation to each of the evening’s honorees:

  • Trailblazing students: Greg Emery; David Robinson; Stuart Simms; Willard Wiggins
  • Trailblazing parents: Anne Emery; Clarence and Louise Simms
  • Trailblazing teachers, coaches, and administrators: Reddy Finney; Bill Greene; Joe Duncan; Johnnie Foreman; Tim Holley ‘77

The celebration concluded on Sunday with a church service at Heritage United Church of Christ. Malcolm Ruff '02 dazzled the crowd's ears with song, and Rev. Chaz Howard '96 filled its souls with timely and insightful words of hope and purpose.

Throughout the weekend, more than 160 alumni spanning six decades came from across the country and as far away as Africa and London, returning to campus to reconnect, celebrate, and participate in the festivities. 

In conjunction with the weekend, black alumni, led by Eric Bryant ’88 and Malcolm Ruff, established the William A. Greene, Jr. Endowed Scholarship Fund, in honor of Gilman’s first black faculty member. It has far exceeded their initial goal of $100,000. The fund has raised more than $161,000 to date, and has set a new target of 50% participation by black alumni.