Black History Month


UC Alumni Association Celebrates Black History Month

From the day in the early 1870s when William Parham enrolled in the law school at Cincinnati College (which would eventually become the University of Cincinnati) and became the institution’s first Black student, the African American experience at UC has been both extraordinarily challenging and extremely rewarding.

In recognition of this ongoing journey, the indomitable spirit behind it, and the incredible contributions of the Black UC family over the past 150 years, the UC Alumni Association is proud to celebrate Black History Month. The UC Alumni Association plays an active role in helping to share and honor the Black UC story while connecting alumni to their alma mater. This work enriches their lives as Bearcats and helps foster an environment in which future generations of Black students and alumni might thrive.

Each February, we gather to pay tribute to our past, salute excellence and achievement within the Black UC family, and rejoice in the progress yet to come. Below are some of the signature events and engagement opportunities throughout UC’s Black History Month celebration.

Black History Month Events

10th Onyx & Ruby Gala
The Onyx & Ruby Gala recognizes the achievements of African American alumni, faculty, staff and students at the University of Cincinnati. This elegant evening is one of the UC Alumni Association’s largest and most joyous events each year.

Each year, the University of Cincinnati curates a web page with many Black History Month events sponsored by campus organizations and departments. 

Snapshots of Black UC Excellence

These Bearcats constitute just a few of the countless alumni who continue to collectively write the Black UC success story.

Tianay Amat headshot

Tianay Amat, CEAS ’03, is the President/CEO of Cincinnati Works, a nonprofit dedicated to alleviating poverty, strengthening the workforce, and fostering economic progress in Greater Cincinnati. She previously served as Cincinnati Public Schools’ Deputy and Interim Superintendent.

Patrice Barnes headshot

Patrice Barnes, A&S ’11, is an engineering recruiter at Bloomberg, where she focuses on diversity and inclusion including recruitment at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. She established the Patrice N. Barnes Legacy Scholarship Fund for UC’s College of Arts and Sciences students, prioritizing first-generation students and those with financial need.

Keith Boswell headshot

Keith Boswell, CEAS ’77, received the 2023 Herman Schneider Distinguished Alumni Award from the College of Engineering and Applied Science. During his successful career with Caterpillar, Inc., he was committed to excellence and innovation. While at UC, he founded the National Society of Black Engineers.

Aharon Brown headshot

Aharon Brown, DAAP ’19, made history as the youngest mayor of Forest Park, Hamilton County's second-largest city.

Ronay Lyons headshot

Ronay Lyons, Med ’22, is a first-generation college graduate and the first success coach for the College of Allied Health Sciences (CAHS). In this role, she connects CAHS students with resources and support services while also helping students from underrepresented populations.

Michael Moore

Michael Moore, CEAS ’96, is the founder, CEO and president of the non-profit professional networking association Black Achievers, and author of the book Achieve Your Dreams: The 9 Principles of African American Success. He was recognized in the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s Making Black History celebration of seven Black leaders living, working and building legacies in the region.

Whitney Gaskins, PhD

Whitney Gaskins, PhD, CEAS ’08, ‘14, Bus ’10, is UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science Assistant Dean for Inclusive Excellence & Community Engagement. She started the Gaskins Foundation, a non-profit organization that increases STEM education opportunities for K-12 students of all backgrounds. In 2022, she was honored with the Women Who Mean Business Award by the Cincinnati Business Courier and selected as a fellow by Leadership Ohio, a statewide leadership development program.

Cheryl Grant Headshot

Cheryl Grant, A&S ’66, Law ’73, built an impressive career in the continuous pursuit of a more just community. A social worker, Cincinnati police officer, aide to a Congressional representative, entrepreneur, 20-year judge on the Hamilton County Municipal Court, minister, and lifetime champion of justice, fairness and freedom, Judge Grant was the recipient of the 2023 Linda Bates Parker Legend Award.

Cynthia Johnson

Cynthia Johnson, Pharm ’18, demonstrates UC’s entrepreneurial spirit through Cindy J Cosmetic Labs, the company and formulation laboratory she founded to help cosmetic business owners start their own product lines in hair care, skin care, men’s care, baby care, and bath and body care.


Julius Wayne Dudley, PhD, A&S ’79, is above all else a champion of education and literacy, and their immense power to change lives. Through his efforts and influence, organizations and initiatives with which he’s been involved have sent more than 4 million books to citizens on the African continent.


Annette Echikunwoke, A&S ’18, became UC’s fifth individual national collegiate champion when she won the NCAA Indoor Track and Field title in the weight throw in 2017. She was a member of the Nigerian Olympic Team for the 2021 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.


Lewis Johnson, A&S ’86, Hon ’17, has been one of the country’s most respected sports reporters for decades. Widely known and respected for his Olympic Games coverage, he currently provides color commentary of both track and field and college football for NBC and ESPN.


Rashida Manuel, A&S ’12, has carried a personal passion for community service and social involvement from an early age; the opportunity to help others simply spoke to her. Two areas of focus have been the work of the Ohio Innocence Project, which seeks to exonerate unfairly imprisoned individuals, and the interrelated issues of sustainability and environmentalism.


Laurence Jones, III, BUS ’00, is president of RiskVersity, a consulting firm that helps business clients with various aspects of risk management. He has also been an ardent supporter of others in the Black tech entrepreneurial space. A long-time UC Alumni Association volunteer leader, he is also a member of the UC Foundation Board of Trustees.


Stephanie A. Smith, DAAP ’87, is Fifth Third Bank’s senior vice president and chief inclusion and diversity officer. Through her work in these and other positions, she has led enormous growth in Fifth Third’s performance and become known herself as one of the “Top 25 Women in Power Impacting Diversity.”

Dr. P. Eric Abercrumbie

P. Eric Abercrumbie, PhD, A&S ’87, served as an inspirational father figure and mentor to generations of African American students who came through UC for decades — a virtual personification of the African American Culture & Resource Center he helped to establish. His influence on campus and among the Black UC community will continue for years to come.


Rear Admiral Deborah Hopson, PhD, NUR ’77, served over three decades in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHSCC) and led an international HIV/AIDS program. She was the first Black nurse to achieve the rank of Rear Admiral in the PHSCC and had numerous accolades that stemmed directly from her decision to pursue nursing at UC.

Linwood Marshall

Linwood Marshall, ASC ’82, credits his success in life to being a multi-year captain on the UC football team during the early 1980s. To help other Bearcats benefit from a UC education and football experience, he and his late wife made a planned gift to support the UC Football Development Fund.


Jordan Thompson, CECH ’18, ’20, is the more decorated volleyball player in UC history. A two-time All-American, she has been a member of the U.S. Women’s Volleyball Team since 2019, bursting onto the international scene in competition leading up to, and including, the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2021. She is currently an outstanding professional player in Turkey.


Kathleen Battle, CCM ’70, ’71, Hon ’83, is a Grammy and Emmy Award-winning operatic soprano who performed with the Metropolitan Opera for many years. Best known for her distinctive vocal range and tone, she was described by Time Magazine as “the best lyric coloratura soprano in the world.”


Katrina Merriweather, A&S ’01, CECH ’02, is head coach of the UC women’s basketball team, returning to her alma mater in 2023 following successful stints at the University of Memphis and Wright State University. A rising star in the coaching profession, she was UC’s first women’s basketball player to advance to four consecutive postseason tournaments.


Beverly Malone, PhD, NUR ’70, A&S ’82, Hon ’15, is a long-time, widely respected leader in the nursing field, most notably through her current role as CEO of the National League for Nursing and as deputy assistant secretary for health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the 1990s.


Paula Lampley, LAW ’92, is the Women in Engineering director in UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, leading the colleges recruiting, retention and development of female engineering students. She has long championed efforts to help girls chart educational and career paths in the STEAM fields (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics).

Nominate a Bearcat

Nominate a Bearcat alumnus for a future heritage or awareness month Alumni Spotlight. 

About 4A

The African American Alumni Affiliate (4A) has served the university’s Black alumni for more than two decades, creating a range of opportunities for meaningful connection with their alma mater, current students and each other. Vibrant programs on and off campus, delivered in person and virtually, support 4A’s constituents in their professional development, community service, networking, student engagement, and philanthropic endeavors.

Ways to Be Involved and Make a Difference

Headshot of Maurice Stewart, A&S '16

Maurice Stewart, A&S '16

Director, Alumni Engagement, Inclusive Excellence