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Celebrating the Majesty of The Mecca at the 100th Charter Day Dinner

Howard University community alumni and guests attended the centennial charter day celebration which serves as the University’s largest fundraising event for scholarships. Two alumni receive postgraduate achievement awards.

by Amber D. Dodd
Howard University President Ben Vinson III chats with student attendees during the 100th Charter Day Dinner. (Source: Howard University)

Howard University President Ben Vinson III chats with student attendees during the 100th Charter Day Dinner. (Source: Howard University)

To honor Howard University’s chartering on March 2, 1867, more than 1,000 guests of the Howard University community gathered at the Marquis Marriott in downtown Washington, D.C. to honor the institution’s founding on March 2. 

Comedian and actor Anthony Anderson (BFA ’22) served as the event emcee and singer and alumnus Kenny Lattimore served as the entertainment.  

Anderson brought party atmosphere to a purposeful night: singing with the jazz violinist’s instrumentals of popular ’90s R&B songs and encouraging an impromptu dance break as hundreds of guests gathered on the dance floor after their three-course meals before the alumni award presentation. 

There are more moments like this to come as we bathe in the majesty of The Mecca.” - President Ben Vinson III, Ph.D.

Anderson came to Howard in 1988, but didn’t finish due to a lack of funds to pay for tuition. In 2022, he returned to complete his matriculation at Howard.  

“I had every intention of returning back to campus to get my degree,” Anderson said in his opening remarks. “Some of the best memories of my life were here in Washington D.C. on the campus of Howard University. This place is near and dear to my heart.” 

Anderson’s 34-year process of earning his degree embodies the Charter Day Dinner’s purpose. It is Howard’s primary fundraising event to provide scholarships to students who struggle to pay for school and further their education.  

Anthony Anderson served as the master of ceremonies for the 100th Charter Day Dinner. (Source: Howard University)

In a video, three recipients of scholarships made possible by funds raised at past Charter Day Dinners spoke of their gratitude to the donors who secured the path to their educational pursuits.   

“We say thank you to the generous support of our alumni and friends of the University,” senior Monica Moore said in the video. “I am able to continue my studies and pour back into the University, living up to our motto of truth and service.” 

While the night highlighted the Charter Day Dinner’s centennial celebration, it completed Howard University President Ben Vinson III’s first of Charter Day festivities. Officially inaugurated as the University’s 18th president on November 3, 2023, Vinson admired the Bison pride to honor and celebrate Howard’s founding and legacy. Vinson reflected on the message shared by the 157th Charter Day orator, Michael Winston, Ph.D. (B.A. ’62), the founding director of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center and former University administrator, calling it “powerful and profound.”  

 “I understand why you come back, why we revere these grounds, and why we draw strength from each other and why we shine bright for the world, and why we are unique,” Vinson said during his closing remarks. “There are more moments like this to come as we bathe in the majesty of The Mecca.”

President Ben Vinson III, PhD, addresses the charter day centennial crowd.

President Ben Vinson III, Ph.D., addresses the Charter Day centennial audience. (Source: Howard University)

funds raised at the 100th Charter Day Dinner (Department of Alumni Relations)


Honoring the 2024 Alumni Achievement Award Recipients 

Three-time graduate and Detroit native Andrae Townesl accepts his award for the 2024 Alumni Achievement Award. (Source: Howard University)
Three-time graduate and Detroit native Andrae Townsel accepts his award for the 2024 Alumni Achievement Award. (Source: Howard University)


Suzanne Marie Randolph Cunningham, Ph.D. (B.A. ’74) and Andrae Townsel (B.S. ’07, M.Ed. ’09, Ed.D. ’15) were honored as the 2024 Alumni Achievement Award recipients. Earning the award in psychology and public health, Randolph Cunningham’s work specializes in psychology and family science.  

Randolph Cunningham’s groundbreaking work in Washington D.C.’s communities on Black infant attachments to their mothers during the crack epidemic, and her research on early childcare and youth development, would set forth a path on conducting research and creating curriculums throughout the public health landscape. 

“In my professional career, it’s always been something personal, something Howard and that personal connections that I made within those four years that has really catapulted me to where I am,” Randolph Cunningham said.  

Suzanne Marie Randolph Cunningham (BA ’74) accepts the 2024 Alumni Achievement Award for her work in Black child-mother dynamics during the crack epidemic. (Source: Howard University)
Suzanne Marie Randolph Cunningham (BA ’74) accepts the 2024 Alumni Achievement Award for her work in Black child-mother dynamics during the crack epidemic. (Source: Howard University)

A native of Detroit, Townsel uses his proud beginnings and personal philosophy of “set the bar, meet the bar, exceed the bar and raise the bar,” to inspire children throughout Maryland’s education system today.  

“I’ve shared with young people and adults and that’s really resonated with them,” Townsel said. “If you’re getting 1% better over time, you’re going to look back and see how far you’ve come.” 

Robert Parker was honored as this year’s LaRue V. Barkwell Capstone Service Award honoree at the Charter Day Dinner. For 24 years, Parker’s work of managing Howard’s campus entities has ensured the safety and security of the campus community. 

“We have a lot of different people who make this the best University, I’m just here to make it safe,” said Parker, a former U.S. Marine whose daughter, Aisha, is currently a freshman at Howard. 

Howard University attendees are welcomed into the Marquis Marriott Hotel where the 100th Charter Day was held.
Howard students pose together before entering the 100th Charter Day Dinner celebration at the Marriot Marquis Hotel. (Source: Howard University)

Enriching Today’s Bison: Moving Howard’s Legacy Forward 

As Charter Day coincides with the annual University’s Alternative Spring Break (HUASB) service project, student attendance was sparse. However, the 2023-2024 Mr. Howard University Mahlon West and Miss Howard University Armaní Washington represented the student body at the dinner. 

“It’s not just with our alum or the trailblazers before us…our work on campus right now is putting forth for the next generations,” Washington said. “People are coming back because they’re seeing a form of power, of excellence still breathing at Howard University.” 

The royal pair agreed that Charter Day represented the historic perseverance and passions of the University’s community, as thousands of alumni returning for Charter Day festivities exemplify the “lifelong experience” of being part of the Bison community.  

“It strengthens that legacy, the pride that we have in our school and I’m glad to be represented as a leader of our student body amongst the next leaders of this generation and generations to come,” West said.  

Alumnus Kenny Lattimore served as Charter Day Dinner’s entertainment. Before singing his hit Grammy-nominated ballad, “For You,” Lattimore reflected on his time at Howard. “For You” is a single from his self-titled debut album released in 1997 after his departure from The Mecca. 

“What I loved about Howard was the nurturing and seeing young people of color from all over the diaspora excelling in excellence,” Lattimore said before performing. Lattimore was an architectural planning student and received the Alumni Award for Distinguished Postgraduate Achievement in 2006. 

To close the night, Vinson recalled the Charter Day festivities of 1924 in archives written by Emma Rose (B.A. ’16) in The Howard Alumnus. Rose reviewed the dinner under its former name, Alumni-Senior Charter Day Dinner. Vinson found similarities, a heritage of excellence and inspiration, in the storied nights that fell 100 years apart. 

“With an end to the feasting and good-natured chaffing rose the sounds of the alma mater, classmates mingled with laughter and nimble feet responded to the enchanting music and happy hearts and voices made the walls ring in adoration,” Vinson read.  

“As we prepare to bring tonight’s dinner to a close, keep in mind a hundred years may have passed, but the Bison spirit remains alive. I sincerely hope you all have felt the Bison spirit that has and continues to imbue these annual proceedings.”  


From the dance floor to the revolving photobooth, take a look at a few of the sights and sounds of the 100th Charter Day Dinner! (Source: Howard University).

This story appears in the Spring/ Summer 2024 issue.
Article ID: 2096

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