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Clarence W. Boone
IU Alumni Association

George Vlahakis
University Communications

Last modified: Tuesday, October 6, 2009

IU Neal-Marshall Alumni Club reunion at Indianapolis to feature Tavis Smiley, four days of events

Oct. 6, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Nearly 30 years after its founding, an alumni organization that helps to steward Indiana University's African American legacy has planned a major celebration and reunion Oct. 29-Nov. 1 in Indianapolis.

Among the highlights of the 19th reunion of the Neal-Marshall Alumni Club will be an empowerment workshop with popular radio and television personality, author and IU alumnus Tavis Smiley, and a gospel concert by IU alumnus Dr. Leonard Scott and fellow Tyscot recording artists Nu Tradition. In addition, there will be a performance of selected scenes from the play, "sonnets for my sistahs," written by another IU alumnus, Vernon Williams.

Most of the reunion events will take place at the University Place Conference Center, on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. The club, which includes African American alumni from all eight IU campuses, has a reunion every two years, and this year opted to expand it to four days of activities.

Registration is $150 for all four-days. However, the fee is discounted to $125 for those who register online at, (university faculty and staff pay $100 if they register online). The cost for Thursday only is $25; Friday only, $35; and Saturday only, $100. Sunday's gospel concert is free and open to the public.

""The club is extremely important. When you go back to the founding members and the reason it was founded, it's an opportunity to help our graduates reconnect with the university, to stay active and stay involved," Jerrol Z. Miles, national president of the Neal-Marshall Alumni Club and a banker based in Louisville, said of the organization. "It's also an opportunity to keep in the forefront the contributions of African Americans at IU."

Prior to 1980, African American graduates of IU had few formal ways to stay in touch with each other or their alma mater. That year, 10 founding members created the affiliate club of the IU Alumni Association as a way to increase African American participation in local and national IU alumni groups.

Today, its mission includes addressing the needs of black students, faculty and staff, as well promoting awareness of the history, traditions and legacy of African Americans at IU. The club will release at the reunion a new hard-bound, international membership directory of its 22,000 alumni.

The club is named for IU's first African American male and female graduates of Indiana University, Marcellus Neal, who received a bachelor of arts degree in 1895, and Frances Marshall, who received a bachelor of arts degree in 1919.

Bishop Leonard Scott

IU alumnus Dr. Leonard Scott, a dentist and recording artist, will perform.

"Since its inception in 1981 (when the club was chartered), the Neal-Marshall Alumni Club has exemplified the resilient spirit and legacy of its two pioneering founders, Marcellus Neal and Frances Marshall. The club supplies a successful means to engage alumni with their alma mater," said Tom Martz, president and chief executive officer of the IU Alumni Association. "Neal-Marshall Reunion XIX will contain exciting programs and events to suit everyone, and will provide an opportunity to reminisce and share exciting news, achievements and milestones."

The Neal-Marshall Alumni Club has chapters in Atlanta, Louisville/New Albany, northwest Indiana, South Bend and its newest chapter, in Indianapolis. New chapters are being organized in Bloomington, Kokomo and Washington, D.C.

Despite his many professional activities, Smiley has maintained close ties to IU and returned on several occasions for major campus events. He has served as grand marshal at homecoming and as a commencement speaker.

"Reunions are always a great opportunity for socializing and camaraderie. The Neal-Marshall reunion will be all that and more this year. It's a party with a purpose," added Smiley, who earned a degree from IU in public and environmental affairs and received a a Doctor of Humane Letters degree from IU Kokomo.

With his late night television talk show, "Tavis Smiley," and his radio show "The Tavis Smiley Show," Smiley was the first American ever to simultaneously host signature talk shows on both PBS and National Public Radio. "The Tavis Smiley Show" on public radio is now distributed by Public Radio International (PRI). He also offers political commentary on the "Tom Joyner Morning Show," "Meet the Press" and other programs.

He is the author or editor of a dozen 11 books, including his latest, Accountable: Making America as Good as Its Promise (Atria, 2009); What I Know for Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America (Doubleday, 2006); and Keeping the Faith: Stories of Love, Courage, Healing and Hope from Black America (Doubleday, 2002), a collection of narratives about love, loss and faith by African Americans from all walks of life.

Nu Tradition

Nu Tradition

Smiley also is the founder of the Tavis Smiley Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to encourage, empower and enlighten black youth. Youth to Leaders, the cornerstone program of the foundation, is an annual series of one-day leadership-building conferences that take place in cities across the United States.

Other reunion events will include a performance of "sonnets for my sistahs" Thursday evening at the Indiana Historical Society, 450 W. Ohio St., including a reception with cast and crew to follow. Friday's activities will include "Jazz on the Avenue: Harvey and the Bluetones," at the Madame Walker Theatre Center, 617 Indiana Ave., a concert and dinner buffet.

On Saturday, in addition to Smiley's breakfast presentation, there will be breakout sessions to discuss empowerment, IUPUI campus tours, a performance by the McCutchen and Mahluli Jazz Quartet and a banquet.

Sunday activities will include an ecumenical worship service and "Gospel Explosion," featuring Scott, a graduate of the IU School of Dentistry and founder and president of the nation's oldest black-owned gospel recording company, Tyscot Inc. Tyscot has been home to John P. Kee and The New Life Community Choir, Deitrick and Damita Haddon and Bishop Noel Jones and City of Refuge. Scott will perform with Austin Moore and his choir Nu Tradition.

For more information, contact the IU Neal-Marshall Alumni Club at or 800-824-3044.