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Alumni organization celebrates African American student achievement at IUPUI and IU

April 22, 2014

Louise Goggans finds herself in a unique position these days: as the president of the Neal-Marshall Indianapolis Alumni Chapter, she oversees an organization that helps celebrate the history of both Indiana University and of IUPUI.

Members of the Neal-Marshall Indianapolis Alumni Chapter on hand to honor IUPUI visiting speaker Jasmine Guy included, from left, Vernon Williams, Ophelia Wellington, Henry Lane, Ellen Lane, Louise Goggans, actress Jasmine Guy, LaTika Webster, Trevor Black, Linda Quarles and Matthew Steward.

But Goggans, who was a part of that history herself after earning a master’s degree from the IU School of Education and a doctorate of medical sciences degree from the IU School of Medicine, knows that the Neal-Marshall Alumni Club -- named for the first African American male and female graduates from Indiana University, Marcellus Neal (BA 1895) and Frances Marshall-Eagleson (BA 1919) -- also represents the history of achievement for African American students at both IU and IUPUI throughout the university’s history.

Indianapolis is one of four chapters affiliated with the Neal Marshall Alumni Club. Other chapters are located in northwest Indiana and the Michiana and Kentuckiana areas.

The club officially was chartered in 1981 by the IU Alumni Association as an affiliate and has 1,443 paid members who participate in such traditions as a commencement celebration for African American students (scheduled this year for May 8) and the annual Jazz Brunch during Indianapolis’ Black Expo-Summer Celebration (on July 19).

For Goggans, those two events are highlights for the organization. But another tradition, the Steward Speaker Series, also is a feature.

“In that event, national figures come to Indianapolis so that local students and alumni can be exposed and inspired by these individuals,” said Goggans. This year’s series, for instance, included former retired general and former secretary of state Colin Powell, who appeared in a sold-out event.

Such events highlight the club's mission to address the needs of African American students, faculty and staff, as well as to promote the awareness of the history, traditions and legacy of African Americans at IU.

Strong community ties are a longstanding Neal-Marshall tradition, Goggans noted. Before the club officially was formed, for example, IU alumni decided they wanted to have a reunion with former IU classmates. Organizers in 1978 hoped the first reunion would draw as many as 100 people; in the end, more than 450 alumni showed up at the event.

That success led to a second reunion a year later; event planners had hopes of a solid Sunday morning crowd for an indoor meeting. Instead, so many people showed up that the event had to be moved outdoors and encouraged those attending to officially launch the Neal-Marshall Alumni Club as an IU resource.

Celebrations and social events are worthwhile activities, Goggans noted, but the day-to-day support Neal-Marshall offers to students is vital, too.

“Social activities interest students, but our mentoring services and assistance with internships help them get jobs after they graduate,” Goggans said.

The Indianapolis chapter also offers scholarships; sponsors alumni events, reunions and meetings; and assists with student recruiting, she added. Goggans also pointed out the ongoing ability of Neal-Marshall Indianapolis to bring IUPUI’s African American graduates to monthly networking events with the city’s business owners and other potential employers as a “terrific networking opportunity.”

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