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UF celebrates dreams fulfilled

Black alumni association looks back on how far they’ve come

Ashley Montgomery | 10/31/2013, 9 a.m.
The University of Florida’s [UF] Association of Black alumni hosted its annual Black alumni weekend to celebrate the 50th year ...

The University of Florida’s [UF] Association of Black alumni hosted its annual Black alumni weekend to celebrate the 50th year of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The theme for the celebration was “Gator Nation: Celebrating Dream Fulfilled”, according to their press release.

“About 200 alums came back to Gainesville for this weekends events,” said Terry Nealy, president of the Black alumni association. “It was a lot different this year than any other year, thematically because its centered around Dr. King’s dream.”

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Attendees enjoying the weekend-long events at the University of Florida Association of Black Alumni’s Black Alumni Weekend.

During the weekend’s festivities, 13 “Gator Pioneers” were invited back to UF to be honored by the association of Black alumni, a program that was started last year.

“The criteria is that you have had to have made a significant impact on UF, or have excelled in your professional career,” Nealy said.

The Gator pioneers were honored during a banquet hall that at the UF Hilton Conference Center. UF President Bernie Machen spoke at the ceremony.

A champagne brunch and MLK Symposium was held during the weekend, followed by UF Alumni Athlete Recognition Program at the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Christian Taylor, gold medalist in the triple jump at the 2012 London Olympics was among those recognized and selected to be a Gator pioneer. Taylor was the first person from UF track and field to individually win a medal in an Olympic event.

Taylor said that it was a little weird for him to be selected as a Gator pioneer.

“I’m looking at the list of actual pioneers. . . people that have survived and gone through so much adversity to get to this stage, and for me I’m just here because I can jump far,” Taylor said.  “It was an honor to be in this group and share this moment with my family,” he said.

Other Gator Pioneers that were honored included Dr. Earl Cotman, who graduated from the UF College of Medicine in 1970 when the university was all-white; Marvin Wells, who was the first Black at UF to earn his degree in dentistry; and Doug Dickey, former UF head coach who was also the university’s first Black quarterback.