Alumni Volunteer Spotlight: Andrea Hargrave '97
By Elizabeth M. Weinstein ’02
Andrea Hargrave ’97, Affiliate Group Representative
Photo by John Seyfried
Q: What is the history and mission of Oberlin Alumni Association of African Ancestry?
A: Oberlin Alumni Association of African Ancestry (OA4) was chartered as an affiliate group of the Oberlin Alumni Association in September 1997. Before that, the group was known as the African American Alumni Committee, which began in 1987. All graduates of African descent are included in the membership. There are currently more than 3,000 members, and OA4 welcomes interest and input from the entire Oberlin College community. The mission of OA4 is to provide varied and numerous contributions to support the Oberlin Alumni Association’s mission and objectives, fostering a lifelong connection with the college. Our activities include programming to connect alumni, foster consistent financial support, and assist current students. We are particularly interested in helping students, who will become future members of the organization, maximize their Oberlin experience. OA4 also provides opportunities for its membership to network via the Internet and reunions, and by supporting regional programs.
Q: How did you come to be an active member in OA4?
A: I was attending Alumni Council Weekend for admissions committee meetings and was recruited by some of the OA4 members I met during a reunion when I was a student. That year, I participated in meetings for both OA4 and the 1835 Fund Committee. That was about eight years ago, and I’ve been involved ever since, assuming the leadership role after the 2006 reunion.
Q: What does being an affiliate group representative for OA4 entail, and what has the position meant to you?
A: Affiliate groups provide additional ways for Oberlin alumni to connect with communities that they may have been involved with or associated with when they were students on campus. The programming and connections we create support both the Alumni Association goals and students. As president of OA4, I consider myself a custodian of deep traditions for the college, and a catalyst for stimulating a new level of relationships and connections among the broader college community.
Q: What should people know about the upcoming reunion?
A: The 2010 OA4 reunion, to be held October 8 to 10, is particularly special. The theme is "Since 1835: Building on Our Legacy; Celebrating 175 Years of African-American Heritage at Oberlin College." We are compiling stories and artifacts from many alumni, to be shared at the reunion, and will commemorate our varied and shared experiences with stimulating alumni panels and performances. Additionally, all registrants will receive a copy of a book written by retired college archivist Roland Baumann, which will enhance our understanding of Oberlin’s history of providing educational opportunities to black people. There also are many past and present members of the faculty, administration, and Oberlin community who have embraced and sustained African American students throughout the years, and we are inviting them to join in the festivities. There were 200 attendees at the last reunion, and we’re expecting that many or more for this one. The timing is also enhanced by the Oberlin Hymn Festival, which is honoring and spotlighting OA4 member Rev. Nolan Williams '90. There will be some joint programming with the festival.
Q: In what ways has Oberlin (and its alumni) changed since you graduated?
A: I believe that the best things about Oberlin have remained consistent throughout the years, which is the primary reason I stay involved. The passion for intellectual development inside and outside of the classroom, dedication to social justice, and outlets for diverse creativity have remained fundamental, from what I can tell when interacting with current students. The packaging changes over the years, with a balance of being leading edge and reflective of the hot social topics of the day (like our comprehensive environmental research, education, and campus initiatives). What’s magical about Oberlin alumni is that the connection with the college rings true across the decades. And we’re pretty nimble when it comes to embracing change, especially when we see that change being channeled by students who remind of us of ourselves when we were on campus.
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