From left: Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson; Mervyn Jones II and his daughter, Stephanie; CWRU President Barbara R. Snyder; Linda Sharpe-Taylor, president of the African-American Alumni Association; and undergraduate student Makela Hayford, president of the African American Society and a member of #webelonghere, appeared at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Hall.
Homecoming and Reunion Celebration marks a jam-packed weekend filled with firsts
Case Western Reserve celebrated the naming of a new residence hall after one of its most accomplished alumnae Saturday as part of a homecoming and family weekend filled with firsts.
In addition to the ceremony honoring the late Congresswoman and two-time Case Western Reserve graduate Stephanie Tubbs Jones, the university marked the first time that athletics held its annual Spartan Hall of Fame induction ceremonies during homecoming. It also represented the inaugural edition of the School of Law’s alumni and faculty dinner at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the first time junior quarterback Rob Cuda passed for 340 yards in his university career.
Cuda’s wasn’t the only impressive number, though. A total of 3,735 people registered for the weekend’s event this year, an increase of nearly two-thirds over 2015. The figure for alumni attendees more than doubled compared to last year, while participation among families grew exponentially.
And what a weekend they had, including the historic recognition represented by the naming of the Stephanie Tubbs Jones residence hall. In addition to being the first African-American woman elected to Congress from Ohio, Tubbs Jones also was the first African-American woman to become an Ohio Common Pleas court judge and the first in the nation to become prosecutor in a major U.S. metropolitan area.
President Barbara R. Snyder, whose 2007 investiture featured Tubbs Jones as one of its main speakers, thanked the student group #webelonghere for recommending that the hall be named for the pioneering political leader.
“Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones was a dear friend to Case Western Reserve, to me and to so many of us here today,” President Snyder said. “She lived an extraordinary life and never shied from challenges.”
Makela Hayford, president of the African American Society and a member of #webelonghere, emphasized the collective efforts of #webelonghere in making the historic moment happen.
“We are so proud that this legacy is being shared with our campus community,” she said. “Representation matters. Stephanie Tubbs Jones—she’s my hero. … I don’t think Stephanie Tubbs Jones would want us to stop with this naming today.”
Linda Sharpe-Taylor (WRC ’78), president of the university’s African-American Alumni Association, cited Tubbs Jones’ activism as a student and as an advocate for Cleveland. She reminded listeners of the “Taft 8,” a group of female African-American students, including Tubbs Jones, who lived together on the second floor of the Taft residence hall.
As the other seven members listened, Sharpe-Taylor explained that Tubbs Jones pressed for the arrangement because she recognized the value of such proximity for mutual support and encouragement.
“Naming this building to honor Stephanie,” she said, “is an embodiment of CWRU taking steps to create future narrative of diversity and inclusion.”
Mayor Frank Jackson emphasized the encouragement and support she gave to him and other Cleveland leaders.
“She was always willing to guide you in the right direction,” Mayor Jackson said. “She was always a friend and someone you could depend on.”
Tubbs Jones’ son, Mervyn Jones II, reminded the audience that his family’s ties to the university dated well before his mother’s enrollment. His grandmother, for example, served as a cook for a fraternity in the Little Italy neighborhood. Later in the ceremony, his daughter, Stephanie, joined him on stage for the official ribbon-cutting.
“We have a community here of strong leadership,” Jones said. “We have titans in our neighborhoods and in our midst. We must continue to celebrate and commemorate.”
The weekend included much of both. On Friday afternoon, the Alumni Association honored six graduates as part of its annual Homecoming Luncheon. Two received the Distinguished Alumni Award: pioneering civil rights leader Fred Gray (LAW ’54, HON ’92) and philanthropist, entrepreneur and self-made billionaire Morton Mandel (HON ’07, CWR ’13).
That evening, Case Western Reserve’s athletic stars and supporters gathered to honor seven new inductees to the Spartan Club Hall of Fame, including James C. Wyant (CIT ’65), chair of the university’s board of trustees and lead donor for the Wyant Athletics and Wellness Center within the Village at 115. A 1965 graduate, Wyant earned eight varsity letters in cross country and track during his collegiate career, and went on to become a world-renowned optical scientist. The ceremony, which normally takes place in the spring, moved to homecoming to allow more alumni the chance to attend without having to make a second, separate visit.
By coming to campus for the Hall of Fame dinner Friday, attendees had the chance to see the Spartan football team defeat Thiel College 48-21 on the strength of quarterback Rob Cuda’s career-high 340 passing yards. Cuda also passed for two touchdowns and ran for three, while senior receiver Brendan Lynch came within four yards of breaking his own single-game receiving record, set earlier this season against Grove City College.
The law school followed thinking similar to athletics’ approach when it moved the date of its major annual alumni event to homecoming weekend, and the location to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The strategy proved extraordinarily successful, as the event surpassed all previous attendance records by a significant margin.
To see highlights from homecoming weekend, visit case.edu/alumni to see a stream of social media posts. Stay tuned to the daily tomorrow to see the official homecoming video.