In 1972, three black SIU alumni met in Chicago to discuss how they could perpetuate the friendships they had developed in Carbondale and assist black students planning to attend SIU. Dwight Campbell, Eric Grant, and Dan Thomas helped to organize what was to become the not-for-profit corporation, “The Black Association of SIU.”
From 1975 to 1978, this organization held two fundraisers each year – a Thanksgiving dance and a Las Vegas Night – to raise funds for scholarships. Eighteen students were awarded $500 each during this period, and in 1978 this group also helped organize a black alumni reunion on the Carbondale campus when approximately 200 persons attending. The group became inactive in 1980.
In 1985, a group of SIU alumni based in California (including Sharon Banks, Rose Garnett, and Stevie Stephens) helped plan a black alumni reunion for 1986 in Carbondale. They contacted SIU alumna Pat McNeil and asked for assistance in contacting other alumni. These efforts resulted in a July reunion that was attended by more than 350 persons. The keynote speaker was William Butts, then president of the SIU Alumni Association Board of Directors, and it was decided that another reunion would be held in 1988.
A group of black alumni soon petitioned to be recognized as an official SIU Alumni Association affiliate group. As the 1988 reunion was being planned, several meetings were held between this group and members of the Association’s Board of Directors and a charter was soon issued to The Black Alumni Group of the SIU Alumni Association.
BAG’s first officers were: John Holmes, President; Richard Hayes, Vice President; Linda Flowers, Secretary; and Doris Weaver, Treasurer. At the 1988 reunion, approximately 400 people were in attendance and the first Support Black Undergraduate Education scholarships were awarded. A vote was taken to hold the reunions biennially during odd-numbered years beginning in 1991.