By Morgan Miles, Staff Writer
The 40th annual Antonio Johnson Gala recognized the Black Academic Excellence of three students on Xavier’s campus, each nominated to receive the Antonio Johnson Scholarship.
Hosted by the Black Student Association (BSA), the black-tie event was held in person for the first time since 2019 on Friday in Cintas Center.
Junior public relations major Alanee Wright won first place, earning the full scholarship. In second place, the Antonio Johnson scholarship runner-up was political science major Toluwa Aduloju. Kaleb Amofa, a marketing major, won third place amongst the nominees.
Wright is the president of L.E.A.D, a BRAVE peer educator and a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority. Wright has also worked as a Manresa leader and a 2022 Xavier University Summer Service Intern.
Amofa serves as the Community Collaboration Liaison for BSA and president of the Dean’s Student Advisory Board. Aduloju is the president of the African Student Association, a Student Advisory Board Member, a Take-it-On Dialogue Ambassador and passionate about policies affecting women and children in developing countries.
Each winner was chosen based on their dedication to Black excellence and community enrichment with their involvement on and off campus.
The Antonio Johnson Gala is held in honor of high-achieving Black and African-American students and also serves as a fundraiser for Xavier scholarships.
The scholarship is an award given to current juniors that covers their full tuition and room and board for their senior year.
The award is given to students of African or Black descent, who showcase academic prowess, excellence and leadership in the Xavier community. Staff and fellow students nominate potential recipients. Once three finalists are selected, the winner is announced at the gala.
Traditionally, the gala is noted as an essential and popular gathering for students, staff and faculty of color.
Antonio Johnson was a Xavier student activist in the 1970s.
Johnson aided in kickstarting a Black Awareness Month program and also aided in launching Xavier’s Black Student Association. He passed away in 1976, but his legacy and desire to aid Xavier’s Black and African American communities lives on through the scholarship and gala.
Dr. Ivy Banks, vice president for the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, commented on the importance of Antonio Johnson’s legacy on Xavier’s campus.
“When we think about food, housing and financial insecurities, we know that these issues are escalated for our students, particularly the Black and African American student population.
That’s not stereotypical or anecdotal. That’s why this award goes directly to students achieving the highest and giving back to Xavier, in a way for us to give back to them and show that we recognize them,” she said.
Matching the “Royalty Is In Our DNA” gala theme, Miss Universe Juanita Brown Ingram joined attendees on Friday and gave a speech on never giving up one’s dreams. The gala also honored Dr. Jerry Cline-Bailey, who retired in December 2022.
A presentation honoring the retired professor concluded with the information that Xavier was changing the name of the award that the 2nd place scholarship nominee earns to be named after him.