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Sowing & Reaping: Alumnus’ mom gives back

By monét cooper

Life is often cyclical for Alvin Darden ’72, freshman class dean.

In the 10 years he’s spent as an administrator at Morehouse, the number of students he’s mentored at the College is innumerable. Indeed, when asked how many men he has personally taken the time to help, he laughs.

“It’s in the hundreds,” Darden said with a chuckle. “This is my passion, this is what I do—serve young men. Many of them are leaving home for the first time and learning how to fly on their own. It’s a special calling that’s very dear to me.”

Some of the men and their parents return to say thank you, but perhaps none quite like Aretha Canton, the mother of Bret T. Boyce ’02, who graduated with a degree in business administration. Boyce is now a senior accountant for Ernst & Young, said Canton, and she credits his success, in part, to Morehouse. Canton remembers Darden as the man who helped her son and herself matriculate through the College.

“If I needed to find Bret, I’d just call Dean Darden. He was always available and always willing to talk to me,” said Canton. “Even after he wasn’t a freshman anymore, I still called [Darden] to ask about anything I needed.”

In return, Canton wanted to do something for the College. Her first thought was the cost of going to school. Though she bought textbooks for her son’s roommates, she knew there were other students experiencing financial hardships. Canton had the means to help, so she did what came naturally—she picked up the phone, called Darden and told him she was starting a scholarship fund in his name for Morehouse freshmen.

In 1999, for her 50th birthday, Canton threw herself a party, using the proceeds to create the Dean Darden Scholarship Fund, to which Darden gives a monthly contribution. Instead of presents, she asked all invitees to write a check to the fund. Canton’s party raised more than $20,000. But that wasn’t all.

While at a Wal-Mart diversity program, Canton entered a contest where she wrote about what she saw Morehouse do for her son and other young, black men. Her heartfelt penning garnered 30 Hewlett-Packard computers—given to the College through Darden’s eponymous fund—and are now being used by students in Douglass Hall and the English Department’s writing lab.

It’s all about reaping what you sow.

“I mentor kids here, in the street, everywhere. Bret is one who I gave advice and helped develop him personally,” said Darden. “I think she saw the way I took care of freshmen, but I really was just doing my job.”

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