2018 Founder's Weekend Activities
“A CANDLE IN THE DARK ” GALA at a Glance
The "A Candle in the Dark" Gala was named after the title of the College's official history book written by Edward A. Jones '26. The Gala has become one of the nation's premier events that celebrates African American achievements. The event has honored more than 135 individuals over the past 30 years.
Past Honorees include Dr. Peter Chatard Jr. '56; actors Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson '72 and Danny Glover; renowned historian and educator John Hope Franklin; legendary sports figures Henry "Hank" Aaron, Muhammad Ali and Arthur Ashe; retired New York Transit Authority worker Clarence "Kappa" Brown '40; civil rights leaders Andrew Young and H. Julian Bond '71; former Postal Rate Commission Chairman George Haley '49; former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher '63; noted scholar and professor Cornel West and philanthropist and entertainer Oprah Winfrey.
ABOUT THE ANNUAL GALA
Morehouse knew it needed to enhance its annual Founder’s Day celebration when alumni and friends of the College expressed the need for a formal, elaborate and celebratory fund-raising event to draw them back to the College. Atlanta residents and local corporations, as well as members of the philanthropic community, were continually flooded with invitations from non-profit organizations requesting their participation in fundraisers, so Morehouse needed to launch a unique, memorable event.
It was imperative that the Morehouse College family did all it could to make its event stand out by conveying several special facts about the College, such as:
- Morehouse, founded in 1867, is the nation’s only predominantly black, all-male
- The College is noted for its legacy of producing graduates who have become leaders in a variety of fields.
Despite the disheartening statistics regarding the plight of black males, Morehouse continues to attract many of the nation’s brightest black male students and provides an environment that is academically challenging and socially enriching.
Morehouse is committed to raising funds to ensure that a college education remains attainable for qualified black male youths who are financially disadvantaged.
The Gala of Galas
In 1988, alumni Robert H. Bolton’86 and Hardy R. Franklin Jr. ’83, who were members of the College’s development team, conceived the idea for the “A Candle in the Dark” Gala. With the support of President Leroy Keith ’61 and Richard A. Ammons, the institution’s vice president for development, plans were developed to unveil the Gala on February 18, 1989, as a part of the College’s 122nd Founder’s Day Celebration.
The Gala is named for the official history book of Morehouse, written by alumnus Edward A. Jones ’26. The black-tie affair was designed to highlight the College’s traditional mission of producing leaders, pay tribute to nationally acclaimed African American leaders who are considered giants in their respective fields, and showcase the talents and oratorical skills of Morehouse students. It would also serve as one of the College’s major annual fund-raising activities, with the goal of attracting approximately 1,000 guests, and generating revenue for the institution’s endowed scholarship fund.
“Bennie” recipients, who must be graduates of the College, received recognition in the categories of service, achievement and trailblazing. The award is named in honor of Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, who served as Morehouse president from 1940 to 1967, and is considered a legend among all alumni.
“Candle” recipients are honored for excellence in a variety of fields including the arts, athletics, business, education, entertainment, government, law, medicine, the military, religion, and science and technology. In 1989, “A Candle in the Dark” Gala was recognized as the most outstanding special event in Georgia and presented a “Phoenix Award for Excellence” by the Public Relations Society of America Georgia Chapter. Since the first “A Candle in the Dark” Gala, the College has presented “Bennie” and “Candle” awards to 180 talented individuals from a wide variety of fields.
In 1998, alumnus Henry M. Goodgame ’84, in his capacity as director of Alumni Relations, Annual Fund and Special Events, began providing the direction and coordination for the Founder’s Day and Gala planning activities. He leads a college-wide team of dedicated staff to take the award-winning Gala to new heights of excellence. Indeed, the Gala has become a signature event for Morehouse, Atlanta and the nation. The year 2004 marked the distinction of presenting the first Candle award to an outstanding African American woman, Oprah Winfrey.
College friends, supporters and alumni await with great anticipation their annual invitation for “A Candle in the Dark” Gala. Since its inception, the Gala has grossed over $16 million, with net proceeds benefiting the Morehouse College General Scholarship Fund.