Morehouse’s 150-Year Legacy and Men Who Embody It Celebrated at “A Candle in the Dark” Gala

Date Released: February 20, 2017


Morehouse College was on its formal display Saturday evening for the 29th Annual “A Candle in the Dark” Gala, honoring some of the nation’s top businessmen and entertainers, but most importantly, raising more than $1 million for students scholarships at the College.

“This is a special night,” President John Silvanus Wilson Jr. ’79 said to loud applause.  “I challenged our team this year to try to clear $1 million for the first time, and that’s exactly what has happened.  That’s a lot of scholarship money that came in.”

Held in the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, more than 1,500 attendees filled a ballroom of alumni, students, faculty, staff, parents and supporters of Morehouse College for one of the Atlanta’s most popular annual events.

There were many other many highlights on a star-studded evening where five men were honored for their contributions and careers. Each was visibly moved by to be honored after stirring introductions by student presenters:

  • Bennie Service Award for Excellence in Religion, the Rev. Jonathan L. Walton ’96, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at the Harvard Divinity School and the Pusey Minister in the Harvard Memorial Church.
  • Bennie Service Award for Excellence in Business, Theodore Colbert III ’96, Chief Information Officer/Senior Vice President of Information and Analytics, The Boeing Company.

“In 1867, many knew black lives mattered because of our free labor,” Walton said.  “But in 1867, someone came up with the radical idea that black minds mattered.   This was the focus of our past at Morehouse. This must remain and will remain the focus of our future. This, my friends, is Morehouse College – black minds mattering for 150 years. 

“This recognition, I hope, will inspire our young men, when they are in their dorm rooms at 2 a.m. trying to solve some complex differential equation, or trying to solve some hard program… to press on and fight their way through.  We have got to participate in the changes that are being driven by technology. I am an example, the product of a village, a product of a school that builds leadership. And now I am in this field and I hope to inspire many others to do the same.”

  • Candle Award in Music, Business and Entertainment, Jon Platt, Chairman/CEO of Warner/Chappell Music.
  • Candle Award in Philanthropy, Arts and Entertainment, musician, actor Usher Raymond.

“I want to say this to the men who are in school right now. Keep striving, keep pushing forward because, as Vernon [Slaughter] once told me, there are no losers in anything in life. There are only those who quit before their turn comes.”

“It’s everything to me to stand up here and be recognized as a black man and be respected by other incredible black men. I accept it. I accept the responsibility that comes with it. Not to rest on the accolade of it, but to use it as a reminder of the service still yet to come.” 

  • Candle Award in Philanthropy, Arts and Entertainment, director, writer, actor Tyler Perry.

“I understand how important Morehouse is.  This is really special and moving to me. To be honored by an organization that has that kind of history, that has put out those kinds of men in society, it inspires me on so many levels.  Follow that voice inside that is leading you in the one direction that is the right way.  If you believe and know, that is the voice of God.”

Even actor Dondre Whitfield, the Gala’s master of ceremonies, was moved to talk about his role in developing black men.

“My purpose is to teach young black and brown males how to become men and to restore women out of the hands of relationships that they have come out of from males who have not gotten proper messaging about manhood,” he said. “A boy and a man are the opposite ends of the spectrum. If a boy is a male who generally looks to be served, then a man is a male who looks to be of service.”

The pending retirements of three long-time Morehouse family members, beloved professors Tobe Johnson ’54  and Marcellus Barksdale ’65 and Alumni Relations veteran Verna Bolton.

One of the most stirring moments – every Morehouse graduate and current student moved to the center of the ballroom at the end of the program, bowed their heads and locked arms to sing the College’s alma mater, “Dear Old Morehouse.”

“To old Morehouse, and her ideals, and in all things that we do.”

Last Modified: June 8, 2017, 13:06 PM, by: Synera Shelton

< Previous | Next >