Nearly five decades ago, seven African American women found each other at what was then a predominantly white Adelphi University.
Friendships like these are rare.
Nearly five decades ago, seven African American women found each other at what was then a predominantly white Adelphi University. “The fact that we were black in a small bubble played a part in picking each other out,” says Renaye (Brown) Cuyler ’70. “But it’s not the thing that kept us together.”
Long before Facebook, Twitter and text messages, the students established a tight social network. They gathered in places like the dining hall—where they often stayed until closing—to share opinions and advice. “Whether we were talking about issues surrounding civil rights, professors, parents, emotional support or boyfriends, we found comfort in each other,” says Diane (Hunter) Hazel ’69.
Before the senior ones in the group graduated, the seven women—Renaye Cuyler, Diane Hazel, and Lavida (Robinson) Allen ’72, Charlotte (Matthews) Harris ’69, Jacquelyn Lendsey ’71, Joyce (Barnett) Montague ’69 and Lorene Wilkerson ’69 (formerly Lawrene Street)—decided to reunite every five years.
They met in New York City in 1974 for their first reunion. “We felt five years was too long to wait to see each other,” says Lorene Wilkerson. For the next 20 some-odd years, they continued to reunite every five years, with an additional gathering in between.
When the youngest of the group turned 50, it was unanimous: they would get together every year. When members started approaching 60, Joyce Montague proposed “six months to 60.” For each of the six months leading up to the birthday girl’s 60th, one of the friends was assigned to surprise her with a special gift. Now, each woman turning 65 gets to decide where the reunion for that year will be held.
They have decided to establish a permanent legacy at the place where their story began. “Endowing a scholarship at Adelphi is a way for what we have to live beyond us—so that even when we’re not here, the group will still be present,” says Charlotte Harris.
“We want to support students at our alma mater who need financial help,” says Lavida Allen. “It’s our chance to give back.”
The seven travel from New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia and Maryland to celebrate together. “We’ve been there at every critical moment of each other’s lives over the last 40+ years,” says Jaccquelyn Lendsey. “We are friends until the end. And it all began at Adelphi.”
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