PRINCESS ANNE, MD – As undergraduates, students learn responsibility, develop lasting friendships and take away lessons that will stay with them for life.
Talk to Franklin Ausby, Kevin Chase and William Washington about their time at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, fellowship and giving back, it is apparent they took away much more from the collegiate days.
These three gents developed a friendship as undergraduates in the late 1970s when the university faced many challenges, including a struggle to remain open in the face of threats of closure or merging with neighboring Salisbury State College.
That friendship, however, was solidified through membership in Groove Phi Groove, a social fellowship with the motto “through loyalty and integrity, we shall achieve greatness.”
Founded at Morgan State University in 1962, Groove Phi Groove was formed as an alternative to mainstream Greek-lettered fraternities and has among its purposes the promotion of academic awareness and alleviating social and economic problems in disadvantaged communities.
As members of the only non-Greek organization on the yard, these three gents developed solidarity of purpose and commitment to one another and their alma mater.
“It taught us to be distinguished in certain things,” said Ausby, who joined the organization in fall 1980. “We were determined to become a model for Black male leadership.”
A couple years ago, Ausby contacted UMES' Office of Alumni Affairs about hosting a reception for “the Grooves” during the university's homecoming activities. What began as an opportunity to gather and reminisce with old friends quickly turned to a greater purpose.
These three gents had been working with Chase's Gist Foundation, a non-profit named in memory of Chase's friend, Andre Gist, a graduate of West Virginia University who played for the Tampa Bay Bandits of the old United States Football League. The Gist Foundation provides funding for students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities who struggle to get through school.
“At some point,” said Kevin Chase, spring 1980 Groove initiate, we “had an epiphany and (an) understanding that we had a responsibility to give back.”
Instead of simply gathering for fun and fellowship, these three gents undertook an effort to raise funds to support the UMES Foundation. Their focus was the Circle of Hope fund, which helps undergraduates making progress toward a degree foot unexpected education bills with financial resources they need to finish their studies.
“When we pledged, we said this was a level of commitment we said we would do, and the work starts now. This is what we are supposed to do,” Ausby said.
The trio set a goal of raising $1,000 for the Circle of Hope Fund by hosting a series of events throughout the year – a Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday dance in January, a pre-Homecoming party in February and an Atlantic City bus trip in August.
The effort succeeded and these three gents walked onto the Hytche Athletic Center court in their distinguished black jackets and presented their first contribution to the university during Homecoming 2012.
The following year, they doubled that contribution. Recognizing they would do, in Chase's words “whatever it takes to motivate others to give back,” these three gents have raised nearly $15,000 and are looking to raise an additional $7,000 for the Circle of Hope fund so their efforts can have a “positive impact on the university.”
Washington, who was initiated in fall 1979, perhaps said it best: “When we go on with our careers, you have to look back and pull somebody else up.”
Courtesy: Kimberly Dumpson, Executive Vice President, UMES.