May 22nd, 2013
05:00 AM ET

High school prom, 50 years later

By Mariano Castillo, CNN

Birmingham, Alabama (CNN) - The class of 1963 crowded in a rectangle on the dance floor, the memories of high school fresh on their minds as the band played in a sea of pink and blue hues.

Aretha Franklin. Etta James. The Temptations. Just what you would expect to be playing at a 1960s prom. Yet the song that drew the most bodies to the dance floor was "The Wobble."

Until this hip-hop song emptied the chairs, it felt as if the auditorium had been transported back 50 years.

But it's 2013, and despite the full-court nostalgia for the 1960s, that decade was one of the most difficult times in Birmingham's history.
Societal tensions over race were so high in 1963 that the city canceled senior prom for five of the city's segregated high schools for blacks.

Today, a half century has passed since the seminal civil rights protests that changed Birmingham and plotted a path for the nation away from segregation and toward equal rights.

Just like that path, the healing process has been a long one.

The Historic 1963 Prom, held Friday and hosted by the city of Birmingham, closed one chapter for these Alabamans.

'A tension-filled city'

Growing up in Birmingham in the 1950s, Earnestine Thomas knew the rules of this segregated city. At a restaurant, she could pay in the front, but had to walk around the back to get her food from a cook. She could shop only in certain places; there were neighborhoods that she knew not to visit.

"As a child, I recognized that it was unfair, but didn't understand that there were laws propping (segregation) up," she said as she waited for a hair appointment before Friday's prom.

Segregated prom tradition yields to unity

She treated herself to a hair styling before donning a lavender dress with a sequined jacket and matching shoes. Lavender was a fitting color, she said, not just because it is her favorite, but because it was the school color at Parker High School.

It was a day of celebration that she and her classmates were denied in 1963.

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Mayor Bloomberg's giving to alma mater tops $1 billion
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1964.
January 28th, 2013
04:00 AM ET

Mayor Bloomberg's giving to alma mater tops $1 billion

By CNN Staff

(CNN) - A kid raised in a middle-class Boston suburb, Michael Bloomberg took out loans to pay for his tuition at Johns Hopkins University and worked as a parking lot attendant.He learned early to pay it forward.

Bloomberg's first gift to his alma mater was a whopping $5 in 1965, a year after he graduated with a bachelor's degree in engineering.

Fast forward to Saturday, when the Baltimore university announced Bloomberg has now given a total of $1.1 billion. The latest commitment came in the form of a cool $350 million toward a "transformational" initiative aimed at cross-discipline solutions to societal problems.

In a statement, Johns Hopkins said Bloomberg, a former trustee, is believed to be the first person to ever reach the $1 billion level of giving to a single U.S. institution of higher education.

The university's Twitter feed was aglow with information on the gift. One tweet heralded the announcement with the words, "Big News," which might have been an understatement.

Among other things, the donation will fund 2,600 Bloomberg Scholarships over 10 years and 50 distinguished scholars.

Of the $350 million, $100 million will go toward "need-based financial aid" for undergraduate students.

"Johns Hopkins University has been an important part of my life since I first set foot on campus more than five decades ago," Bloomberg said in the press release. "Each dollar I have given has been well-spent improving the institution and, just as importantly, making its education available to students who might otherwise not be able to afford it."

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Filed under: Alumni • College • Financial aid