MSU Black Alumni Association teams up with Magic Johnson for new scholarship fundraiser
His laugh could be heard from 50 feet away; out of sight and around the bend of the Detroit Golf Club’s patio landscaping.
It was half past eight on the morning of Aug. 11 and despite the cloudy forecast, the sun was shining. His broad shoulders and eternal smile could be seen high above the crowd of 20 plus people. He gave out hugs, handshakes and pictures.
“The man is in the house!” a voice in the crowd yelled.
That man was MSU basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson.
A group of teenage club employees approached him.
“One shot of greatness for today,” Bill Cloven, outside service manager for the club, said to them.
Johnson made sure each of them snapped a selfie and then said, “take care, good luck and do good in school.”
“My hand is shaking right now. I’m not going to wash this shirt,” 18-year-old Jackson College student Josh Madison, said.
Half an hour passed as the crowd slowly dwindled into their respective golf carts. He continued to converse and sweat could be seen as he perspired under the heat.
“Do you want to get out of the sun?” Antoinette Warr, the fundraiser’s chair, said.
“No I’m fine,” he said.
Warr was handed a microphone. She spoke through the speaker’s calming volume, welcoming Earvin “Magic” Johnson.
The MSU Black Alumni Association hosted the fundraiser to raise scholarship money for its new Earvin “Magic” Johnson MSUBA endowment fund and its expendable fund. The funds are aimed at enhancing and retaining educational opportunities for future and current MSU students.
“Thank you for what you’re doing and of course you know it’s going to a great cause,” Johnson said. “For me it is great to see all these fellow Spartans, all my friends, just have a great time.”
First Vice President of the MSUBA, Jeanette Patterson, said the fundraiser was very emotional for her.
“I’ve worked enough that I know how students may have to leave Michigan State because they cannot afford the tuition and other expenses of being a student,” Patterson said. “And that to me is a terrible thing that you cannot focus on your education because you are worried about the financial aspect of it.”
The golf outing was attended by prestigious Spartans: head basketball coach Tom Izzo and assistant Dwayne Stephens, MSU Hall of Fame member and 1979 NCAA National Champion Greg Kelser, NFL sports agent and 1982-1986 MSU football player Paul Bobbitt, 1966-1970 MSU football player Jack Pitts and many more.
“Michigan State, at least for me, is the gift that keeps on giving,” Kelser said. “I made my decision to go to Michigan State 40 years ago and I am still reaping the benefits.”
“This is the first one, we definitely appreciate Magic representing the scholarship and MSU,” Bobbitt said. “We definitely support all causes. What this means to me is that kids are getting a better opportunity to complete their education.”
Former MSUBA scholarship recipients, Sierra Scott and Kenny Williams, both said MSUBA has become a family and support group for them at MSU. The two graduated from Cass Technical High School in Detroit.
With a break in the action at the golf club, I headed 10 miles southeast to Cass Tech in hopes of meeting with an academic advisor. What was found, however, was slightly different.
The administration offices had the lights turned off, but young voices could be heard. A boy sat on the stairs listening to music as he watched his sister and her friends practice their color guard routine. A security guard stood at the school’s opposite-side entrance and we were greeted with a smile and introduction. Above his position on the overhead floor was a group of four working on a project for STEM Genius, an organization that focuses on cultivating and nurturing youth interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. They were combining two model roller coasters, which consisted of hundreds of minuscule pieces, rendering an accurate count impossible.
Among them, was MSU media and information sophomore Khaleed Thorpe, Oakland University computer engineering sophomore Anthony Hamm, 16-year-old Cass Tech senior Alexis Copeland and 17-year-old Cass Tech senior Devin Moses.
After a conversation, I played them an audio snippet of what Johnson said he would tell a high school student who is weighing their college options.
“Do not let anyone define who you can become and what you can do in life,” Johnson said. “They have to be serious and failure is not an option. They cannot fail.”
Hamm and Moses nodded their heads and listened intently to Johnson talk about his athletic achievements and having rich dreams despite growing up poor.
“He is absolutely right. Growing up poor really does not define who you are. It is the decisions that you make,” Hamm said. “Anyone can get out of a bad neighborhood, or anyone can go from a good neighborhood to a bad neighborhood, it is just the decisions that you make as a person.”
Moses said Johnson’s advice was relative because Moses gave up sports in ninth grade to pursue his intellect.
“If you think about all our inner city youth here in the state of Michigan you think about Detroit, Flint, Saginaw, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Benton Harbor, Muskegon and on and on, they have the grades to get into Michigan State, they just don’t have the financial needs,” Johnson said. “And so I think that it’s great that all the alumni have come together (to support them).”
Lural Baltimore, cofounder and Treasurer of MSUBA, said the scholarship application is posted at the end of November and the deadline is normally April 30.
Johnson said he and MSUBA plan to make the golf outing an annual fundraiser.