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Saturday, April 20, 2019
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LA diversity scholarship event honors Burrill

Alumni and friends raised more than $13,300 in support of the Mary Burrill Scholarship for Diversity at Emerson College during a fundraising reception on August 23 in Marina del Rey, California. The reception, which was hosted by the EBONI Fundraising Committee, celebrated the legacy of playwright and educator Mary Burrill, who received degrees from Emerson in 1904 and 1929.

“Mary Burrill was the first woman of color to graduate from Emerson College,” said Joyce Clarke ’76, chair of the EBONI Fundraising Committee.

Burrill table

A table honoring the legacy of Mary Burrill '1904, '29, at a fundraiser for the Mary Burrill Scholarship for Diversity organized by the Los Angeles chapter of the EBONI Alumni Association. (Photo by Daryl Paranada)

Clarke and the EBONI Fundraising Committee began planning the event in April, when members of the EBONI Alumni Association pushed for a fundraising event to support the College’s commitment to diversity. The event was hosted by Peter Bunche ’80. Attendees were able to read letters from past recipients of the scholarship, share reasons why they give back, and celebrate the legacy of Mary Burrill through reading about her life.

Burrill was born and raised in Washington, DC, and attended Emerson College of Oratory in the early 1900s. In 1929, she earned a Bachelor of Literary Interpretation from the College. Burrill’s play, Unto the Third and Fourth Generations, was published in the 1930 yearbook and won “Best Junior Play of the Year.”

Burrill event

Stephen Farrier '75, Claudia Bright and her husband, Emerson College Los Angeles Vice President and Founding Director Kevin Bright '76, with Joyce Clarke '76, at the Mary Burrill Scholarship Fundraiser. (Photo by Daryl Paranada)

“Emerson College, even back then, supported people’s talents,” said Clarke. “Mary Burrill’s drive and passion to get an advanced degree and pursue her dreams—that’s something for young people to emulate.”

During the reception, Donzaleigh Abernathy ’80, Ina Buckner-Barnette ’81, Chris Hyacinthe ’12, Chrystee Pharris ’98, and Wade Williams ’93 performed a reading of Burrill’s play.

Hyacinthe said he was happy to participate in the event because it was important to give back to support future generations.

Burrill event reading

Members of the EBONI Alumni Association give dramatic readings of Mary Burrill's plays at the fundraiser. (Photo by Daryl Paranada)

“EBONI has helped connect me to so many alumni who have given me great advice,” said Hyacinthe, who works as an assistant at a talent agency. “I look forward to being an alumnus who does the same for future Emerson graduates.”

Following the reading, Doug Holloway ’76, who established the scholarship in the early 2000s, appealed to attendees through a video chat to donate online. After the appeal, Claudia Bright and her husband Kevin Bright ’76, Emerson College Los Angeles (ELA) Vice President and Founding Director, pledged to match up to $10,000 for the scholarship. Attendees responded by donating $6,650, bringing the total amount raised to $13,300.

Burrill event

Nyla Wissa '15 and Siku Thompson '06 at the Mary Burrill event. (Photo by Daryl Paranada)

Among the alumni soaking in the words of encouragement was Nyla Wissa ’15, a recent LA transplant who works for the Office of Development and Alumni Relations at ELA. 

“Being at Emerson helped me grow as a woman, as a black woman, and as a person,” said Wissa. “Scholarships like this allow us to be the artists that we want to be.” 

Kevin Bright is appealing to all alumni to help make diversity at Emerson College a priority by giving to the Mary Burrill Scholarship fund. To donate, visit the Emerson College website.

Burrill event

EBONI Alumni Association members Wade Williams '93, Chrystee Pharris '98, and Billy McDonald '75. (Photo by Daryl Paranada)