By Zenebou Sylla ’22
Phi Alpha Tau, the nation’s oldest professional communicative arts fraternity, will award Boston’s first African American police commissioner, William G. Gross, the Dr. David Brudnoy Award for his impact and influence on the city’s community.
On Friday, November 8, Gross will be on Emerson’s campus to attend Phi Alpha Tau’s Third Annual Brudnoy Gala in the Lion’s Den.
Phi Alpha Tau said they are honored to present this award to Gross in recognition of his building connections with different people and inspiration for how to build relationships with one another.
“He’s a good person that the Boston community is lucky to have, and we’d be honored [to] celebrate him for that and recognize his efforts,” said Phi Alpha Tau Vice President Joshua Sun ’21, a Communication Studies major.
Phi Alpha Tau, founded in 1902, works on fostering brotherhood and promoting the communicative arts. The fraternity gives the Joseph E. Connor Award and the Dr. David Brudnoy Memorial Award to leaders in the communicative arts.
“That honors people who excel in the communicative arts field, past recipients like [former] Mayor Thomas Menino, [former] Governor Deval Patrick, poets like Robert Frost, people like that,” said Sun. “And just in general, we’re professional-minded and [we] try to push communicative arts within ourselves and within our community.”
David Brudnoy was host of a WBZ radio talk show that was heard in 38 states. In 1996, he received an honorary doctorate from Emerson College, and in 2001 he became an honorary brother of the Phi Alpha Tau Fraternity.
After becoming ill with HIV/AIDS in the 1990s, he established the Dr. David Brudnoy Fund for AIDS Research at the Massachusetts General Hospital, for which Phi Alpha Tau is raising funds. He died of Merkel cell carcinoma in 2004. Phi Alpha Tau created the Brudnoy Award in 2007 to honor their honorary brother.
“Throughout his time with us, he’d been like a very good mentor, a very good friend for a lot of active brothers during that time,” said Sun.
The commissioner not only will be accepting an award, but he’ll give a speech as well, along with speakers such as one of Brudnoy’s close friends, Dr. Gregory Robbins, an infectious diseases specialist at MGH.
“You get to come and see the commissioner, possibly speak with him after. [I]t’s a cool event where you get to see a public figure in a pretty intimate setting,” said Phi Alpha Tau Awards Co-Chair Abraham Speck ’22, a Comedic Arts major.
Phi Alpha Tau chose Gross as this year’s award recipient because of commissioner’s law enforcement experience and achievements, as well as his character and influence, according to Sun.
Gross was named the first African American Boston Police commissioner in August 2018. A 33-year veteran of the department, he worked his way up through the ranks, becoming deputy superintendent in 2008. Throughout his career, he has worked to cultivate strong community connections, and has received numerous awards for bravery, service, and civic partnership.
When selecting Gross for the award, Phi Alpha Tau not only focused on the communicative arts aspect, but also the commissioner’s interest in education.
“He’s always had a focus on people and education and school systems, so that was kind of a big thing, [and] how it would tie into us directly,” said Speck.
Members of the fraternity say that Gross displayed a lot of characteristics that can influence their own brotherhood, and they feel very honored for just having the commissioner accept their invitation.
“Someone that’s resilient enough to go through the police academy and work his way up and … pay his time. That was something in the research that I was attracted to and looked up to,” Speck said. “The fact that he’s gotten a lot of recognition for just being very consistent [and making] the community a very safe place, it’s just a good reflection of the work that he does.”