Honoring Titans: Highlights from Morehouse’s 36th Annual Candle in the Dark Gala

Photo Courtesy of Erinn Gardner
Photo Courtesy of Erinn Gardner

On Saturday, February 17th, 2024, Morehouse College held its 36th annual black-tie fundraiser, ‘A Candle In The Dark Gala,’ at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Atlanta, GA. The Candle in the Dark Gala is a premiere event to honor Black achievement and generate much-needed scholarship funding for deserving Morehouse students. 

Since 1989, Candle In the Dark has honored more than 220 luminaries with an extraordinary evening of elegance and success. This notable event honors nationally recognized Black male leaders who are titans in their professions, emphasizes Morehouse’s goal of developing leaders, and displays Morehouse students’ abilities and oratory prowess. 

Symone Thompson, a freshman political science major at Spelman, believes galas like ‘A Candle In The Dark’ are crucial initiatives for HBCUs. “I think it’s important for HBCUs to have huge fundraising initiatives because we’re underfunded to begin with, so for Morehouse to have this gala and raise multiple millions of dollars was really important,” she said. 

After months of anticipation, the event officially began at 7 p.m. However, most attendees arrived early to take pictures with their loved ones, mingle amongst themselves, and order drinks in the VIP event lounge. Individuals even ran into significant figures, such as Samuel L. Jackson and Denzel Washington, who were present to show their support for the honorees. 

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Jackson Marshall, a political science major at Morehouse, enjoyed witnessing the fellowship throughout the night. “My favorite part of the gala was seeing everyone so happy, and just excited to be there, and I just love our community. Even though I only met him for a second, Denzel was such a nice man,” he stated.

The hosts for the night were actress Holly Robinson Peete and former football quarterback Rodney Peete. They recognized several companies that donated money to Morehouse and allowed the audience to scan a code to submit their donations. By the end of the function, Morehouse accumulated millions in scholarship money. 

In celebration of excellence in various sectors, the Gala presented five remarkable leaders with a Candle or Bennie Award. 

The Benjamin Elijah Mays “Bennie” Award pays tribute to one of the College’s most admired presidents. This award highlights the success of the institution’s alumni and its worldwide impacts, as they are testaments to his legacy. Bennie award recipients included Dale E. Jones ‘82, the Chief Executive Officer of Diversified Search and former vice chairman of Heidrick and Struggles International Inc. Next, John David Washington ‘06, a Golden Globe-nominated actor known for his roles in BlacKkKlansman and Tenet and Dr. Aaron L. Parker ‘75, a senior pastor of Zion Hill Baptist Church and Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Morehouse College.

The Candle Award honors exceptional non-alumni who uphold the principles of leadership, community service, and excellence taught at Morehouse College and are role models in their fields. Candle award honorees included Raymond J. McGuire, President of Lazard, a financial advisory and asset management firm, and Mack Wilbourn, owner and President of Mack II, Inc., a quick service restaurant management company. 

To conclude the event, current Morehouse President Dr. David A. Thomas made closing remarks, and the audience collectively sang the Morehouse College Hymn. 

Thompson reflected on students’ significant role and her anticipation for next year’s event. “My experience was so good, I really enjoyed seeing the role that students had introducing speakers and also really liked the venue. I’m so excited for next year’s event,” she stated.

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