More than 75 guests honored—and surprised—Dr. Marie-Elaine Burns with an elegant evening to welcome her to Merritt College. Among the guests were the Chancellor and many of the Trustees, guests from all four colleges, former Merritt President Evelyn Wesley, and 30 of her Delta Sigma Theta sorority sisters. The guest list planned by the Peralta Association of African-American Affairs (PAAAA) was more than Dr. Burns could have imagined. In fact, the entire evening, including a pianist and vocalist performing throughout the evening and ending by dedicating the inspirational “Rise Up,” to her, was overwhelming.
“It was humbling and gratifying and first class all the way,” she says. “I was filled with emotion seeing all the people who came to honor me and hearing all the wonderful things people said about me.”
According to PAAAA President Dr. Herbert Kitchen, the organization was founded more than 40 years ago to encourage the hiring of African-American employees. Today the members put their efforts toward funding scholarships for students at all four colleges. Honoring the colleges’ African-American presidents with a reception is one of the organization’s long-standing traditions.
“We want to show our respect and support to let Dr. Burns know our organization is here to inspire and empower her to be the best president that she can be,” says Dr. Kitchen. “She has been in the trenches of higher education for more than 40 years and is the right person at the right time to lead Merritt College forward.”