Foster Community Comes Together for Annual Celebration of African American Alumni Achievement

Last month, the Foster Community came together to celebrate both the 18th Annual Celebration of African-American Achievement and 51st anniversary of the Association of Black Business Students (ABBS) in an evening celebrating Black individuals and community at Foster.

More than 150 guests comprised of UW and Foster students, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends came together (albeit digitally!) to hear poetry, talk politics, reconnect with fellow alumni, hear the latest updates on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, and to honor this year’s Spratlen Legacy Award winner, alumni Michelle Purnell Hepburn, MBA ’80. This event was planned and hosted by a committee that included Foster faculty, staff, students, and alumni.

Foster Dean Frank Hodge in his office

Foster Dean Frank Hodge addresses the digital event.

Foster Dean Frank Hodge kicked off the evening with an address to the audience, speaking on his resolve to make Foster “a force that moves us towards good, towards justice, towards ideas and actions that better all of humanity.” He also announced new faculty hires, Esther Uduehi, a PhD graduate of the Wharton School of Business, and the inaugural Dean’s Impact Scholar, Stacia Jones, Vice President & Global Head of IDEA at lululemon.

Foster “Double-Dawg” alumni Michelle Purnell-Hepburn, MBA ’80, received this year’s Spratlen Legacy Award, established in 2016 by ABBS to recognize Foster alumni making an impact on the African American community, sharing a moving acceptance speech:

Dr. Spratlen made it his mission to support black students to graduate. To this day, when I hear his voice either in person or on the phone, I have to stand up. It is proper to give respect to those who have caused you to be where you are. – Michelle Purnell-Hepburn, MBA ’80

Created to honor Foster Professor Emeritus of Marketing Dr. Thaddeus Spratlen, the Spratlen Legacy Award was established in 2016 by the Association of Black Business Students ABBS to recognize a Foster alumni, student, or community member making an impact on the Black community.


2021 Spratlen Legacy Award Winner Michelle Purnell-Hepburn in conversation with Foster senior Nicole Bryant.

Afterward, the audience enjoyed a conversation between Michelle and Nicole Bryant, a Foster senior and current ABBS Scholarship recipient. Michelle spoke on her favorite memories at ABBS, the critical importance of access to capital for Black communities, and reiterated her guiding principle and motto, “to lift as you climb.”

Be as authentic as you know how to be. And know that it is highest and best for you, and for all concerned. I did not know that when I came out of school. I was trying to assimilate. And with years — with any luck — comes wisdom, and the older I get I realize that I have a gift, that we all have gifts the world needs, and the best thing I can do for my community, for my children, for my children’s children, and seven generations from now, is be the best Michelle I can be. – Michelle Purnell-Hepburn, MBA ’80

Later, Dean Hodge announced that prominent space in the forthcoming Founders Hall, the latest addition to Foster’s corner of campus, will be home to the Spratlen Lounge for Inclusion and Diversity. Foster senior Natu Abraham read the words that will grace that facility’s commemorating plaque (heard in the video below).

The event represented a particularly bright spot in a year where the world felt beyond tumultuous at times.

The event took place on the Remo digital platform, generously hosted by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship. This platform allowed guests to mingle at digital “tables” where guests could hear updates Foster’s work to create a more inclusive, diverse, and equitable community. These conversations brought attendees closer together for conversation, where business stories from some alum had students’ jaws dropping. The planning community worked in partnership with black-owned business Ezell’s Famous Chicken to deliver a phenomenal dinner to 53 student attendees — separately! — and sent Intentionalist boxes to 20 guests filled with products from Black-owned businesses in the Seattle area.

In all, the evening raised over $16,000 for the ABBS Endowed Scholarship Fund.

This wonderful evening of celebration, community, and joy was made possible through the support of a host of generous sponsors, including:

Gold Sponsors

Amazon | EY | UW Alumni Association

Purple Sponsors


Community and Company Partners

Eli Lilly | Ezell’s Chicken | The Intentionalist

Foster Undergraduate Diversity Services | Foster Consulting and Business Development Center

Arthur W. Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship

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