Audrey Gilbreath, a 1979 Grambling State University alumna, made sure she did not just talk the talk, so she showed her passion to see her alma mater succeed despite its financial hardships.
Saying “the true measure of a proud university is its legacy” during a Homecoming alumni event, Gilbreath reached into her pocket book and wrote a check to the university foundation for $10,000. GSU President Frank G. Pogue was surprised, but quite pleased.
“The only thing we know for certain is that Grambling needs financial contributions,” said the businesswoman who lives in Katy, Texas. “We forget and we lose touch, and if no one says to us let me reel you back in and help you to recognize where your roots really started, then many won’t give back.”
Gilbreath, the president and chief executive officer of Gilbreath Communications, Inc., emphasized the importance of alumni giving during a Friday afternoon alumni convocation, and she encouraged the university to challenge students to give back, too.
The state of Louisiana has cut funding higher education institutions significantly, including Grambling State, which has seen its state funding cut more than 55 percent from about $31 million six years ago to about $13 million this academic year.
Gilbreath said “the state of Louisiana does not pick up the slack” financially, and that’s something a majority of Historically Black Colleges and University are facing.
“It’s an HBCU story,” said President Frank G. Pogue.
“We’ve raised tuition every year in the last six years and we have lost (significant state) funding, yet we don’t have any negative audits.”
Pogue explained that the state continues to increase student entry requirements at the institution, making it harder for students to qualify under a law called the Louisiana Grad Act. The law allows universities to increase tuition by 10 percent if they meet specific requirements.
The president said this approach causes some students to be “priced out of an education.”
That’s why Gilbreath said she is giving more, and challenging other alumni to do the same. She decided to contribute to the Grambling University Foundation, designated her donation for an endowed mass communication scholarship through the president’s year-long “ask” campaign.
“I think it’s important for alumni to give back because it gives an example for current students,” said Ambra Brice, 21, a marketing major from Gibsland, La., who is Miss Grambling State University 2013-2014. “We need to see examples of them giving back so that we can grow to be active alumni. If they’re not doing it, then we won’t follow their footsteps.
Gilbreath’s sister, Debra Johnson, is interim associate vice president for institutional advancement and director of alumni affairs. Her husband, Wardell Gilbreath, and one of her two daughters joined her for the homecoming weekend.
“When we build ourselves to be productive adults, we build ourselves from Grambling State University,” said Audrey Johnson. “This is … where we learn life’s challenges. If we can look at it that way, then surely we can stand together and do what we can financially. Once you lift yourself up, you can lift others up.”
Gilbreath, a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., was a radio and television major and a journalism minor during her time at Grambling State University. She said she decided before the university’s recent football team controversy that she was going to give a substantial donation, and the recent troubles convinced her she made the right decision. “I have gained a lot more than that (amount) from the education that I received at Grambling,” she said, “so to me it’s just a drop in the bucket.”