sealPurdue News


February 27, 1998

Largest single BCC donation announced at groundbreaking

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.-- A Purdue trustee and his family from Gary have given $110,000 toward the construction of the university's new Black Cultural Center.

The gift from the Powers Family Foundation -- the largest single donation to date toward the new center -- was announced today (Friday, 2/27) at a ceremonial groundbreaking.

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Renee Thomas, director of the Black Cultural Center, said today's event not only marked the start of construction of the new center, but it also was a celebration of the teamwork necessary to make the new center a reality.

"We are very grateful to the Powers Family Foundation for this generous gift and their leadership through the years," she said. "Our alumni and friends have really stepped up the pace of the BCC fund-raising campaign. With the gifts we have in hand and the contributions that are still expected, we will have enough to fund the new building."

Mamon Powers Jr., a 1970 Purdue graduate, is a member of the Purdue Board of Trustees and president of the Powers Construction Co. Founded in 1967 by his father, the business is listed as one of the top 100 black-owned companies in the United States by Black Enterprise magazine.

The Powers family relationship with Purdue is long-standing. Mamon Powers Jr. holds a civil engineering degree; his brother, Claude, vice president of Powers Construction Co., is a 1980 graduate of the School of Technology; his sister-in-law, Pamela, received a degree in communication in 1981; and his daughter, Kelly, is enrolled in the School of Engineering.

Both Mamon Powers Jr. and his brother are members of the Purdue Black Alumni Organization and have been active supporters of the university. Powers attended today's ceremony to help turn the soil.

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Mamon Powers
"As a student at Purdue in 1968, I participated in the black student demonstration that ultimately led to the creation of the Black Cultural Center," Mamon Powers Jr. said. "I'm extremely proud that, along with the leadership of President Steven Beering and the university trustees, our family is able to help make the dream of a new Black Cultural Center a reality."

The celebration included a first-ever combined performance of students from the Black Voices of Inspiration, the Purdue Musical Organizations and the Department of Bands. A representative box of soil from the construction site at Third and Russell streets was blessed with the pouring of libations by an African-griot priest, someone who shares the oral history of Africans.

"Libation is a traditional African ritual that initiates any significant gathering in the community," said Nashid Fakhrid-Deen, minority affairs coordinator at the University of Kentucky Community College System and the African-griot priest who performed the blessing.

The blessed soil will be blended into the soil at the construction site during the excavation that's scheduled to begin Monday (3/2).

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Rendering of the Black Cultural Center
Speaking at the event were Beering; Thomas; and Marcus A. Clarke Jr., a Ford Motor Co. executive from Dearborn, Mich., who is chairman of the BCC Fund-Raising Advisory Committee.

"This groundbreaking is truly a celebration of leadership and excellence," Beering said. "The energy and the effort put forth by students, volunteers and the Purdue family to make this new center a reality is impressive. I'm very happy that we finally will provide facilities worthy of its programs."

The center serves about 35,000 people each year through its four performing arts ensembles, speaker series, tours and other programs.

The two-story, 18,000-square-foot Black Cultural Center will be almost twice the size of the current Black Cultural Center, a nearly 100-year-old building that was dedicated in 1970.

Designed by Blackburn Architects of Indianapolis, which used traditional African design elements, the new center features a domed central area that houses a lounge and a reading room. The library reading room will be named in honor of the Powers family.

Other main rooms include an expanded art and gallery space, a computer laboratory, more storage and rehearsal areas for the performing arts ensembles, and office space for student organizations such as the Black Greek Council.

The main entrance is situated between a cubical form and a cylindrical form. To incorporate textures and materials typically found in African villages, the center will draw on geometric patterns and rough, natural textures for walls and other surfaces.

Kettlehut Construction Inc. of Lafayette was awarded the $3.12 million building contract. The university is providing the land and an allocation of unrestricted gifts toward construction of the new center. The gifts were given by contributors for use by the president for the betterment of Purdue. Completion of the new center is scheduled for the fall of 1999, with the ribbon-cutting ceremony set for homecoming weekend.

Source: Renee Thomas, (765) 494-3091; e-mail,
Writer: Kate Walker, (765) 494-2073; e-mail,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,


Nashid Fakhrid-Deen, an African-griot priest from Kentucky, pours a libation containing Purdue apple cider on some soil from the site of the university's new $3 million Black Cultural Center. He said such a blessing of the soil is a traditional African ritual. In the background is Mamon Powers Jr., a Purdue trustee from Gary whose Powers Family Foundation contributed $110,000 toward the construction of the new center, the largest single donation to date. The blessing and a ceremonial groundbreaking were held Friday afternoon in Purdue's Memorial Union. Construction of the 18,000-square-foot facility, designed by Blackburn Architects of Indianapolis, will begin Monday (3/2) on the West Lafayette campus. (Purdue News Service Photo by David Umberger) Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: BCC.Blessing Downloand here.

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