Memorial Day weekend marks the annual tradition of Dillard-Goldsboro Alumni and Friends gathering for homecoming.
This marks the 68th annual event for the national alumni group that has not only grown into five chapters but also sparked financial support from the city of Goldsboro and tourism.
The history of the two high schools dates back more 150 years. Dillard High School was an outgrowth of a private school founded in 1866 for Negro students. The Rev. Clarence Dillard came to Goldsboro to serve as pastor of the Presbyterian (Shiloh) Church. He became principal of the school in 1894.
When he retired in 1924, he was succeeded by Hugh Victor Brown, who is credited with later having the vision of seeing his “children” (former students) returning home after graduation.
As integration was introduced, the doors of Dillard High closed in 1969 and students transferred to Goldsboro High School.
Janet Barnes has been national homecoming chairperson for several years.
The 1970 graduate of GHS recalled how the alumni association changed names to incorporate the two schools.
“Somewhere around 1976, ‘75, I went to meet with the president (of the alumni) Raymond Smith Sr.,” she said, explaining that she and her classmates raised a question. “The organization is named Dillard Alumni and Friends. Are we the friends or can we be a part of it by naming it Goldsboro?
“We needed to have some continuity — and Raymond went to the board and they changed the name.”
Retired educator — including a stint as GHS principal — and school board member Patricia Burden is in charge of the group’s scholarship and awards night, which also entails contacting donors and overseeing scholarship efforts for local students.
This year’s homecoming will kick off with the awards event on May 25. The weekend will also celebrate classes ending in 3s and 8s.
In addition to individual class reunions, the weekend is packed with activities — that Friday, May 26, will feature a meet and greet with the national president, Gary Packer, a golf tournament and alumni dance.
On Saturday, the parade starts at 10 am. in downtown Goldsboro, with an alumni and community picnic from noon until 3 p.m. at H.V. Brown Hall on Poplar Street and a Young at Heart Dance that evening. Sunday features a worship service at 11 a.m. at H.V. Brown Hall followed by class picnics.
The alumni group has discontinued two of its chapters, in New York and New Jersey, Barnes said, replaced by the two newest additions, Triangle-Raleigh and Chapel Hill as well as Charlotte. The other chapters are in Goldsboro, Atlanta and Washington, D.C.
Barnes credited the group’s national president, Gary Packer, with infusing a new vision into the mix.
“He has gone to the city council members and they have funded us some, allocated some money for us just like they do Wings Over Wayne,” she said. “This will be the second or third year.
“(The late former) mayor Chuck Allen made sure he gave us money for the advertising and such for the weekend.”
The financial benefits are reciprocal, as the alumni group does its part for the community, Barnes said.
“That (homecoming) weekend there’s a lot of revenue that we bring in,” she said. And while the pandemic interrupted that — including converting it to a virtual event in 2020 — things are getting back on track, she said.
“At one time it was over thousands of people coming in,” she said.”We got back into the full swing in 2021 and 2022.”
Packer is midway through his second three-year term. He recalled his encounter with Allen and the Goldsboro City Council in 2019.
“They supported the alumni effort and he took care of our picnic for that year, and I have been going back and making presentations to the council,” he said. “This year at their March meeting, I did a presentation and I showed how we spent the money that they gave us for 2022 and a proposal of what I designed for 2023 and 2024.
“They gave us $12,500 in 2022 and (we received) $2,500 from (tourism),” he said. “This year the tourism (money) wasn’t available as it was used for the air show and only one entity per year is given. But I did ask for funding to cover advertising and the city gave $11,350.”
The group doesn’t have corporate sponsors, relying heavily on donations from the community.
The biggest expense, an investment of sorts, is in providing educational scholarships for students.
“We’re looking at 68 years and $35,000 is what we did last year,” Packer said. “Even during the pandemic we gave out $33,000 in scholarships.
“We’re well over a million dollars because there were times in the early days, it was well over $100,000 given in scholarship money.”
And it all started with that seed planted by Dr. Brown, for whom the alumni headquarters on Poplar Street is named. His feelings for his “children” nurtured what has become like a “huge family reunion,” Packer said.
“In 1955, 1956 it grew from that and because of our parents and grandparents, we became children of the alumni,” he said. “It has continued and it has grown.”
Packer, a 1979 GHS graduate, takes pride in not only what the alumni group has done supporting area students’ desire to pursue higher education, but also the economic contribution it makes to his hometown.
“It generates about a $3.1 million impact to the city every year,” he said. “That’s only second to the air show.”
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