John E. Allen ’73 left legacy of support with merit award

John E. Allen.

CMC Archive Photo

CMC graduates of the last decade (GOLD) have collectively made an impressive impact on the lives of current students, and consistently celebrate the highest levels of engagement and philanthropy among peer schools. This month, we’re celebrating and spotlighting that distinction, where we’ll shine a light on incredible stories made possible by gifts from young alumni. Join us by making a gift to an area of the College that most resonates with you and your experience—Alumni Fund and financial aid, Sponsored internships, and Experiences, the Ath, or your CMS athletic team.

Like most CMC students, Houston native Gev C. Nweke ’25 is juggling academics along with a busy life on campus. He’s in the 3-2 program for Mechanical Engineering/Economics, a member of the Black Student Association, and a QuestBridge scholar. As for hobbies, he is into soccer, basketball, ping pong, or “any sport he can get his hands on.”

Gev Nweke ’25.

Photo by Anibal Ortiz

Nweke is also a recipient of support from the John E. Allen ’73 Alumni Merit Award, which helps with some of his educational expenses, including technology and hardware needed for his major.

Nweke is just one of the 87 CMC students over the past 30 years who have benefitted from the generosity and commitment of John E. Allen ’73.

Allen came to CMC in 1972 after attending junior college. During his two years on campus, he developed a deep love of and commitment to CMC. One of 11 Black students to graduate from his class, Allen majored in Political Science and played football during his undergraduate years.

He is fondly remembered for his outgoing personality and his extraordinary commitment to the communities of which he was a member. Allen was the first Black president of the CMCAA Board of Directors, elected for the 1990-1991 term. In 1998, he received the Jack L. Stark ’57 GP’11 Distinguished Service Award for his commitment to the College, the Alumni Association, and alumni of CMC.

“He was a very energetic man—very committed to CMC and very dynamic in that commitment,” said Trustee Rossi Russell ’71. He recounted stories of Allen coming to campus to meet every new student each year. In the days before Facebook, he would use the physical “Look Book” during the welcome event, which contained all the students’ names and pictures, and sought to have each student sign their image when he met them face-to-face.

Russell and Allen bonded over a common goalto increase the diversity of the student body. In 1991, they set out to create a merit award, and today the award helps students who come from underrepresented communities or show a demonstrated commitment to underrepresented communities. Russell committed his own funding and Allen drove the grassroots funding that enabled the fund to grow.

“He was the one who really got out there and rallied the troops, especially among the younger alums,” said Russell. “He just brought a ton of people in to support what we were doing.”

In 2001, after Allen's sudden death, the College renamed the fund in his honor, calling it the John E. Allen Merit Award.

Jennifer Sandoval-Dancs, Associate Vice President for Admission and Financial Aid, said that having a financial tool like the John E. Allen funding can help attract underrepresented students.

“When they decide that Claremont McKenna is their top choice and it’s only affordability that’s keeping them away, this scholarship helps us to take that limitation away—and that is immensely powerful,” she said.

It also makes a lifelong impression on its recipients. “I still run into alums who ask me whether this funding is still available to students because it was so important to them during their time at CMC,” Sandoval-Dancs said.

Sevion DaCosta ’21.

Photo by Anibal Ortiz

Sevion DaCosta ’21 is one of those alumni. A four-year recipient of the fund, he found it a critical source of support for his CMC education, helping him to graduate with little to no debt. DaCosta recalls receiving the email from the Office of Admission with the news that he had received the scholarship. “I was elated! Receiving this award cemented that CMC would be the right place for me.”

DaCosta has since embarked on a career in finance working for BlackRock, which he says would not have been possible without the John E. Allen scholarship. “I fondly remember meeting with (Russell) each year at the scholarship luncheon,” DaCosta said. “The stories he shared regarding the creation of the scholarship and impact it has had on the community made me feel even more proud of being a part of such a great community of Allen scholars.”

Russell wants to keep Allen’s name alive and continue supporting students in his honor. He likes to think about how Allen would have responded to the continuation of his legacy, as well as to the expressions of gratitude expressed by Nweke, DaCosta, and all the other recipients over the years.

“He would have been thrilled,” Russell enthused. “I mean, absolutely thrilled.”

You can help continue the strong tradition of GOLD philanthropy and carry on the legacy of John E. Allen '73 by making your own gift to the John E. Allen Alumni Merit Award. This ensures that all students can enjoy the full CMC experience.



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