African American Alumni Network Offers Mentorships, Scholarships—and Community

Bill Osborne ’83 and his friends were so impressed with the Kettering University students they met when they visited campus in 2019, they started the African American Alumni Network Scholarship Fund for fellow African American students.

Although many of those students have graduated and started successful careers, the scholarship and the African American Alumni Network (AAAN) continue to grow.

“It’s gratifying because I think one of the keys to academic success is having that kind of supportive community,” Osborne said.

To start the scholarship, Osborne and Sam Wells ’78 raised nearly $60,000 with the help of 35 fellow African American alumni. Today, the endowment has helped five students attend Kettering. 

But Osborne said there’s still work to be done. He said he wants to see more participation from the AAAN.

“I would like to see 90% participation because it’s not about how much you give, it’s helping us build the connections and legacy,” he said. “What we don’t want is for people to be under the mistaken impression that we’re looking for big dollars. What we’re looking for is participation because it’s bonding with the community.”

In addition to funding the scholarship, the AAAN formed to build a community of mentors for African American students at Kettering. The group hosted a celebration in May.

“We hadn’t had anything formal as a group. We felt it was important for us to establish the bonds because the community has been small groups of people,” Osborne said, “so what’s happened in the past is you get clusters of people from different areas, so we wanted to break down those silos and get people there from every generation.”

Jeremiah Thompson ’23 said the event felt like a family reunion. 

“It was amazing to see some former students who were upperclassmen when I joined the University and catching up,” he said. “Along with this, seeing the older alumni and gaining insight into their thoughts on the current technology world.”

Thompson, who majored in Computer Science and Industrial Engineering, is an Associate Software Engineer at Wells Fargo Technology. 

Rhonda Clarke ‘16 echoed Thompson. Clarke, who majored in Industrial Engineering, is a Manufacturing Execution Engineer at General Motors. She oversees and manages the installation of manufacturing cells in the GM Truck Body Shops.

“I ended up going by myself, but I met and connected with so many people who were very down-to-earth! It was great to catch up with old friends and meet new alumni who are still excelling at great heights within their careers,” she said.

The celebration also honored former Mathematics Professor Dr. David Green, aka Doc Green, for his service to Kettering, Academically Interested Minds (AIM) and the community at the Detroit Golf Club. 

Current Students at event
People dancing at AAA event
David Green receiving an award

Green worked at the University for 31 years. During that time, he helped launch the AIM program, ran it for seven years, and served as the Math and Science Department Head. He retired in 2008.

One of Osborne’s favorite memories is commuting to Kettering with Green from East Lansing.

“That was a great experience for me because I got to know him on a completely different level,” Osborne said. “Those conversations in the car with him commuting back and forth were instrumental in improving my academic performance. He was a great mentor to me.”

After graduation, Osborne, who majored in Mechanical Engineering, worked for more than 30 years in the automotive industry before becoming the Corporate Director of Quaker Chemical Corp. In 2018, he went to Boeing, where he recently retired as Senior Vice President of Operations.

He said his experience at Kettering put him “miles ahead of his peers.”

“The workload at Kettering was way more difficult than any of my colleagues’ at other universities,” Osborne said.

And through the AAAN, he’s seeing current students coming out of Kettering with the same advantage, as he kept in touch with some of the students he met on that trip in 2019.

“I’m really proud of that group because they were just kids when I first met them, and now, they’re doing great things,” Osborne said. “... I just feel like I’ve been privileged to see some of these kids really blossom. Not just into great employees and leaders but also great people.”

Clarke said she plans to become a mentor within the network, too.

“The African American Alumni Network is so important because we need to see the living, tangible examples of successful people in their careers who look like us,” she said. “Representation absolutely matters. If you can see it, you can be it.” 

Having benefited from the network, Thompson also plans to become a mentor.

“Giving time to the next generation is what inspired me and my success,” he said. “I know the value in that, now especially since many of my Kettering mentors and friends have my back now and forward. Black students at Kettering deserve that for their chance of success. It takes a village.”

“The African American Alumni Network is so important because we need to see the living, tangible examples of successful people in their careers who look like us.”

- Rhonda Clarke '16

To make a gift to the AAAN Scholarship Fund, visit or call (810) 762-9759.


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