Alumni and Support

Learn more about the alumni, organizations and support that contributes to the success of Clark Atlanta University and its Whitney M. Young Jr. School of Social Work:

Alumni Groups/Organizations

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Noteworthy Alumni

Evelyn G. Lowery, Civil Rights Activist
Clark College, 1947

Evelyn Gibson Lowery served as an early proponent of the Civil Rights Movement alongside her husband, Reverend Joseph E. Lowery. Lowery attended Clark College with ambitions of becoming a social worker after graduation. In the 1950s, with her husband, she demonstrated against segregation in Mobile and Birmingham, Alabama.  As an advocate for the rights of women, children and families, Lowery established the SCLC /W.O.M.E.N. (Women's Organizational Movement for Equality Now) Inc.

Martha S. Lewis, Social Worker and Civil Rights Activist
Atlanta University, 1947

Martha S. Lewis earned her Master of Social Work (MSW) degree from the Atlanta University School of Social Work. In the 1970s, she was the highest ranking African American official in any state government, as a deputy commissioner for the state Department of Social Services in New York. Lewis was also one of the 17 original founders of the Coalition of One Hundred Black Women and an active member of the NAACP, the National Urban League, and other civil rights organizations.

Noah S. Purifoy, Social Worker, Visual Artist, and Sculptor
Atlanta University, 1948

Noah S. Purifoy earned a graduate degree in social services administration from Atlanta University. In 1953, he became the first African American to enroll as a full-time student at the Chouinard Art Institute (now CalArts), where he earned his BFA in 1956, just before his 40th birthday.  As the co-founder of the Watts Towers Art Center and creator of the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum, he is best known for his large-scale assemblage sculptures, including a body of work made from charred debris and wreckage collected after the Watts Riots of August 1965.

Hon.  Jerome Farris, Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Atlanta University, 1955

Judge Joseph Jerome Farris received a Master of Social Work from Atlanta University. And Juris Doctor with Order of the Coif honors from the University of Washington School of Law in 1958. Nominated by President Jimmy Carter on July 12, 1979, to a new seat authorized by 92 Stat. 1629. He was confirmed by the Senate on September 26, 1979 and received commission on September 27, 1979. Judge Farris Assumed senior status on March 4, 1995.

Annell Ponder, Teacher, Librarian, and Civil Rights Activist 
Clark College, 1955 | Atlanta University, 1962

Annell Ponder earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Clark College and a master’s degree in social work from Atlanta University. In 1962 she became a field supervisor for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, joining hundreds of activists traveling the South to register black voters. While returning from a citizenship school training session in South Carolina, Ponder along with Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer and other activists, were taken to a Mississippi jail and brutally “interrogated” by police for simply trying to get other black people registered to vote in the Deep South. The 1963 incident draws national public attention to the campaign for voting rights. 

John Wesley Mack, Civil Rights Activist and Civic Leader
Atlanta University, 1960

John Wesley Mack received a master’s degree in social work from Atlanta University. As Executive Director of the Urban League in Flint, MI (1964), he focused on fair housing and voter registration issues. In 1969, he became President of the Los Angeles Urban League, and led it into becoming one of the country’s most successful non-profit organizations, generating an annual budget of $25 million while promoting issues of employment, education and economic development.

Delores P. Aldridge, Sociologist, Social Worker, Activist and Educator
Clark College, 1963 | Atlanta University, 1966

Dr. Delores P. Aldridge earned her B.A. in sociology and psychology from Clark College and her MSW in social work from Atlanta University. In the 1960s, she developed social services for the first comprehensive mental health center at a general hospital in the U.S. In 1971, Aldridge became the first African American woman faculty member of Emory University and founding director of the first African American and African Studies degree-granting program in the South, which she administered until 1990. In 1988 and 1992, she studied gender and race issues in the Soviet Union and Brazil.

Otis Samuel Johnson, Social Worker, Educator and Politician
Atlanta University, 1969

Dr. Otis Samuel Johnson earned a master's degree in social work from Atlanta University and, in 1980, he received his Ph.D. from the Heller School of Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. He is a Scholar in Residence at Savannah State University after serving eight years as the 64th Mayor of the City of Savannah, Georgia (2004-2012). While mayor, he provided leadership for the creation of Step Up Savannah, Inc., a poverty reduction initiative, and Healthy Savannah, an initiative that promotes healthy lifestyles.

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