By Jasmine Thomas
Alumnus Ron Fry has mastered the art of partying with a purpose.
Fry has successfully turned entertaining fellow alumni and friends into an annual fundraising project. Each year, on his birthday, Fry uses his special day as a platform to give back to his alma mater by selflessly sharing his birthday celebration with Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) in 2001.
“We have been doing the birthday party fundraiser for over 15 years now,” Fry said. “It’s a five-day weekend with people flying in from all over D.C., Atlanta, Houston, Charlotte, Tallahassee and more.”
Hundreds of partygoers, FAMU alumni, and supporters flock to the event. Fry estimates that an average of 800 people attend his birthday fundraiser every year. The event also draws numerous national sponsors, all in the name of supporting FAMU.
“We have sponsors from Deep Eddy Vodka, Jack Daniels, Allstate, Farmers Insurance, New York Life, L’Oreal, Ocean Spray and more,” Fry said.
In 2001, the launch year, Fry’s January birthday mixer raised $5,000 for the FAMU College of Law, with more than 300 people attending the event. Fry sent invitations to FAMU alumni who flooded the fundraiser from all over the nation including Atlanta, Los Angeles and Nashville.
He was able to meet his $5,000 goal in his first year with the help of big businesses such as Morgan Stanley, Dean Witter, Walmart, Northwestern Mutual, and Procter & Gamble.
Additionally, Fry has partnered with the Tom Joyner Foundation and the “fly-jock” himself Tom Joyner to raise funds for FAMU, and support and spread awareness about other historically black colleges and universities such as Tennessee State University (TSU). On the Sunday of the five-day weekend, Fry and his fraternity brother Ron Towels host a game watch party, celebrating the HBCU experience with alumni at TSU.
Since its inception, the fundraising weekend has helped to raise more than $6,000 for the Tom Joyner Foundation and more than $20,000 has gone to support various FAMU organizations and programs. Fry said the partnership with Tom Joyner, whose son Oscar is a FAMU graduate, has played an essential role in the successful planning and promotion of the event.
“The Tom Joyner Foundation helps to market the event each year, blasting it all over social media and beyond,” Fry said. “We are grateful for Mr. Joyner’s support and also for the foundation employees who attend the event and provide on-site support each year.”
Fry earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1986. He is currently the retail account manager at Republic National. Fry said that he has always been active in promoting fundraisers for the University because it is important to pay it forward to an institution that has given so much to him.
Fry, who was honored in 2014 with the FAMU Distinguished Alumni Award, explained that his education at FAMU has provided him with a platform that has allowed him to make a national impact in his career field and in the community. A member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., he is a board member of the National Sales Network, the vice president of events for 100 Black Men, and co-founder of several investment clubs through a partnership with Morgan Stanley designed to teach African Americans about wealth building.
Fry is passionate about FAMU and gives credit to many people at the University for his success and professional development.
“While at FAMU in SBI I interned at Monsanto, Dow Chemical Company, and with the Department of Defense at the Pentagon,” Fry said. “I learned a lot at FAMU under Dean Sybil Mobley, Dr. Thomas Haynes, and President Frederick Humphries. FAMU taught me how to be prepared for business, networking and [honing] relationship skills,” he added.