Celebrating Black Legacy: Francesca Borges Gordon ’82 Keynotes Trinity’s BHM Gala

5 min read

Faith Monahan ’24, Iqra Athar ’26, & Cornelia Ehlebracht ’25

News Editors

On Feb. 29, Trinity College’s Multicultural Affairs Council, in collaboration with the Black History Month Committee, celebrated the legacy of Black excellence on campus with a gala titled “S.O.U.L.: Solidifying Our Unified Legacy,” featuring Francesca Borges Gordon’82 as the keynote speaker. Held in the grand ballroom of the Manuel and Maria Luisa Lopes Borges Admissions Center, the event underscored the lasting impact of one of Trinity’s most distinguished families at the College and their commitment to the legacies that Black students and alumni have built. The admissions center was recently renamed in honor of the Borges family thanks to Francesca Borges Gordon’s generous donation to the college which will support the education of future generations.

Francesca Borges Gordon, who currently serves as the Director of Development, Outreach, and External Relations at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, brought to the gala not just her professional acumen, but also her deep personal and familial ties to Trinity College. According to the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, since joining the Foundation in 2016, she has played a crucial role as a member of the donor-advising team focused on cultivating major gifts to nonprofits and community leaders. Borges Gordon’s professional journey encompasses diverse sectors, including corporate and non-profit realms, such as banking, higher education and hospitals in the area. In addition to her professional pursuits, Borges Gordon is deeply engaged in the Greater Hartford community, as she actively participates in volunteer activities and serves as a member of the Connecticut Women’s Council. She is also president of the Trinity Club of Hartford reflecting her commitment to Trinity’s strong alumni network.

A graduate of the class of ‘82 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a member of the prominent Borges family, Borges Gordon and her siblings have been instrumental in fostering a culture of philanthropy and academic excellence at Trinity. In November 2021, the Borges siblings, including Francesca Borges Gordon, Francisco L. Borges ‘74, H’20, a former Trinity trustee and a former Connecticut State Treasurer, his wife Luisa, Peter L. Borges ‘80, Maria Borges Correia ‘85 and Joaquina Borges King, a Wesleyan University alumnus, collectively donated a remarkable $10 million to Trinity College. This transformative gift was dedicated to providing financial aid to exceptional students to support their pursuits in higher education. The Borges siblings, united in their desire to pay forward their success, endeavor to provide as many young students as possible with the chance to pursue academic studies and opportunities at Trinity College, just as others once did for them. As a token of gratitude, Trinity College decided to rename its admissions center after their parents Manuel and María Luisa Lopes Borges, first-generation Cape Verdean immigrants who emphasized the importance of a strong work ethic instilled through their heritage.

The gala, marking the conclusion of Black History Month (BHM), served as a vibrant celebration of Black heritage and the Borges family’s contributions to Trinity College. The event re-established a tradition that has ceased to occur in recent years: a gala during BHM for students to celebrate the month. Sydney Cross-Watts ‘24, who co-led the Black History Month Committee alongside Dansowaa Adu ‘24, highlighted the significance of the event in an interview, noting that “Choosing the ‘Solidifying Our Unified Legacy’ theme and celebrating Black history through the gala focused on the Borges family’s legacy was a deliberate act of honoring those who have paved the way for students like me… Borges was the first family that came to our mind, and it felt right to celebrate them.”

Cross-Watts elaborated on the collaborative efforts behind the month-long celebrations, which involved reaching out to multicultural organizations and various departments on campus to support and participate in BHM events. This year’s theme centered on celebrating legacies was reflected in the gala’s atmosphere, described as a safe space for students and alumni alike. The event saw a significant turnout of Black alumni, underlining the Trinity community’s engagement, support and strong network.

The gala, which took place on Feb. 29 during a leap year, offered a symbolic moment to conclude BHM, Watts noted. The evening began at 6 p.m. with a cocktail hour, setting the stage for a night of recognition and reflection. Borges Gordon’s keynote address underscored the importance of experiences and stories. The Black History Month Committee presented Borges Gordon with an award, thanking her for her involvement and impact, further solidifying the event’s theme of legacy and unity and honoring those who have significantly contributed to the Trinity community.

The gala not only served as a moment of celebration but also as a call to action. Cross-Watts expressed hope that the event would be continued as a tradition to provide recognition of the individuals and families that have contributed to Trinity’s success as an educational institution. She stressed the need for more student involvement and institutional support to overcome the challenges of organizing heritage month celebrations, noting that stronger support from pre-allocated funds could facilitate these events.

The event is further signified in its reiteration of the Black Alumni Organization gala previously held at Trinity, aiming to reintroduce and solidify the legacy of Black alumni. Through Francesca Borges Gordon’s keynote and the collective efforts of the Trinity community, the gala encapsulated a vision of unity, legacy and the continuous effort to celebrate and recognize the contributions of Black individuals and families to the College’s history and future.

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