Meeshach Stennett '98 connects younger alumni with each other, their alma mater

When Meeshach Stennett was soon approaching the day he would receive his Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting, all he wanted to do was get his diploma, get off the DSU campus and begin the next chapter of his life.

Meeshach Stennett '98 reunites young alumni through The DSU Circle.

He said it wasn’t that his experience on campus was negative; he was just anxious to get his accounting career started.

But it wasn’t long after his 1998 graduation that he began thinking about the DSU family that had been part of his undergraduate years. Once he was separated from them, he found that he missed his Hornet friends and wanted to see them again.

He returned to campus during the subsequent Homecoming to be reunited with his DSU contemporaries, only to find out that many of the younger generation alumni didn’t come back for that weekend.

“I would ask some of my DSU friends, ‘Are you going to Homecoming?,’ and many of them weren’t,” said Stennett, 39. “Where Homecoming was concerned, one option was to go to the student party, which was too young a crowd; or the other option was the DSU Alumni Association (DSUAA) event, which was a much older crowd.”

That void of Homecoming activities for the younger alumni generations is what gave birth eventually to The DSU Circle.

In the summer of 2004, Stennett organized a cookout at Lums Pond for the younger alumni. The success of that led to annual summertime cookouts being held.

Jamal “Swat” Perkins, Class of 1998, affirms that Stennett was the one who started reuniting the younger alums. He began assisting Stennett during those early years; Perkins notes that the “Circle” name came from the place outside of Evers, Jenkins and Conwell halls where a lot of students would hang out. “We coined it The DSU Circle because that is what everyone knew.”

In 2006, Stennett and his Circle “co-founder” Perkins began establishing Homecoming events geared toward the classes of DSU graduates from the 1990s and 2000s and has kept them coming back ever since.

They started a Thursday happy hour event in Wilmington, Del., where there is strong contingent of DSU alumni. They followed that by establishing what has become an annual Friday night Party Forever Young event held at the Duncan Center in Dover.

They began to hold a tailgate State Day Party on the grassy area next to DSU’s main gate during the Homecoming Game. For the first few years of their event planning, they held a Saturday night event at the then-Loockerman Exchange in downtown Dover.

“The difference in DSU’s Homecoming is now 180 degrees different,” Stennett said. “Now all my people are down here for Homecoming.”

In 2011-2012, Stennett served as the vice president of the DSUAA. That led to programming a Saturday night Homecoming weekend event in conjunction with the Alumni Association.

The DSU Circle’s success in bringing the younger alumni together has been textbook networking. “You can’t pull something like this off by yourself,” Stennett said. “There are influential alumni in their own right from New York to D.C. and we incorporate them. All the tickets move through them.”

DSU years and career

Event planning, however, was not Stennett’s aspiration when he left Bronx, N.Y., to attend then-Delaware State College.

To understand his background, one must know that he is a product of a determined mother of Jamaican heritage — Beverley Dyce. 

“My mother had plans for me, and that was education,” he said. “When I was growing up, that was the crack era in New York City, and my mother wasn’t going to let me be a part of that cycle.”

Stennett noted that his formative teen years were also the years of the television show A Different World  and the Spike Lee movie School Daze, both of which were based on life at a historically black college. Between what he had learned from that aspect of pop culture and what he and a friend saw when they visited DSC, Stennett knew Del State was the place for him.

In attending DSU in the mid-1990s, he sees the institution’s change in higher education status as a metaphor for his own corresponding transformation.

“I came to Delaware State College in 1992, and when I left it was Delaware State University,” Stennett said. “It also signified my transition from adolescence to adulthood.”

Following his graduation, he returned to the Bronx for a season and worked as a temp accountant for a firm in “The Big Apple.”

Sometime during that next school year, he came back to DSU to celebrate the birthday of his former roommate Milton Garrick, who was graduating that year.

“That is when I met my wife Illyana (then) Green in the parking lot of Tubman Hall,” Stennett said.

Meeting his wife gave him all the motivation he needed to come back to Delaware, where he obtained a position with Pioneer Chemical Co. and later with Scientific Games. He and Illyana were married in 2000; 14 years later, their union has produced three children — Izzy, 14; Maaliyan, 10; and Marlee, 5.

In 2003, Stennett started to work for his current employer, DuPont, where he began as a fixed assets coordinator and would progress upward to his current post as a senior plant accountant at one of DuPont’s largest manufacturing sites.

Passion for The DSU Circle

Meanwhile, The DSU Circle has been a primary life passion for him. His success in bringing the younger alums together is all the more remarkable in that, during the first few years, he did it without the use of social media. Today, however, The DSU Circle is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and also has a website life of its own —

“It started off as a way of just trying to keep us together,” Stennett said.

Leland Nelson, Class of 1996 member and the owner of Dirty Dog Hauling (a professional residential and commercial junk hauling firm that he calls a modern day “Sanford & Son”), is one of the “influential alumni” who has helped to keep alumni in the Harrisburg, Pa., area in the loop about The DSU Circle events.

“We have had some very good cookouts where we have been able to enjoy good fellowship with each other and our families,” said Nelson, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. “(Stennett) is big on alumni engagement. If he sees anything positive about alums in the news, he will get that information out there through The DSU Circle.”

Garrick, Stennett’s former roommate, said that Homecoming parties of The DSU Circle have been “mesmerizing,” as well as “good clean fun.” He notes the benefits of bringing the younger alums together goes beyond partying.

“It is important to understand that Stennett has created a family outside of our immediate families,” said Garrick, who earned a 1998 Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and currently teaches mathematics at Postles Community College Borough of Manhattan (N.Y.). “Life can be stressful, but when we get together, we are able to release some of that stress with good people and good energy, all of which is medicinal.”

In addition, Perkins notes that a lot of alums have their own businesses and companies, “and the networking allows us to connect and collaborate.”

Stennett said he wouldn’t exert so much energy into The DSU Circle if he wasn’t seeing the positive result of the efforts.

“When I get alums to come back and say that it was the best Homecoming they have ever been to, and that they can’t wait to come back next year, then it is worth it,” Stennett said.

-- Story by Carlos Holmes