James “Butter” Allen believes in paying it forward. As an active alumnus and long-standing member of the TCNJ community, Allen, through his philanthropic support, helps to make sure underrepresented students are afforded the same opportunities he received in college.
Allen ’76, a former staff member in various departments across campus, has always seen the value of students who come from underserved areas. A native Trentonian, Allen was introduced to the college through Upward Bound, an educational program for high school students from low-income families.
“I found that I could get the local support from my town and I was able to find, build, and foster a new community of support in higher education,” he says.
It was through Upward Bound that Allen met Casper Lonesome ’68, who served as director of the program and TCNJ’s Educational Opportunity Fund, which facilitates student transitions that lead to college readiness, positive adjustments, personal development, academic success, and student persistence to graduation.
“Dr. Lonesome gave me unconditional support as a mentor and later I was able to become his fraternity brother through Omega Psi Phi,” Allen says. “Over the years, my mentor became a friend. We expanded the unconditional support into unconditional love for each other.”
In 2018, Allen and other friends established the Dr. Casper B. Lonesome Scholarship Fund, which honors Lonesome’s legacy while supporting current and future EOF students.
“Dr. Lonesome opened doors for me and several other students that became outstanding professionals in their chosen fields,” Allen says. “I wanted to help open similar doors for the next generation of TCNJ students.”
Allen is also an advocate for TCNJ’s causes. He’s supported important initiatives such as the Advisory Commission on Social Justice and is a member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors. Allen is also a vocal proponent of making sure alumni remain engaged with the college.
“TCNJ was a game-changer for my life,” he says. “As an inner-city kid, my eyes opened to see and understand the possibilities that were available to me. I was given a chance. If you have been blessed with gifts, then it becomes your duty to be a blessing to someone else.”
— David Pavlak