The 15th Annual Alger L. Adams ’32 Academic Excellence Award Dinner recently brought together members of the Hobart and William Smith community in recognition of the achievements of students in academic opportunity programs and to honor the legacy of The Rev. Dr. Alger L. Adams ’32, the first African-American graduate of Hobart College.
Adams, who overcame numerous obstacles to become Hobart’s first alum of color, was accepted on a full scholarship, going on to excel in his studies and graduating magna cum laude with majors in Greek, English and psychology. He was also inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.
Alger Adams keynote speaker Innis Baah ’10, an analyst and consultant with Deloitte, a leading international consulting company specializing in professional services for some of the world’s top brands, shared his reflections about his HWS experience during the Feb. 17 gathering which was held in the Vandervort Room.
“My experience here proved to be paramount even in my professional life,” Baah said, noting that his personal story isn’t unlike others, but “what makes my story unique is the manner in which I continued to pursue success.”
Baah said his social justice experiences at HWS contributed to his management role with social corporate responsibility initiatives at Deloitte. He attributed many of his successes to the Salisbury Center for Career, Professional and Experiential Education, as well as his study abroad experience in Hong Kong. At the Colleges, Baah doubled majored in economics and Africana studies, and was a member of Sankofa and Hobart Student Government.
During his speech Baah shared several takeaways for students based on his own experiences. He stressed that students should value their life experiences and use them as a source of strength; he also urged students to see the importance of experiences outside of the classroom. Baah advised students to network and continue to strive for academic excellence.
Met with applause, guest speaker Afrika Nora Owes ’16 offered a poetic speech at the Alger Adams Dinner, recounting obstacles students of opportunity programs can face and overcome. She noted that the path forward doesn’t have to be without support, and that there are opportunities to lift each other up along life’s journey.
“They tried to bury us, but they did not realize we were seeds,” she said. “Let’s take this back to biology. What does a plant need to grow? Nutrients, water, sun, soil. … Now, what does a plant need to survive? Tender loving care, maintenance and love. Most of all, the plant must go through the cycle of life to survive. The pollination, the losing of petals, releasing of seeds, re-growing and growing season after season. What does this have to do with us? Well, we are roses. We are the roses that grow from concrete …yet, through the cracks and crevasses; we have somehow managed to push through the concrete …”
Owes is a sociology major with minors in Africana studies and public policy, with a concentration in health care. She also serves as co-president of Sankofa: the Black Student Union, a Writing Colleague, a student worker for Information Technology Services, and co-chair of the Stewardson Society.
The welcome was given by Assistant Director of Academic Opportunity Programs Edith Wormley. Director of Academic Opportunity Programs and Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) James Burruto introduced Baah and gave closing remarks.