Business major wins African-American Student Leadership Award


Photo Courtesy of UW Oshkosh Today

History Professor Stephen Kercher presents Franklyn Iwuji with the African-American Student Leadership award at the Martin Luther King Jr. community Celebration on Monday, Jan. 21 2019 at the AWCC.

Zach Dion, News writer

UW Oshkosh information systems major, Franklyn Iwuji, of Imo State, Nigeria, who is scheduled to graduate in December 2019, was awarded the African American Student Leadership Award at the Martin Luther King Jr. community celebration on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019.

The respected award, which was established six years ago and includes a $1,000 scholarship, is granted to an African-American student at UWO who shows great leadership and dedication to academic success.

This year’s MLK celebration marked the 50th anniversary of Black Thursday, a protest that resulted in 94 expulsions of African-American students advocating for courses in history and literature related to the African-American experience, the hiring of black faculty and a new African-American cultural center.

Iwuji demonstrates his intellect and leadership with his position as treasurer of the Men of Distinction (a social and cultural student-led group), his involvement in UWO’s Black Student Union, the same group of which the Oshkosh 94 were a part of, and his 3.62 GPA.

According to associate professor in the department of history Stephen Kercher, applicants for the award must submit an essay in which they describe how the actions of the Oshkosh 94 ought to motivate African-American students at UWO today as well as portray how they have demonstrated leadership within UWO’s African-American community.

This year, three students applied for the award.

“The award came out of an attempt on the part of the University to do something in recognition of the Oshkosh 94, who were expelled from this campus in 1968: ‘Black Thursday,’” Kercher said. “The idea behind it was that the University wanted to capitalize on the history of this event as a way to form a bridge to the future.”

Iwuji said he was amazed by the Oshkosh 94’s fight and sacrifice.

“They advocated for a conducive environment for all students, irrespective of racial and ethnic differences,” Iwuji said. “Sadly, some of the original Oshkosh 94 members passed away before witnessing firsthand how their actions led to a more inclusive body at UWO. They left an indubitable imprint on the minds of black students like me. Their relentless efforts to fight for equality coupled with resilience to succeed even after their expulsion is a constant reminder to me not to take my education for granted and to give back to others.”

Kercher was also at the ceremony to present Iwuji the award. Kercher said Iwuji stood out from other applicants.

“One of the ways he stood out was by having a ‘fireside talk’ with Chancellor Andrew Leavitt to express the shared concerns of the current generation of black students at UWO,” Kercher said.

Director of the Men of Color Initiative Tony Laing nominated Iwuji for the award, praising his “quiet leadership.”

“His involvements on- and off-campus display his diverse leadership, campus engagement, community and public engagement [as well as his ability] to balance competing priorities,” Laing said.

Assistant Vice Chancellor Sylvia Carey-Butler and a member of the committee helped select the winner of the award. Carey-Butler had only nice things to say about Iwuji.

“[Iwuji is] a wonderful, poised, engaging, respectful and kind, intellectual young man,” Carey-Buter said.

In order to qualify for the award, the student must be enrolled full-time at UWO, have completed between 60 and 85 credits and have a minimum GPA of 2.5.