By Natalie Smith
John Newton Templeton became the first African American to graduate from Ohio University Sept. 17, 1828. This is the final in a three-part series in honor of the 175th anniversary of his historic achievement.
The John Newton Templeton Outstanding Student Leader Award, created in 1978, recognizes seniors who have made significant contributions to the life of African-American students on campus.
Damon Brown, former president and founder of The Young, Black, and Talented Entertainment Troupe, recalled the excitement he felt upon receiving the award in 1997.
"I still remember sitting in the Baker Center Auditorium when my name was called," he said. "That was definitely the highlight of my career at OU."
Michael Spencer, who served as the chair of the Cultural Arts Committee of the University Program Council, received the award in 2001 and said he felt honored to be connected with such a significant individual as Templeton.
"This award is inspiring," Spencer said. "When I think about the award, I picture John Newton Templeton in a pre-Civil War society striving for excellence against all odds set against him."
The award recipients are announced each year at the Leadership Recognition Reception as part of the Outstanding Senior Leader Awards given by Student Affairs.
In addition to the reception, the winners are given a certificate and acknowledged at commencement ceremonies, said Anne Lombard, director of student activities. "It's kind of a big deal. No other awards are like that."
Students may either apply for the award or be nominated by other students.
"I was nominated by one of my peers," Brown said. "It made me feel as though I had impacted someone's life, and they thought that much of me to nominate me for such a prestigious award."
Brown currently is the Coordinator of Intramural Sports and Summer Camp at Central Michigan University. Spencer is a first-year law student at Ohio State University.
Natalie Smith is a student writer with University Communications and Marketing.