By George Mauzy
John Newton Templeton became the first African American to graduate from Ohio University Sept. 17, 1828. This is the second in a three-part series in honor of the 175th anniversary of his historic achievement.
Now in its fourth year at Ohio University, the inaugural class of Templeton Scholars is excited and poised to become a part of history as the first graduating class of the scholarship program.
When Dalia Wheatt became the first Templeton Scholar to graduate last June, she made history just like John Newton Templeton did when he became Ohio University's first African-American graduate in 1828. Now the remaining eight members of the 2004 class of Templeton Scholars will join her on that special list of Ohio University firsts in June.
The class includes Kenneth Acker of Gahanna, Ohio; Alexia Finotello of Kent, Ohio; Monica Gutierrez of Defiance, Ohio; Cara Lewis of Rowlett, Texas; Danielle Moore of Middletown, Ohio; David Piedrahita of Mentor, Ohio; Jesse Raney of Gahanna, Ohio; and Regis Saxton of Richmond Heights, Ohio.
"I don't feel any pressure now, but there was some pressure when I was a freshman," said Saxton, a senior criminology major. "There were so many expectations for the program when we arrived that we felt we had to be successful. We had to set a good example for future Templeton Scholars."
The Templeton Scholarship program was created to attract exceptional students from underrepresented groups to Ohio University. Each scholarship covers the cost of in-state tuition, room and board and books for the academic year.
The 2004 class has served as excellent ambassadors for the program. The group has participated in many community service projects and held candid discussions with NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, Tuskegee Airman Charles McGee, renowned author Michael Eric Dyson and retired Iowa school teacher Jane Elliott, who conducted the blue eyes/brown eyes experiments. The class also has tackled some of today's most controversial subjects, including affirmative action and homelessness.
Moore, a senior English major who plans to attend graduate school next year said the thought of graduating this spring leaves her both happy and sad.
"Graduation day will be bittersweet because I've had such a wonderful time during my four years," Moore said. "It's great that I will be moving on to bigger and better things, but I will really miss my friends. Part of the reason I am going to continue my education is because of the great experience I have had at Ohio University."
Raney said she is honored to be a part of the legacy left behind by the Templeton Scholars.
"We have established a legacy that will hopefully last a long time and it is humbling to be a part of it," she said. "The Templeton Scholarship program has given me a sense of dignity and integrity and has helped me feel like a valued person on this campus. The program has pushed and challenged me and has been instrumental in helping me find out who I am."
Saxton said he has been impressed by the personal growth of the class since they all arrived.
"We have all grown up a lot since our freshmen year, including me," he said. "Despite all of us having different majors and schedules, we have remained great friends. We have all developed lasting relationships that will last a lifetime."
This fall, 10 new Templeton Scholars are on campus to continue the legacy that the first class created and will leave behind in June.
George Mauzy is a media specialist with University Communications and Marketing.