It was a day for celebration on April 1 with two programs held to recognize the Our Time Has Come Program and the achievements of its Scholars and Leaders.
In the afternoon, the Our Time Has Come Program Ceremony was held at Dineen Hall to acknowledge the participation and academic achievement of the program’s current 89 Scholars and 33 Leaders. Six students received Academic Achievement Awards for GPAs of 3.9 or above: Bryan Crowe Jr ’23, Morgan Marshall ’25, Nadia Nelson ’23, Julia Peterkins ’23, Sofia Rodriguez ’24 and Imani Williams ’24.
For the first time, an award was bestowed to an alumnus in recognition of outstanding mentorship. Rob Edwards ’85 received the inaugural OTHC Mentor Award for going above and beyond in his role to support and guide students. Edwards, a SUMA Advisory Council Member, is a veteran screenwriter and producer for film and television and is president of We Happy Few, Inc.
“He’s always there to field my questions and assure me. He tells me to pick a path and run with it and has pushed me to work harder here in school and take advantage of my opportunities,” says mentee Kiana Papin’22, who presented the award along with Cameron Joy Gray ’22, recently named a University Scholar, Syracuse University’s highest undergraduate honor.
“When I was at Syracuse, my parents made me promise that if my crazy Hollywood dreams ever came true, that I would reach back and help others manage the roiling waters of Hollywood. So, it was a blessing when OTHC came to me with amazing young men and women who are intelligent, focused, fun to talk to and sponges for knowledge and experience,” said Edwards in a video message.
Keynote speaker Ron Gillyard spoke to students about overcoming obstacles to achieve success and shared his own path. Gillyard, a Harvard graduate with a degree in finance, is partner and chief growth officer of Quantasy + Associates, a marketing/advertising firm whose clients include Spotify, Steve Harvey, Kevin Hart/Laugh Out Loud, the U.S. Census, Target and Honda Motors. He previously worked in the music and entertainment industry and held positions as vice president at Motown Records and general manager of Bad Boy Entertainment.
The program closed with an inspirational giving message from Tara Brown Favors ’95, chief human resources officer for Mutual of America, and a member of the SUMA Advisory Council and OTHC Mentor. Favors personal philanthropy includes a major gift to 119 Euclid Ave. and the lead gift to establish the OTHC Kevin Richardson Scholarship.
Seniors had been encouraged to support the Class of 2022 giving initiative, Class Act, which will support OTHC, among several campus programs. Those who donated were presented with an OTHC donor pin and a special cord to wear at Commencement.
Later that evening, the 33 graduating seniors were honored at the OTHC Class of 2022 Ceremony and Reception at The Chancellor’s House.
“Once again, the OTHC cohort has made us proud through their academic excellence and campus leadership,” said Rachel Vassel ’91, G’21, associate vice president of multicultural advancement.
The keynote address was given by former OTHC Scholar Anwar Nasir ’06, executive director of the Louisiana Philharmonic. A former professional dancer, he earned a degree in communication and rhetorical studies from the School of Visual and Performing Arts. Anwar shared his journey in carving out a career in arts management—he is only the second African American to lead a major American orchestra—and advised students to be creative in charting their own paths.
“There will be times when you leave this campus that you won’t have the answers or there won’t be a logical next step,” he said. “There will be people who don’t have the vision that you do. . . . Your job will be to continue to forge a path forward to see possibilities in the impossible. Your achievements will be defined by your ability to take a blank canvas and create new opportunities for yourself and those around you.”
Three seniors, Dakota C. Chambers ’22, Cameron Joy Gray ’22 and Nathena Murray ’22, were recognized with Academic Achievement Awards for maintaining GPAs of 3.9 or above.
Chambers and Murray both offered remarks at the event.
Chambers, who was named an OTHC Scholar her first semester at Syracuse, called the experience a “full circle moment” and credited the program for helping relieve financial stress and to believe in herself and find her confidence as a Syracuse student.
“OTHC was instrumental in helping me find others who looked like me and understood my experience and facilitated the ability to connect with them,” said Chambers. “Through our leadership sessions, community meetings, and alumni events . . . I was able to get what I’d been looking for since I first stepped on this campus: a support system that has helped to make this sometimes-dreary city a home away from home.”
Murray recalled her difficult first year at Syracuse and thoughts of transferring. But when she became an OTHC Scholar as a sophomore, things changed.
“Acceptance into this program has switched my whole perspective of SU. It has made me more appreciative of my time here,” she said. “OTHC provided me with opportunities that I didn’t know existed. Through our community meetings and monthly leadership, I’ve grown to be fearless. As members, we are reminded to constantly strive for greatness because there are people who have come before us who see our potential, but there are also people coming behind us who will look to us for guidance.”