The 2017 Recognition Ceremony

African American man smiling at camera

Held on Tuesday, April 11 in the Ohio Stadium Huntington Club, the Todd A. Bell National Resources Center on the African American Male’s Recognition Ceremony acknowledges African American males who have persisted and experienced academic success at The Ohio State University. In addition, students, faculty/staff, and community professionals are commended for their leadership and service to the African American male population at Ohio State and in the community. This year’s ceremony was special in that it marked the first time that Ohio State’s Director of Athletics, Gene Smith, and his wife, Sheila Smith, generously sponsored two Excalibur Award winners.

The recipients of this year’s awards included:

Outstanding Service Undergraduate Student Award: Demondre Peak
Demondre has made an impact on the Black male college population since he stepped foot on Ohio State's campus. He has been involved as a peer leader through ODI's Bridge Program, a West Campus Ambassador for the Black Student Association, and he co-established Men with Purpose, a student organization dedicated to the Black male experience. Demondre became a man of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., is a diversity Ambassador for Undergraduate admissions and First Year Experience, and was one of two co-chairs for the African American Heritage Festival.

Demondre has spent his collegiate career establishing himself to be an example of a successful Black male in service to his community. He works to be a positive influence for underclassmen, who reach out to him for assistance with resources and motivation so that they can persevere. As he moves toward graduation, Demondre continuously strives to leave his mark on campus as one of its greatest leaders and influencers by implanting that passion for service and leadership into more Black males.

Outstanding Service Staff Award: Mrs. Grace Johnson
Grace has strengthened Ohio State’s place as one of the national leaders for educational abroad opportunities. Specifically, she has increased the number of Black males obtaining international education experiences, and over the last four years, has provided financial assistance to more than 40 students who have travelled to places like Senegal, Spain, France, Brazil, Uganda, and China.  Students with financial need generally do not consider education abroad because they do not think they can afford it. As a solution, Grace initiated the O-H! I-O! Scholarship, which provides recipients with a $2,000 scholarship for education abroad. One student noted, “Connecting with Grace has helped me understand how big networking is, especially as I approach graduation. Through my relationship with Grace, I have been able to gain new opportunities.” Another student mentioned, “Grace provided me a space where everyone was family. She has provided me with an experience that has changed my life. Without her assistance, my experience to Brazil would not have been possible.”

Outstanding Service Faculty Award: Dr. John Johnson
John’s contributions to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Bell National Resource Center for the African American Male (BNRC), and the Young Scholars Program (YSP) span over five years. Beginning with his work with the BNRC and YSP as a post-doctoral fellow, John has used his knowledge of mathematics and his subtle yet engaging personality to help young men and women transition to Ohio State. John continues to be a beacon of light for many undergraduate students pursuing a pre-calculus and calculus curriculum and dedicates himself to supporting their success. John’s patience with students, his articulation of complex ideas, and his commitment to working with students until they are sure they understand the mathematic concepts have all made John a hidden gem at Ohio State.

Valerie B. Lee Distinguished Service Award recipient: Dr. Valerie Kinloch
Dr. Kinloch currently serves as a professor of Literacy Studies and the associate dean of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement in the College of Education and Human Ecology at Ohio State. Kinloch, a faculty member at Ohio State since 2007, leads efforts toward building sustainable models of diversity, equity, inclusion, and engagement for the college. She previously served as the associate department chair for the college’s Department of Teaching and Learning. She also served as the college’s chief diversity officer and director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion from 2014 to 2016. In that role, she helped to address increasing the enrollment of underrepresented students and creating an engaging academic climate for all. Kinloch’s research focuses on the literacy, language, culture, and community engagement of youth and adults, both inside and outside of schools. Her academic endeavors have received support from the U.S. Department of Education, National Council of Teachers of English, Corporation for National and Community Service, and Spencer Foundation, among other notable organizations. Kinloch is the author of numerous books on race and literacy, including the critically acclaimed Harlem on Our Minds: Place, Race, and the Literacies of Urban Youth.

Dr. Kinloch has been a great partner for the BNRC and its Bell Fellows program. She has presented on “Professional Development in the Academy” and served as both mentor and advisor to several fellows. Kinloch has graciously provided funding for both graduates and undergraduates to support research and education abroad efforts.

Dr. Alexander Spirit Award: DeMario Webb
DeMario, who is majoring in Aerospace Engineering, has been engaged in many activities since starting at Ohio State. He is a two-time BNRC Ambassador, an Academic Success Partner in the Young Scholars Program, and president of the National Society of Black Engineers. Demario is also the former Vice President of the NAACP, a graduate of the BNRC Leadership Institute, and a member of the Council of Black Students in Administration since 2016. He also serves as a mentor to elementary school children at Trevitt Elementary, held a 2016 and 2017 summer Internship at Rolls-Royce, Rotatives Design Engineer, and a 2015 Energy savings intern at DLR Group. Finally, DeMario was a participant in the Higher Education in Brazil, Salvador and Morro de Sao Paulo, Brazil education abroad program and a 2017 Martin Luther King Jr Scholarship award recipient.

Gene and Sheila Smith Excalibur Award
The Gene and Sheila Smith Excalibur Prize honors Gene and Sheila Smith for the exceptional and many contributions they have made to the Todd Anthony Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male. This award is presented to students who exhibit exemplary scholastic achievement, outstanding character and leadership and service to the Ohio State community. 

Excalibur Award: Geoffrey Green
Geoff is majoring in Cognitive Neuroscience with an Engineering Sciences minor. For the last three summers, he has conducted research, with the last year involving research in Ohio State’s Summer Research Opportunities Program. He was a two year Resident Advisor, tutored/mentored young African American Males in the ALL STAR after school program at Champion Middle School, and created mentally stimulating activities for the residents at Isabelle Ridgway Nursing Home. Additionally, Geoff presented at the 2016 National Colloquium for Black Males in Education and at the American Psychosomatic Society Conference in Sevilla, Spain, where he spoke about the relationship between heart rate variability and music listening tendencies. Finally, Geoff received the 2017 Martin Luther King Jr Scholarship Award, was a two-time BNRC Ambassador, a graduate of the BNRC Leadership Institute, and participated in the Global May Brazil education abroad program with travels in Salvador and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Excalibur Award: Mark Reese
Majoring in Aviation, Mark is the Founder and President of the student chapter of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals at Ohio State and an Action Team member in charge of planning the fall break for Multicultural Understanding through Non-traditional Discovery Opportunities. Mark is also a BNRC Student Ambassador, where he created study tables for his cohort, renting out space and securing food donations for students in attendance. His achievements include: American Airlines and Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals Education Fund Scholarship; First-Year Aviation Student Award – Center for Aviation Studies, College of Engineering; Hillsdale Collegiate Aviator Award – Center for Aviation Studies, College of Engineering; and a three-time Academic Excellence Award from the Minority Engineering Program. Finally, Mark participated in the Afro-Brazilian Culture and History education abroad program, Bahia, Brazil, and was a 2016 intern with Delta.