Shannon Savage: Embodying resilience in higher education

Shannon Savage, a Black man, in a black and white checked shirt, with beard and glasses

Shannon Savage: Embodying resilience in higher education

This coming May, Shannon Savage will achieve a milestone he never envisioned for his life: graduating from The Ohio State University with a bachelor's degree in social work.

A Black man from the east side of Cleveland, Savage believed from an early age that he wasn't destined for success in academics, leading him to drop out of high school in ninth grade.

“Working with my mind? I never thought that I could do this. My career path has always been [working] with my hands, and I've always known that,” Savage explained. “When I dropped out of high school, I never thought I could do college.”

At age 23, Savage earned his GED and decided to enter the trades, attending carpentry school and then going into the HVAC industry, where he started his own business. He is proud to note that many of his family members were inspired by his example.

Despite his success, Savage wanted more. He began taking classes at Columbus State Community College, where he earned his associate degree in social work and human services. He then transitioned to Ohio State through the James L. Moore III Scholars Program.

At 47 years old, Savage is far from a traditional Ohio State student, but he believes his age grants him a unique perspective to his studies.

“My life experience sometimes contradicts the teachings, and I have to speak my mind sometimes in class. I love that I can do that because the teachers respect it, and they encourage it,” Savage commented.

After graduating this spring, Savage plans to earn his master's degree in social work. His goal is to open his own mental health counseling business with a focus on addiction recovery, a topic he knows well.

“I grew up around addiction. I don't suffer from it myself, but I have friends and my mom [who do]. I didn't realize how my life was touched by alcohol, and I think that's why it's calling me,” Savage noted.

He is proud of how he has overcome challenges to succeed as a Buckeye, just as Martin Luther King overcame adversity in his life.

“To be given a scholarship attached to Dr. King's name is priceless,” Savage said. “I persevered for what I believed in just as he (King) did.”