Renowned entrepreneur, educator and founding president of Ashesi University College in Berekuso, Ghana, will deliver the keynote address at the College’s 102nd Commencement on Sunday, May 17, 2020.
Awuah, a 2015 MacArthur “genius grant” winner, is a visionary leader who created Ashesi University College in 2002 with the mission of educating a new generation of ethical and entrepreneurial leaders in Africa. A graduate of Swarthmore College with bachelor’s degrees in engineering and economics, he worked for a decade as an engineer at Microsoft before returning to school for an M.B.A, and eventually to his native Ghana to launch his new enterprise in higher education. He will be addressing our graduates following a year that Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo has declared a “year of return,” marking the extraordinary achievements of Africans in the diaspora in the 400 years since the Atlantic slave trade.
Awuah has been recognized around the world for his educational innovation and inspiration. Ashesi, which means “beginning” in the Akan language, is the first and only college of its kind in Africa, advancing science and engineering in the liberal arts tradition and instilling integrity through its student-run honor code. What started in 2002 with 30 students in rented facilities is today recognized as one of the top African universities, with more than 1,000 international students from nearly every African nation and already 1,200 alumni, many of whom continue to live and work in Ghana.
In 2007, Awuah received Ghana’s highest service award, the Membership of the Order of the Volta, by His Excellency President J.A. Kufuor. In 2015, Fortune magazine named Awuah one of the 50 greatest world leaders, and in 2017, the World Innovation Summit awarded him its prestigious education prize for his transformative work in African higher education. He is a fellow of the Africa Leadership Initiative; a member of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations; a member of Pacific Council on International Policy; and a recent appointee to the UNESCO Futures of Education Initiative.
As part of Commencement, Connecticut College will confer on Awuah an honorary degree: a doctor of humane letters honoris causa, reflecting his revolutionary achievements in higher education in Ghana, as well as his commitment to the values that animate our mission of the liberal arts in action.
Connecticut College’s relationship with Ashesi began five years ago, in 2014, when a small group of our faculty, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, visited the university to explore potential global partnerships. The connection was formalized in 2016 and since that time, faculty, staff, and students from both institutions have participated in a variety of courses, trips, and student exchanges.