ON TOP OF THEIR GAME
An appreciation for education has long been a hallmark of the African American community. Likewise, we tend to share an appreciation for athleticism. So it should not be surprising that when athletic prowess teams with academic acumen, you find a combination for success that has opened many doors for the minority community.
Arthur Ashe, during a 1990 national video conference broadcast titled "The Black Athlete: Winners or Losers in Academia," pointed to such people as actor/activist Paul Robeson and Dr. Charles Drew as examples of what the teaming of scholarship with athleticism can achieve.
In that spirit, Black Issues In Higher Education established the Arthur Ashe Sports Scholars Awards. This year's male and female athletes of the year--James Greer of Howard University and Christiana Nwofor of Oberlin College -- along with the other scholar athletes whose photographs grace the following pages, continue a tradition Black Issues began recognizing in 1993.
On the Right Track
BY RONALD ROACH
Institution: Oberlin College
Cumulative GPA: 3.8
Fall '99 GPA: 3.6
Sport: Track and Field
Years of training and competition typically prepare a young athlete for college-level sports. Rarely does the athlete who takes up a new sport in college become almost immediately competitive.
Oberlin College senior Christiana Nwofor can count herself among that rare breed of athlete whose talent, dedication and intelligence has made up for years of inexperience. Just two and a half years ago, Nwofor, then a sophomore at Oberlin, took up track and field to become a sprinter. Over the past three seasons, including the one currently under way, Nwofor won recognition twice as an all-star in the National College Athletic Association's Division III conference in which she competes.
"She has developed into one of our premier sprinters and as a very effective team leader," says Tom Mulligan, coach of the Oberlin women's track and field team.
That Nwofor is a top-notch student and researcher helps explain her drive and steely determination to succeed at the challenges she tackles.
"I really work hard," she says. Her achievements in the classroom as a biochemistry major have won her admission to the Harvard University Medical School, where she will enroll in the fall of 2000. As a junior, Nwofor was inducted into Oberlin's Phi Beta Kappa chapter for her academic achievements.
The child of Nigerian parents, Nwofor grew up in the French-speaking, West African nation of the Ivory Coast. Although her schools provided her with rigorous academic preparation, they lacked American-style sports programs, which emphasize interschool competition.
"[My wife and I] were very concerned that track and field would interfere with her studies. But we saw that she was really enjoying herself, and she continued to do well academically," says Emmanuel Nwofor, Christiana's father and a banker with the African Development Bank in the Ivory Coast.
Dr. Norman Craig, an Oberlin chemistry professor, credits Nwofor with having the skills and the aptitude that would make her an excellent physician and science researcher. "She has good experimental skills and learns quickly," he says.
Nwofor worked as a researcher under Craig during the summer after her sophomore year. She will receive co-authorship credit with Craig for an article to be published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry by the end of the year.
"The research was sponsored by a National Science Foundation grant that I hold, and I decide on which students I believe are strong researchers to assist me," Craig says, noting that Oberlin faculty have only undergraduates available to help them in research.
"I thought of Christiana as a very good candidate. …