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DePauw University's Neal Abraham 'Person of the Year'

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

(Photo)
Abraham receiving his award after being named the NAACP "Person of the Year." He is pictured receiving the award from Charity Pankratz.
A young man who experienced the worst and the not-so-bad of growing up a minority in Greencastle shared his success during the local Freedom Fund Dinner held recently.

Brandon Skates told the members and friends of the Greencastle Branch of NAACP that he experienced name-calling and other rough treatment during his school years.

He recalled how he had been labeled with various social, behavioral and learning disorders as a child. But it wasn't until he was challenged to pick his future by his high school counselors that he saw a future for himself.

Today, Skates is looking forward to graduating from Indiana State University with a degree in social work. His goal in picking that course of study was to help other young boys who like himself were impacted deeply by their parents' divorce and let that event affect his actions through his school days.

But after taking a year to settle into college life at Vincennes University, and then transferring to ISU, his vision has grown. Skates' plans have matured into law school, so that he can advocate for youth in need of adult mentors.

The success of Skates, and several minority youth in Greencastle, was the focus of the 44th annual Freedom Fund event, which is the main fundraiser of the Greencastle Organization.

"A Night of the Stars" saw vocal, dance, instrumental and poetry performances by many area youth.

It also celebrated the work of DePauw University's Neal Abraham, who was successful in bringing a PBS documentary on the life of DPU alum Percy Julian to air last year.

Abraham was honored as the NAACP Person of the Year during the dinner.

"Neal came to DePauw 10 years ago with a very diverse background, having taught in China, Italy, Spain, Belgium and France as well as the U.S.," noted Charity Pankratz as she presented the award. "Since East College Tower, he has worked hard to improve the diversity on DePauw's campus and in the community as well.

"He was instrumental in bringing Tamra Garnes Walker to the local educational community [as assistant principal at Tzouanakis Intermediate School], in increasing the number of minority faculty members on campus, and hence in the Greencastle community."

Pankratz also credited Abraham with being a "key figure in honoring and promoting national recognition of Percy L. Julian," the legendary scientist and 1920 DePauw graduate, whose life was the subject of a NOVA special in 2007.

"Neal and his wife, Donna Wiley, have given much to this community," Pankratz concluded. "We thank them for their commitment and constant support of NAACP initiatives and vision for the Greencastle community."

Neal Abraham came to DePauw in 1998 from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, where he served as a faculty member since 1980. Abraham served on the Executive Committee during the founding of Project Kaleidoscope, a national organization for the improvement of undergraduate science education.

He also was an inaugural member of the National Research Council's Committee on Undergraduate Science Education, among other accomplishments.



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