Skip to main content

Charge to Patrick Awuah '89

Honorary Degree Citation

Patrick Awuah, you have achieved your dream of founding the first liberal arts college in Ghana and are its first president. You named your college Ashesi, which means "beginning" in Akan, drawing inspiration for that name from the lines of Goethe:

If there is anything you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

You grew up in postrevolutionary Ghana in a time of economic difficulty, when food was scarce and educational opportunities limited. You came to Swarthmore in 1985 on a full scholarship, immediately to thrive and soon to become an advocate of the Swarthmore liberal arts experience. You graduated in 1989 with a double major in economics and engineering.

After graduation, you joined a fledgling high-tech company on the West Coast called Microsoft; there you helped develop a remote access server that continues to be used in Windows today and earned a reputation for asking probing questions and for bringing difficult projects to completion.

But the birth of your son, in 1995, turned your thoughts toward education and, more particularly, to the idea of founding a college in Ghana. Compelled by that idea, you moved on from Microsoft to the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, and, as your M.B.A. thesis there, designed a business plan for a nonprofit residential liberal arts college in Ghana that would educate new generations of African leadership.

You then embarked on a campaign to raise the $11 million required, to identify a board of trustees, to establish an appropriate facility, and to recruit an ideal faculty and administration.

In March 2002, Ashesi University College opened its doors in Accra, Ghana, to students from Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. Awaiting those students was a liberal arts core curriculum, developed with the help of Swarthmore faculty, which includes a mandatory community outreach component and is complemented by preprofessional programs in computer science and business management. Today, with two years of experience, Ashesi has already established a secure foothold among recognized African institutions.

You have given to your home continent an educational resource of rare quality and demonstrated the power of the liberal arts to serve other societies as significantly as they serve our own. And you have looked to the link between intellectual rigor and social responsibility modeled at your alma mater to ensure that Ashesi will also become a remarkable training ground for leaders of a more inclusive and generous world.

Patrick Awuah, we admire your vision, your determination and historic accomplishment; and we are very proud that their roots lie here.

Upon the recommendation of the faculty and by the power vested in me by the Board of Managers of Swarthmore College and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I have the honor to bestow upon you the degree of Doctor of Laws.