BSA and VOP Alumni Class of 1984 Reunites to Celebrate Multicultural Students


The 2022 Dr. Obie Bender Multicultural Awards took place on April 8 at 6 p.m. in the Center of Innovation and Growth.  

7 BW students and 9 BW staff received an award during the ceremony. Director of Inclusion Programs & Community Development Ericka Walker-Smith told The Exponent the history behind Dr. Obie Bender Awards. 

“The awards are created to acknowledge student achievement, particularly achievements of multicultural students every year,” Walker-Smith said. 

The 11 awards not only recognize success in the classroom, but also outside the classroom. The awards give recognition to faculty, staff, and administrators who are also committed to advancing diversity and inclusion efforts at Baldwin Wallace. 

“The Obie Bender awards have been here since I got here,” Walker-Smith said. “I started working here in 2006, that was a program, so it’s been here the entire time.” 

Bender was a a graduate of Baldwin Wallace and worked at the University for 36 years. He provided leadership as an administrator and was responsible for athletics, campus security, and the health and physical education of recreational facilities.  

This year multicultural awards not only celebrated the different outstanding students, but brought together the Black Student Alliance and Voices of Praise gospel choir alumni from the class of 1984. BSA alumni created a scholarship for Black students to help fund their education at BW.  

Senior Philanthropy Advisor Madeline Wallace from the Center of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement told The Exponent that the BSA Alumni Scholarship was the idea by alumni that wanted to help the next generation of students. 

“The BSA Alumni Scholarship fund came to be because a group of BSA alumni were interested in hosting a reach-back weekend,” Wallace said. “They wanted to also contribute to BW students in a way that would be impactful to their education now.” 

While some details remain nebulous, the scholarship could be awarded later this semester, the first award would be given to a Black student who has financial need of some sort as selected by Chief Diversity Officer CJ Harkness. The amount awarded is still unclear. They have a goal to raise $5,000 this year.  

Wallace said that the University would look into the feasibility of establishing an endowed fund for the scholarship. 

“Hopefully that would continue to build and we could establish that scholarship as an endowed fund, at this point it’s not an endowed fund, but we’re hoping that someday it could be.” Wallace said. 

Anyone interested in supporting the BSA Alumni Scholarship can contact Wallace or The Center for Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement at (440) 826-2074.  


2022 Dr. Obie Bender Multicultural Awards Winners 

 Excellence in Academics: Juan Taborda 

Excellence in Athletics: Jon Murray Jr.  

Emerging Leader: Kierra Mullins  

Global Citizen Award: Nicki Hodgkiss 

Comminity Service Award: Jamia Basit-Hightower 

Outstanding Campus Leader: Ruyimbo Mareya 

Outstanding Graduate Leader: Kiara Rivera 

Positive Force Award (Faculty): Duane Battle, Imani Elkins, Karen Monroe, Lauren Copeland, Lisa Henderson, Lorelei Batislaong, Molly Swiger, Nicholas Mays, Sean Gilmore.