Albojay Deacon

Interview with Albojay Deacon
Marquette University Office of Public Affairs
May 3, 2012

An early mentor and friend, Robert A. Byrd, Jr., indicated that Albojay’s parents took advantage of the golf opportunity at Bridging the Gap for their son.  “They were very interested and motivated people in their son’s success.  This is the only way [the golf program] works.”  In fact, it is this kind of interest that is a determinant in any child’s success.  “Albojay’s parents already planted the seed of success.  Bridging the Gap just built on that.”

Albojay (a Riverside High School graduate) first enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences (declaring a major in Exercise Science) at Marquette University.  He comes from a family nexus that nurtures success.  Albojay’s three brothers are working professionals (Physical Therapist, Podiatrist, Chemist) and his sister is a Physical Therapist too, but initially completed Law School in Chicago and started her own law firm.  Albojay’s mom had rules to live by that all family members can still recite:  read your books, go to school and (for Albojay) “no girlfriend until after college.”  The message, like a script or mantra, was boldly written on the wall.

Albojay was told by Marquette that he would have to pursue Physical Therapy (PT) the traditional way (and apply for entry once in an undergraduate program) versus the Direct Admission route.  Albojay had to keep his grades up to be competitive and this effort became a new goal.  He logged observation hours and pertinent class time to get into the program.  At the same time, Albojay was running track for Marquette and was an Evans Scholar.  The latter honor truly came as a surprise to him.  Albojay had no knowledge of the scholarship program while he was a caddy before entering Marquette.

As part of the First Tee and BTG Golf Program, Albojay and his brother were mentored by Mr. Byrd who would also faithfully drive them out to their caddying jobs at various country clubs in the city and beyond.  While in his junior year of high school, a golf pro asked Albojay if he thought about the Evans Scholars Program.  Albojay’s first thought was “I can’t get that.”  Mr. Byrd thought otherwise and asked Albojay to keep it in mind.

While walking on the 18th hole as caddy for a gentleman another conversation was struck up.  Albojay was fielding questions like,

How are your grades in school?  “Good

What’s your cum?  “3.5”

What is your financial status?  Albojay didn’t know how to answer this question, but continued as best he could.  Little did he know he was being assessed as a potential candidate for the Evans Scholars Program by the national director.  Albojay was asked to apply.  After securing letters of recommendation, he was scheduled for an interview.  He made it to the final list.

Albojay describes the scene like someone receiving an award.  He went up to a podium in a hall and looked out onto a sea of men in green coats from all over the country – 60 in all.  The men fired questions at Albojay.  The most memorable was:

“We see you put down Madison or Marquette as your school choice.  What school do you want to go to and why?”

Albojay knew Marquette was right for him because of the PT program and this is the story he relayed to the sea of green coats in front of him.  It was a winning speech and Albojay shared his successful bid with his parents first, other family and friends second.  “I don’t remember if I called Mr. Byrd right away, but he found out.”

Once Albojay got to campus and settled into the Evans Scholars house, he found it “interesting”.  There were about 50 students in the program and all from some level of disadvantaged backgrounds.  But there were significant cultural and racial differences.  In Albojay’s cohort, there were only about 15 minorities– four or five of whom were African American.  This lit an internal fire in Albojay, which spurred him to run for student President of the program.  It was a close election, but Albojay won.  Never before was there an African American President of the Evans Scholars chapter at Marquette.  “If you want something to change, you need to be part of that change.”  And at first there was, but it is hard to keep up that kind of momentum when you are enrolled in an intensive academic program.  “We all got to know each other [though] through a What’s Your Story meeting”, but Albojay decided a neutral voice on the executive board better served the presidency and it was in this way that he served out his role.

According to Robert A. Byrd, Jr., “we have the Albojay Deacon template.  Let’s hope he can share those gifts with the community.”