Scholarship Helps Students Bridge Difference, Form Strong Relationships Based on Mutual Respect
By David Buie-Moltz
When Lem Lewis (MBA ’72) speaks, people at Darden listen. But at a special gathering announcing the newest recipients of a global scholarship named in his honor, he didn’t have to. The students — whom Lewis wants as the sole focus of his philanthropy — spoke for him.
The Darden community celebrated Taiwo Abiodun (Class of 2023) and Dr. Syed Shehab (Class of 2024), as the Lemuel E. Lewis Bicentennial Award for Global Leadership winners at last Tuesday’s First Coffee in PepsiCo Forum. The award is the brainchild of Lewis, a longtime and influential presence in the Darden community. Among his bona fides, Lewis is a member of the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees, a past member of the University of Virginia Board of Visitors, among the School’s Principal Donors and a mentor to countless students, faculty and staff members.
The scholarship supports two students who demonstrate, promote and foster a global perspective and deep understanding of other beliefs and cultures — including the religious, political, economic and social context in which they exist.
“This award is another validation that my work and my interests have merit,” Shebab said. “This is also proof that the institution is putting diversity and inclusivity into practice.”
The Lewis Award is unique among competitive scholarships at Darden in that a selection committee of fellow students determines its recipients.
“It is humbling to have my peers recognize me in this way,” Shehab said. “Through this platform, I want to challenge my peers to think about what it truly means to be an inclusive community. I want to challenge my peers to engage in difficult and courageous conversations both inside and outside of the classroom.”
Abiodun, who plans to work as an investment banker at Evercore’s New York office after spring graduation, offered a similar perspective. As president of the student-run Darden Finance Club, Abiodun expressed pride in building a more inclusive culture in the club by encouraging board membership that is representative of the incredible diversity of Darden’s student body.
“For Darden, there has to be more action in terms of ensuring that students who have been admitted from diverse backgrounds feel included in the community one hundred percent,” said Abiodun, noting the positive platform this award has given him to encourage further change at the School.
For both recipients, Lewis is a proverbial North Star in how they think about trying to encourage more inclusiveness at Darden and beyond.
“It feels like big shoes to fill,” Abiodun said about winning an award named after Lewis. “Lem is an amazing person. He’s been [around] Darden for many years. When I think of Darden and trying to be an [alumnus], Lem is someone I look up to.”
Darden Dean Scott Beardsley said he was grateful to Lewis for his vision for this award, rewarding students with a strong sense of ethics, a dedication to inclusion and a globally conscious mindset — all hallmarks of the leaders Darden aspires to create.
Michael Woodfolk (TEP ’05), president of the Darden School Foundation, also praised Lewis for his contributions, which meaningfully shape the Darden experience for students.
“I’m not going to speak for Lem,” Woodfolk said, “but having known him for 22 years, my guess is that if he were at this microphone, he’d say quietly to you, ‘Be ahead of your time, make it better for someone else.'”
Standing nearby in the audience, Lewis finally spoke up, saying, “Well said, Michael!” bringing smiles, laughter and eventually applause from the students, faculty and staff members gathered.
To establish an endowed scholarship, please contact Stephanie Brady, assistant vice president for scholarships, at BradyS@darden.virginia.edu or +1-207-333-2517.
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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Darden School of Business
University of Virginia