Biology major receives first Jonathan Yavelow endowed scholarship

By Tori Pender

After the passing of beloved biology professor Jonathan Yavelow, junior biology major George Afoakwah is the first recipient of the Jonathan Yavelow Endowed scholarship.

The Yavelow scholarship supports undergraduate science students with financial needs and was initiated by Yavelow’s colleagues, alumni and friends to honor his legacy after the passing of the cherished biology professor on Oct. 29, 2020.

Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Kelly Bidle, said, “I reached out to a group of faculty who generously contributed to the scholarship from Jonathan’s home department of Biology, Behavioral Neuroscience and Health Sciences to assist in the selection process. They were unanimous in their selection of George.”

“I love the life sciences and I want to remain a student of the life sciences,” explained Afoakwah.

The North Brunswick native intends to pursue a career in either molecular biology or cardiology. Afoakwah believes biology is the best major to get him to those career goals, and it is easier than biochemistry.

“I did an internship with [Jonathan] Karp in the summer at a hospital, I spent a lot of time in the cardiology departments and I really loved it,” said Afoakwah. “I love the life sciences, I love to use my hands and my head, I love learning and teaching and I love high-intensity situations.”

Afoakwah grew up in Ghana and came to America with his brother in 2016. Growing up, his mother was in academia which stimulated his curiosity.

“The culture in my home was different from the culture in my community. I was going through “Jane Eyre,” “Bleak House,” “Oliver Twist” and “Go Free Or Die” in 2009. A significant part of the Ghanaian culture that had a big influence on me was the emphasis on education. In my country, education is taken very seriously. Recalcitrant students are expelled or punished quite severely. Such students are not tolerated. We are taught to love and cherish our education,” said Afoakwah.

“The impact this scholarship will have on my future is simply unfathomable,” explained Afoakwah. “The honor is huge.”

Afoakwah added, “I am extremely grateful for this. Yavelow dedicated his entire life to the life sciences and this has encouraged me to hold steadfast in my goals of following a path very similar to his.”

The goal of the Yavelow scholarship is to help brilliant students with financial needs in their academic endeavors.

Bidle emphasized the importance of having scholarships and how they create a significant impact on talented students.

“When these students become successful professionals one day I hope they themselves become philanthropically minded and remember how valuable an education is at making a difference in a person’s life,” said Bidle. “That is truly the spirit in which I know Jonathan would have wanted these funds to be awarded.”

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