Medal Recipient Looks Ahead to a Future Filled with Service
Date: May 22, 2002
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos by Lisa Ventre
Robert E. Richardson, Jr. is one of four UC students to wear The Presidential Leadership Medal of Excellence at Commencement on June 7. He was selected from 23 applicants nominated university-wide by UC administrators, faculty and staff.
Richardson, a 1997 Winton Woods High School graduate from Springfield Township, is graduating from UC with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. He'll be among the first graduates ever to wear the bronze medal, displaying the university crest on the front and the recipient's name on the back. The prestigious award honors students who best exemplify dedication to scholarship, leadership and service to the university as well as the community.
At UC, Richardson is credited with establishing the first college chapter of the NAACP in the Tristate in 1998 and also served as president of Student Government. He has tirelessly worked to inform students on civil rights and social justice issues and to get them motivated over something that is traditionally met with apathy among many age groups, including his peers: casting their vote.
"You can't complain if you don't vote, so we try to get as many people as possible riled up about voting," says Richardson. "Each fall, we always seek to have a strong Get Out the Vote campaign. We try to get students registered and we try to get them informed on the issues. Over the past three or four years we've registered a few thousand voters."
Edward N. Prather, assistant dean for the College of Engineering, called Richardson a "rare born leader with charisma, integrity and ambition.
"What is most impressive about Robert is his passion to serve others and his commitment to social justice," Prather writes in his nomination.
"Many descriptive words can be written about Robert Richardson: he is intelligent, sensitive, responsible and trustworthy," writes P. Eric Abercrumbie, director of UC Ethnic Programs and Services and the African American Cultural and Research Center. "Also, he has a sincere commitment to working with others to always be self-powered, educated and politically aware. His contributions to the university community and the City of Cincinnati will be remembered long after his physical presence is gone. He is a powerful motivator and leader."
Richardson credits his family for his passion for justice and equality and says he learned the ropes at a young age. He says he was in the backseat of politics all his life through the influence of his father, Robert E. Richardson, president of the Cincinnati AFL-CIO.
Richardson's involvement with the NAACP started in his high school years. "When I went to my first NAACP conference and I heard them talk about social justice and civil rights, I really got a bigger scope of what's going on and how injustice and racism affect us on every level of our society. I wanted to do everything I could to combat that, and one of the strongest ways to do that is to get people informed, to get them registered and to get them involved in the political process."
Richardson says he has worked to inform students about the issues on the local, state and national levels, from civil rights to higher education. During his tenure in Student Government, Richardson says his administration reached out to student governments at 11 other universities to lobby before the state about student education concerns.
Richardson hopes to be president of the United States one day, but for now, he's planning on attending law school and then looking at a possible run in local government. "I think it's important for a person who's going to serve the citizens to know the law, especially if they want to know how to take it and make it better.
"I've enjoyed my time at the University of Cincinnati and I've enjoyed serving the university, and I hope to one day serve the City of Cincinnati, the State of Ohio and America."
Other medal winners.
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