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Alfred F. (Rik) Dugan III, Head of School

One of my greatest joys and sacred duties is to introduce our students to incredible role models. I want our young men to look up to good people, seeking to emulate persons of purpose who lead with integrity, care, and compassion. Author and Professor Adam Grant recently posted that “it’s often said that you can’t be what you can’t see” (something that Joanna has been saying in our family for quite some time). I want our young men to see greatness and goodness so that they can be that. This is the essence of #HeCanBe. #HeCanBe points to promise; it is about aspiration and potential and possibility; it is about dreams and hope; it is about living a life of purpose - to be the best version of one’s self. Our young men need mentors and role models, and this week they met one.

On Thursday, I had the honor of welcoming Sumorwuo Zaza to campus to speak with the Class of 2024. I first got to know Sumorwuo about 20 years ago when he was just about their age. Sumorwuo is special - one of the finest human beings I know. 

I had the immense joy of teaching and coaching Sumorwuo at Delbarton School. Following Delbarton, Sumorwuo went on to Harvard University where he earned a BA in Government with a Secondary in Economics. After graduation, Sumorwuo led and served in his home city of Newark, was part of the Brick City Alumni Group, worked as a consultant for Booz & Company, and became a manager and director for The Huffington Post. In 2017, Sumorwuo co-founded Nicklpass, and for the past seven years he has led as the company’s CEO. While Sumorwuo’s LinkedIn profile is most impressive, it is his character, spirit, and loving soul that make him the man that he is. 

Sumorwuo shared his story and his journey, from ancestry to origin to present day. He reflected on leadership, legacy, and identity and shared 7 ideas with our students that I share with you today:

  1. Where you come from does not determine where you will go, but it can tell you a lot.
  2. Dreams work best when shared.
  3. Having good counsel is priceless; “a wise king has many counselors” - who is on your council?
  4. In 8th grade, we are in a window that is the purest version of ourselves; what brings us joy now will still bring us joy as adults - cherish this.
  5. Don’t read passively, read deeply; always imagine yourself as both the protagonist and the antagonist - empathy is at the heart of courage and confidence.
  6. Be a river. Don’t wait to give back. If there is something in your heart, act on it.
  7. Masculinity works best when it has something to care for and protect (other than self) and something to serve (bigger than self).

While Sumorwuo told our students that I played a role in his formation, it is I who have been fortified by him. I lead and serve because I have been led and served. Growing up without a father, I sought out role models. My teachers and coaches were mentors to me; people who believed in me, saw promise in me, and gave of themselves to help raise me. I am grateful for my mentors who have inspired me to give of myself to others - it is why I do what I do and why I am who I am. They are a part of me and I feel blessed.

Sumorwuo is a paragon of this phenomenon and his presence completes the circle. Yes, I must admit that I teared up while listening to him speak with the Class of 2024 - a full circle journey of life that lives at the intersection of young men who I currently work with and a man who I stand in awe of, someone who I have watched grow into the best version of himself, with still so much more to become. Yes, I am proud… and I am also grateful. I love what I do. What a gift it is to walk through life with my students. 

  • #HeCanBe
  • leadership

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