UGA Honors student awarded 2006 Merage American Dream Fellowship

Athens, Ga. – Oluwamuye Felix Akinbote, a senior Honors student at the University of Georgia, has been named a 2006 Merage American Dream Fellow. The biology major from Lithonia is the first UGA student to receive this scholarship, which will support his first two years of medical school.

The two-year, $20,000 scholarship was created by Paul and Lilly Merage, U.S. immigrants who established the Merage Foundation for the American Dream to recognize and reward academically outstanding immigrant students.

“The award of a Merage Fellowship to Felix is absolutely thrilling and perfectly apt, for he is indeed a great example of the American dream,” said David Williams, director of UGA’s Honors Program. “As an immigrant, his life has been challenging, but he has overcome through hard work and dedication. Felix is a young man of unusual ability and talent, and he stands out as an admirable and high-achieving student among the best and brightest. He has a very promising future ahead of him.”

The Foundation, one of three the Merage family established for different purposes, selects American Dream recipients with stellar academic records who demonstrate leadership, are ethically responsible, and have the potential to make significant contributions to American society.

Only partner universities can nominate candidates, a maximum of three each year. UGA is one of 22 partner universities, along with private institutions such as Harvard, Princeton and Stanford.

“Mr. Akinbote is a wonderful example of a Merage Fellow,” said Marshall Kaplan, executive director of the Merage Foundation. “His American dream is truly compelling, and his record of academic success and his commitment to the community are outstanding. We very much look forward to working with him and helping him to achieve his American dream.”

Born in Nigeria, Akinbote has lived in the U.S. for the last 15 years and hopes to become a doctor. At UGA, he has conducted research with genetics professor Jeff Bennetzen, working with the model organism Arabidopsis thaliana and gaining an understanding of DNA cloning and sequencing.

During the last two summers, Akinbote has engaged in research and presented posters as a participant in Summer Undergraduate Research Programs through UGA’s Graduate School and New York University’s School of Medicine.

Pamela Kleiber, associate director of the Honors Program, attended both poster presentations and offered praise in her recommendation letter for Akinbote’s application. She wrote: “He earned the respect of his research mentors and fellow undergraduate researchers at UGA and at NYU. The scientific critical-thinking skills he developed as a researcher will serve him well in his chosen career of medicine.”

Akinbote does volunteer work for Athens Regional Medical Center and local soup kitchens, and tutors local middle school students. He also has been involved with the African Student Union and the Minority Pre-Medical Student Association. 

The Merage American Dream Fellowship is the latest major award earned this spring by students in UGA’s Honors Program. Four students were named Goldwater Scholars and one was selected as a Udall Scholar.

For more information on the Merage American Dream Fellowship, visit http://www.meragefoundations.com/mfad.html.

For more information on UGA’s Honors Program, visit http://www.uga.edu/honors.


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