When they marched onto the Green for the commencement ceremony on June 11, 2017, Marc Sepama ’17, from Burkina Faso, and Theo Wilson ’17, from Jamaica, became the first King Scholars to graduate from Dartmouth.
As undergraduates, Sepama and Wilson participated in the King Scholar Leadership Program, which Dottie and Bob King ’57 started in 2012. At commencement, both Kings received honorary degrees, as President Phil Hanlon ’77 noted at the ceremony, for their “compassion, generosity, and profound commitment to improving the quality of life in impoverished nations around the world.”
Sepama and Wilson say they are proud to be the first graduates of a program that prepares international students to fight global poverty. And they feel close to the couple who helped them come to Dartmouth.
The Kings, who have donated more than $35 million to the program, are international investors and partners in philanthropy. They often open their Menlo Park, Calif., home to the scholars in the program. “The Kings treat us like family,” Sepama says. “Having that personal connection to them—it’s very nice.”
“Marc and I share a love for music,” says Dottie King. “When he came over for Thanksgiving, I played Sinatra for him, one of my favorites.” King says she tries to be a mother to the King Scholars because they are far from home when they attend Dartmouth. Sepama and Wilson, she says, “are both wonderful. Sensitive, humble, and kind.”
They are also ambitious, says Bob King. “I’m so proud of them. The idea behind all this is to help them become future leaders—genuine leaders and innovators in their countries. They represent that promise.”
Sepama, an economics major, “really took advantage of the many experiential learning opportunities that Dartmouth offers,” says Kenneth Bauer, program manager for the Human Development Initiative and the War and Peace Fellows Program at the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding. Bauer also serves as the King Scholars’ internship adviser.
An avid traveler, Sepama participated in a summer economics program in Warwick, England, did economic research in Poland, and spent time in South Africa, living with a host family and helping to develop a curriculum for the local school, emphasizing growing and eating healthy foods. Like Wilson, he was a Great Issues scholar, exploring international issues with visiting scholars and dignitaries. Sepama was also a teaching assistant in government and engineering courses and a participant in the World Justice Project, a nonprofit organization that advances the rule of law worldwide.
“At Dartmouth, I got amazing opportunities to work with people in very different disciplines, from engineering to government,” says Sepama. “Coming here from Burkina Faso meant adapting to a new culture and a fast-paced academic environment while being away from my family, and at first that weighed on me a lot. But I got so much mentoring through the King Scholarship, and that helped me make this big leap.”
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