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Breakfast Honors Pollard, Helps Students

Freeman Pollard

Freeman Pollard, PhD

March 2017

Willie Barney — a former St. Ambrose University football player whose scholarship-assisted education helped him become a powerful advocate for minority neighborhoods in Omaha, Nebraska — will provide the keynote address at the 2017 Freeman Pollard Scholarship breakfast on Tuesday, March 28.

The Fifth Annual Freeman Pollard Breakfast will take place at 7:30 a.m. at the Rogalski Center on the SAU campus. A dialogue on diversity will follow from 9:15 to 10:30 a.m.

The breakfast is a featured event of Multicultural Week on the St. Ambrose campus, March 23-31. It celebrates the legacy of Freeman Pollard, PhD, the university's first African-American professor. The annual event also helps grow a scholarship fund that was created in Pollard's honor and has benefited more than 750 minority students at St. Ambrose since its inception in 1988.

In the 2016-2017 academic year, 124 St. Ambrose students are benefiting from more than $160,000 in assistance from the Freeman Pollard Scholarship fund.

Pollard was a civil rights activist and military veteran who earned his bachelors and doctoral degrees after the age of 48, while still working as a U.S. mail carrier. He spent nine years teaching political science at St. Ambrose before retiring in 1988. He died in his native Mobile, Ala., in 2004.

"Freeman Pollard was an inspiration to us as students," said Barney, whose academic career at St. Ambrose intersected with the final years of Pollard's teaching career. "He was an example of what was possible."

Barney graduated from St. Ambrose in 1990 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and a second major in Business Administration. He is the founder, president and facilitator of the Empowerment Network, which brings residents, leaders and organizations together to help improve the economic environment and quality of life in predominantly African-American neighborhoods in greater Omaha.

Giving back and helping others was something he was taught growing up and something that was reinforced by his experience at St. Ambrose, particularly by mentors such as Pollard and fellow St. Ambrose alumni Jim Collins '69, '16 (Hon.) and Fred Harris Jr. '95 MBA.

"These three men had a measurable impact on all students, especially minorities and African Americans," he said. "The scholarship is incredibly important and extends the legacy to future generations."

Barney has continued his education through leadership training that includes the Summer Leadership Institute for Community Development at Harvard University and Executive Leadership and Management Training at the Northwestern University Media Center in Chicago.

In addition to the Empowerment Network, he is president of SMB Enterprises, LLC, an event-organizing organization and the parent company of Revive! Omaha Magazine and the North Omaha Community Guide. He is also president of WDB Resultants, LLC, and a consulting firm that specializes in strategic planning and marketing, communications, research, community organizing and facilitation. His experience includes work with large corporations, small businesses, non-profits, and faith-based organizations.

The Freeman Pollard breakfast is free and open to the public.

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