Toward the end of an evening spent celebrating African American achievement, Dale Abel, MD, PhD, DEO and Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine, took the stage. After he thanked his family, his colleagues in the department, and the members of his lab for their support in helping to contribute to his successes, Dr. Abel issued a challenge to the members of the audience. “Every one of us in this room should commit ourselves to being a mentor to someone else, to many others. It is when we do that, our community is stronger and more resilient.” He cited the mentors in his own life, from family that surrounded him during his Caribbean upbringing to scientists who guided him through a fellowship at Harvard Medical School to Dr. Daryl Granner, who brought him to the University of Iowa.
Dr. Abel was named as one of four 2018 History Makers by the African American Museum of Iowa (AAMI) and honored last Thursday evening at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center in Cedar Rapids. The museum defines a “History Maker” as someone who is a trailblazer innovating in their field and positively affecting Iowans’ lives; a change agent who has made an “indelible mark on the community;” a legacy maker creating something that will live beyond them; and a role model whose example is one that others “can admire and emulate.”
Three other 2018 History Makers followed Dr. Abel on the stage as each was introduced by Akwi Nji, Communications Director for the Cedar Rapids Community School District. Dr. Venise Berry, the first African American faculty member to teach in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Iowa; Shelby Humbles, Jr., successful businessman and community leader; and Rudolph Simms, civil and human rights leader in Des Moines, responsible for, among many things, successfully lobbying the state to formally recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on the third Monday in January. Each of these History Makers similarly offered gratitude in their remarks to the people in their lives who encouraged them to work harder or believed in them enough to offer them a chance when few others would.
Although honoring the History Makers was the focus of the evening, guests were also encouraged to interact with their table mates, at one point instructed to take group “selfies” and post them under a group hashtag. Guests were also afforded the opportunity to learn more about the AAMI and to contribute to the only institution of its kind in the state. Materials were positioned around the ballroom and the atrium demonstrating the scope of the museum’s educational mission. Executive Director LaNisha Cassell and AAMI’s President and Vice President, Dr. Vincent Reid and Benjamin Hoover, provided concrete examples of the ways in which AAMI is changing Iowans’ lives.
As the evening drew to a close, guests lingered for photographs with the honorees and with each other. One photo in particular of Dr. Abel with Dr. Reid was particularly notable given that both men, though graduates of the same high school, finally met in the state of Iowa.