Cary Dabney, a Youngstown State University philosophy and religious studies senior, will be attending Harvard University in the fall for graduate studies after being designated as a Dean’s Fellow, which pays for everything he needs to attend the prestigious Ivy League school.
Originally from Michigan, Dabney specifically moved to attend YSU. He was influenced by his wife and by articles written by religious studies professor, Bruce Waller and Africana studies professor Victor Wantatah.
“The plan was to go to school after I served in the military,” Dabney said. “But I ended up serving two terms, and by the time I was out, I had a family, and I needed to work.”
Dabney started out at YSU in fall 2009 as a non-traditional student. Since then, he has been a peer mentor for YSU’s Center of Student Progress and a brother and president to the Sigma Chi fraternity and has achieved academic success, Dabney did all of this while still managing to make time to be with his wife and six children.
“People joke with me and tell me I’m Bill Cosby without the sweaters,” Dabney said. “They really do mean a lot to me.”
Bruce Waller. chair of the religious studies department, said Dabney’s time management amazes him.
“I don’t know how he does it,” Waller said. “He does a superb job with everything he does, and he has developed into a very good scholar.”
Dabney officially made the decision to further his education over 2 years ago when he began to look into graduate studies programs for religious studies and philosophy. Harvard was not the first thing that came to mind.
“I would have never thought I’d be capable of getting accepted into Harvard,” Dabney said. “I was actually encouraged, if not outright strongly suggested by Dr. Waller and Dr. [Linda] Tessier, to not shoot so low because I did have that ability to be a part of a prestigious program.”
Tessier, a religious studies professor, said that Harvard is a perfect match for Dabney.
“He is a gift at academic[s] and one of the best students I have ever taught,” Tessier said. “He always looks at everything from a different and unique angle. I will never look at the Book of John the same way again.”
Dabney eventually got into every graduate studies program he applied to which included Yale University, Duke and Claremont.
Cary said that, although the interview process of admissions was intense at Harvard, he is happy he received admissions to Ivy League schools.
“Harvard stood out to me because they made me a Dean’s Fellow, which means I get full tuition, housing and a stipend for living expenses,” Dabney said. “I joked with my wife and said I’d frame my rejection letter just to prove Harvard saw my name and knew who I was. The acceptance letter has been framed since I got it.”
After graduation, Dabney said he would miss three main things at YSU: the professors, his Sigma Chi Fraternity brothers and the staff at the CSP.
“The CSP really helped me develop into the person I am today,” he said. “My Sigma Chi brothers are all honorable guys, too. You could tell they have a deep sense of moral responsibility and are proud of being students at YSU.”
Dabney said he will always remember the comment a professor made on the very first day of his very first class at YSU.
“My professor told us that the purpose of coming to college and getting a higher education is to adjust the lens in which you see the world,” he said. “If you are looking through the same lens as you did for four years, you missed the point of getting a higher education. That quote is really what helped me succeed.”
Tessier and Waller both agree that Dabney was a gem in the religious studies department.
“We will certainly miss him,” Tessier said. “We are very confident of what he will do at Harvard, and also beyond that point into his future.”