YSU brings Presidential Medal of Freedom winner to Youngstown
Ben Carson — neurosurgeon, author and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient — kicked off the first Centofanti Symposium at Powers Auditorium to a crowd of over 2000 people on Nov. 18.
The symposium is a speaker series established by Youngstown State University’s Bitonte College for Health and Human Services through a gift of $1 million from the James and Coralie Centofanti Charitable Foundation.
“As part of that gift, what we intend to do is each year have a symposium — similar to what you have with Skeggs — to bring in a speaker who can create awareness in the community that promotes a sense of shared responsibility and common concern for vulnerable group,” Joseph Mosca, dean of the Bitonte College of Health and Human Service, said.
Carson was raised in Detroit by a single mother in an impoverished household. With the help of positive figures such as his mother, Carson was able to become a full professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, receive over 60 honorary degrees among countless other rewards and honors and write several bestselling books including “America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made this Nation Great.”
“This [America] is the land of the dreams. Something that has been so important over the decade, over the century. So many people coming here thinking that their hard-work, their dedication could achieve something they could not achieve otherwise. It is really one of the most important things about America,” Carson said. “You know when I think back to how important that dream was to me, sometimes that is the only thing that pushes you when things get tough, thinking back on that dream.”
During his speech, Carson touched on his experience growing up in poverty, how he was able to move beyond that and the procedures he performed and medical wonders he witnessed during his time as a physician.
“I want to talk to you about some of the things that happened in my life, the philosophy that guided my life. You know medical school was my dream. I loved anything with doctors when I was a kid,” Carson said. “I even liked going to the doctor’s office.”
Carson was brought to Youngstown through the work of Mosca and the College of Health and Human Services.
“We worked with the Washington Speakers Bureau to identify him and work out bringing him here. One of the reasons for choosing him was basically his story,” Mosca said. “He grew up in Detroit, lived in poverty, had poor grades, single parent situation. His mother was a great force in his life and somebody who really encouraged him and kept him moving forward.”
Sylvia Imler, associate professor at YSU and interim director of the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, met Carson in 2002 and shared her connection and experience with Mosca.
“When Dean Joseph Mosca mentioned to me that he was looking at getting Ben Carson to come to YSU, I shared the 2002 connection and how gracious Carson was to meet with my students,” Ilmer said. “Often, our inner city youth want to pursue sports alone. He shared many medical slides with them and answered their questions. I found him to be a humble man who could relate to my students.”