In September 1994, Momo Wolapaye left his native Monrovia, Liberia and arrived at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport and took the Jefferson Bus Lines to Mason City, Iowa. From there, he was picked up and brought to a place that would change his life: Waldorf College.
“I had no way of affording college in the U.S. but Waldorf offered me a Lutheran Leaders Scholarship, which enabled me to study in the U.S.,” he explained. He came to the foreign land with the hope of studying medicine.
However, the scholarship only guaranteed two years of study, “so when I realized that it would be next to impossible to get into a medical school in the U.S., I quickly decided to study business so I could acquire some skills that will help me become employable and contribute to society.”
While at Waldorf, Wolapaye soon built meaningful relationships with students, faculty, staff and members of the Forest City community, particularly the Immanuel Lutheran Church.
“I am especially grateful for the host family program, which put me in touch with Marvin (deceased) and Alice Jones, who served as my host family,” he said.
In 1997, Wolapaye graduated with a bachelor’s degree in banking and finance and soon decided to pursue an MBA from Capital University in Ohio. He later worked for Chase Manhattan Mortgage, but realized he wanted to do something that would directly impact the lives of younger people.
So he began working as an accounting tutor at Columbus State Community College and was later employed by Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, to serve as a hall director and assistant director of orientation and the Campus Center. In 2005, he resigned and decided to return to Liberia, since the war seemed to be over and preparations were being made for elections. Unfortunately, as he was preparing to return, another uprising began so he canceled those plans.
Fortune soon smiled again and the position of Director of Residence Life at Waldorf opened in the summer of 2006.
“The only reason I went into higher education administration is that we had an excellent crop of staff members at Waldorf when I was a student. They invested in my life in many ways so I decided that the best way to contribute to society is to do the same for other young people,” he said.
Under the mentorship of the Dean of Students Jason Ramaker, Wolapaye served for five years, during which time he got married.
In an effort to return to the East Coast and be closer to family, he left Waldorf to join the staff of Dartmouth College as a community director.
His fortune continued and in January 2014, Wolapaye accepted the Director of Student Life position at Whitman College, Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., where he currently works.
“Obtaining a liberal arts education from Waldorf prepared me to see the world in a completely different way than I probably would have had I continued to pursue my dream of going to medical school,” he added.