Professor teaches life lessons

As a history professor, Dr. Michael Washington teaches students where they came from. To him, history is more than a lesson. History is a part of a person’s life.

A person cannot know where he is going, until he knows where he came from, Washington is fond of saying to his students.

Since beginning work at Northern Kentucky University in 1978, Washington has taught many students and watched them begin careers throughout the world. The students he taught and inspired named him the “Most Influential Professor” at NKU during the annual Alumni Awards banquet in January.

To nominate someone for this award, alumni choose a professor whom they consider deserves the award and write a letter as to why the professor should receive the recognition.

Dr. Bontshetse Mazile, a professor at the University of Botswana in the Republic of Botswana, was one of the NKU alumni who wrote a letter to support Washington for this award.

“Dr. Washington helped me develop my analytical and critical thinking skills so as to assess and understand situations. His patience as a professor, a friend and community leader gave me hope in dreams I had about changing the world,” Mazile wrote.

Washington said he teaches all his students this mentality. He tells them they are not in college to just get jobs later in life, but to succeed in careers while transforming themselves and society, to become more equitable. He said in his classes, he wants his students to be able to understand what’s going on in the world and not to be blind to social injustice.

He said he wants his students to realize their own potential and strive to make a difference in the communities from which they come.

“Anyone can be a teacher or professor, but not everyone can influence you to strive for excellence and make a difference in the world around you,” said freshman Curtis White, one of Washington’s students.