Dr. Mark Anthony Neal’s résumé is quite impressive. He holds the rank of Professor of African and African American Studies at Duke University, is the founding director of the Center for Arts, Digital Culture and Entrepreneurship at Duke, an author of several books, a National Public Radio (NPR) commentator and activist. Another title could easily be added: frequent guest speaker at Fredonia.
Despite considerable demands on his time, Mark – who has a B.A. and M.A. in English from Fredonia – manages to return to his alma mater, usually every other year, to speak to and meet students.
He’ll candidly tell you that contributing to the educational experience that Fredonia students receive is a very important thing to do.
“I know that when I was an undergraduate student that whatever support that I could have gotten, whether it be monetarily, other kinds of resources or just the presence of alumni, was very important to me,” Mark explained.
“It showed to me that there was a longer tradition of folks who came before me. It gave me a sense of responsibility in which I understood that I needed to give back in whatever means that I could give back to the campus,” he explained.
Mark has spoken at the Writers@Work series, guided or directed open discussions and workshops and served as emcee at an Educational Development Program celebration.
“It’s always nice to come back to Fredonia to be able to see how the campus has grown and developed, to see new generations of students that are walking across campus, and of course it’s always great to see those who were my professors at one time who might still be around; it’s always great to connect with those folks,” Mark remarked.
Obviously, those “folks” made a strong impression on Mark, particularly as it relates to mentoring and nurturing. He says faculty, many of whom he says were world-class, knew they were here to teach students, to educate students.
Today, Mark, who has a Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo, acknowledges that he’s now the age that many of former professors were “when I used to hound them in their office, so it’s interesting to see that come full circle.”
Born in the Bronx, Mark was accepted at a few SUNY schools, but he learned how great Fredonia was from a sister of a neighbor who attended the campus in the '70s. That enthusiastic recommendation sealed the deal for Fredonia. “It was a no-brainer,” Mark said, one of the better decisions he’s ever made.
“The fact that I still come back to Fredonia now 30 years since I graduated speaks to the fact that I see something of value here in whatever way I can give back to the campus to the students who are where I was 30 years ago,” he explained. “I’m going to do that as often as possible.”