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Medalist Honors Late Father With Career Pursuit as More Than 8,200 Terps Graduate Next Week

By Liam Farrell

Jerome Quenum

Photo by John T. Consoli

Jerome Quenum, graduating with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, will be one of two university medalists at next week’s Spring 2019 commencement ceremony.

Growing up in the West African nation of Benin, Jerome Quenum was accustomed to studying by lanterns or candlelight when the electricity would go out.

But after he missed a final phone call from his dying father in 2004, due to network instability, he decided to dedicate his life to improving the electrical and telecommunication infrastructure that connects people.

Fifteen years later, Quenum comes a step closer to reaching that goal as he graduates with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and as one of two university medalists at next week’s Spring 2019 commencement ceremony.

More than 8,200 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students will be honored in college and school ceremonies from May 22 to 24. The campus-wide celebration will be held at 1 p.m. May 24 in Xfinity Center, with remarks from Michael R. Bloomberg, entrepreneur, philanthropist and former three-term mayor of New York City.

Amy Iandiorio, this year’s student speaker, will graduate from the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice’s honors program with minors in history and global terrorism. Bioengineering major Eric Wang, who received a 2019 Churchill Scholarship, will also be recognized as a university medalist. He will pursue a master of philosophy degree in chemistry at the University of Cambridge before enrolling in a medical engineering and medical physics doctoral program jointly run by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Quenum’s journey to College Park began when he came to America in 2013. He first earned an associate’s degree in electrical engineering from Montgomery College, where he graduated top of his class, before continuing his education at UMD. It wasn’t easy, and he went through a lot of hardships while navigating the process to become a U.S. citizen.

Through it all, Quenum remembered a conversation he had with his father on a nighttime walk. “Life is made up of successes and failures,” his father told him. “Just keep going and it will pay off.”

“I think that is mainly what kept me going,” Quenum said.

Those personal challenges make his academic successes all the more notable, says Kevin M. Daniels, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who described Quenum as “the top student here at College Park, and the best student that I have had the pleasure to teach.”

“His ability to digest theories, apply them appropriately and come up with unique takes on application makes him not only an ideal student but leaves me to have no doubt that he will be a great researcher,” Daniels said.

Quenum received numerous scholarships during his tenure at UMD, including the England Engineering Scholarship, the LGS Innovation Corporate Partner Scholarship and the Hughes Networks Corporate Partner Scholarship, along with the Kamin Foundation Veterans Scholarship from the Division of Student Affairs. He served as secretary of the Engineering Students Council and Eta Kappa Nu honor society, and project chair of the UMD chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

In the fall, he will enroll at the University of California, Berkeley to pursue a doctorate in electrical engineering. As a member of Army ROTC, Quenum will also be commissioned as a second lieutenant—a way to give back and honor the service of Peace Corps volunteers he would see in his home country.

“I couldn’t believe what those amazing people left behind to help African countries,” he said. “This is my way to give back.”



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