ALUM CONDUCTS PRIVATE TOUR OF WHITE HOUSE
It was a Saturday afternoon in mid-March and the nation’s capitol was a very dreary place dealing with record-breaking weekend rain totals. That hardly mattered to a group of more than fifty Xavier students from the College of Pharmacy plus a contingent of faculty and staff who had traveled to Washington, DC to attend the American Pharmacy Association 2010 annual convention.
This group was happy to brave the inclement weather for a very special private tour of The White House – home of the President of the Unites States – conducted by none other than Rear Admiral Stephen Rochon (XU Class of ’84) whose formal title at The White House is “Director of the Executive Residence and Chief Usher.” - click here for the full story -
The new freshmen are encouraged to stay in the campus residence halls over the two-day affair to get a taste of student life at Xavier.
The program isn’t just for the students, however. Parents can also take advantage of the weekend to meet with representatives from administrative areas like financial aid, student health services and student accounts.
Operating under his “What color is your Bow Tie?” slogan, the new business enterprise focuses on “providing customers with quality brand cigars, cigar packages and accessories at reasonable prices.”
His entrance into entrepreneurship began in 2006 when he was still a full-time quality control engineer at the Chrysler Corporation. At the time it was just a passion: a love for the fine cigars he had enjoyed for nearly a decade and the desire to have a small side business of his own.
“I wanted to be in the business, but I knew I didn’t want to be a distributor of other people’s products,” said King, who said his idea for a new concept for marketing cigars came to him like an epiphany while buying his personal smokes in a local St. Louis shop. “I wanted something fresh, something original, something that was a reflection of who I was.”
The rather unusual company name comes from another of his loves: bow-ties.
“I’m exclusively a bow-tie guy, its part of my charm and demeanor,” said King. “What makes bow-ties so unique is that two people can have the same color and make, but the way they tie it is a function of their personality.”
And it’s that label or band on each cigar – his trademark colored bow tie – which helps to make his brand unique.
“I learned in psychology 101 that while people don’t readily recall names, they remember shapes and colors,” said King. “I can’t tell you how many good cigars I’ve smoked that I never could find again because I lost the label on them. But people will remember they smoked a bow tie.”
In addition to offering only the best long-filtered, hand-rolled cigar blends personally selected for their taste and aroma from manufacturers in the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras, Bow Tie Cigars also differentiates itself from the rest of the market by offering its cigars packaged in an all-inclusive format which includes the cigars, matches, mints, cutter and information about the cigars.
“When I travel I want to have everything I need to smoke at my fingertips – I don’t want to go hunting for matches or a cutter – and I suspect most other cigar smokers don’t want to either,” he said, noting that the concept has been very well received by his clientele and the industry in general.
Despite his original concepts, breaking into the business proved to be much harder than he imagined. He said he was turned down by no fewer than 50 companies before one company that had never previously been involved in the cigar business gave him a chance to test his marketing concept.
The enterprise started off rather modestly with one cigar blend that he peddled at private parties and public gatherings. Now three years into the enterprise he has expanded his offerings to four different cigar blends and has been actively marketing his brand to stores in the Metro-East Illinois, St. Louis and surrounding areas.
He is just now beginning to make a push into the domestic regional and national markets through some personal one-on-one contact and through a slick, polished and extremely functional company website [www.bowtiecigar.com].
According to King, his persistence is starting to pay dividends – and that’s a good thing. Laid off in late 2008 along with thousands of other Chrysler workers, his small “side” business now represents much of his livelihood.
And yet King, who lives with his wife Barbara and three-year-old son Marcus in St. Louis, wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m working very hard to make the Bow Tie Cigar Company a respected and recognizable name within the cigar industry and the cigar smoking community alike.” he said. “I recognize that I’m in a very competitive business, but I think we’ve got the right product and the perfect niche.”
Kelley, who grew up surrounded by poverty and crime in a Stamford CT housing development with his mother and five brothers, arrived at Xavier with the before-mentioned duffle bags and barely $125 in his pocket. Despite being an honor student in high school, he was enrolled in remedial courses in math, reading, and English by school administrators concerned that his dyslexia –a language-based learning disability that impedes reading and spelling – would overwhelm him.
Instead of getting discouraged, Kelley attacked his studies with a diligence and focus forged by his mother’s admonishment to her sons to “always put Christ first in their lives” and to remember that “education is the key to success.” For five years, he dedicated himself to school work, sacrificing almost everything in favor of grades. There were occasional social activities, but mostly, he studied.
Throughout his time at Xavier, while majoring in chemistry, Kelley tutored other students partly because he wanted to help his classmates excel, but partly also to reinforce his own knowledge of the subject. He became a favorite of several professors who sought him out to work on their own research projects. He came to be known as the “go-to guy” for chemistry tutoring, recommended by professors and students alike.
It wasn’t all uphill, however. Kelley’s mom died just before the start of his senior year, and there were times afterward when he wondered if he could – or should – continue his studies. But to give himself the extra push he needed, he said that he simply recalled her devotion to her sons and the dreams she had for all of them.
Following his graduating from Xavier, Kelley moved on to LSU in Baton Rouge, LA in search of a graduate degree. There, as he did at Xavier, he has endeared himself to his fellow students and members of the faculty with his willingness to go the extra mile and to extend a helping hand.
“Algernon has impressed me with his interpersonal skills, dedication and maturity,” said Dr. Jayne Garno, an assistant professor of chemistry and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Distinguished Mentor at LSU. “He is making a difference in the lives of both undergraduate and graduate students at LSU, while performing exceptionally well in his graduate studies.”
This past December, he reached a new level of academic excellence by earning a Ph.D. in Chemistry.
The first person in his entire family to earn a doctorate, Kelley now teaches three chemistry labs at LSU. Kelley, who interned at Eastman Kodak in 2008, is currently seeking full-time employment in either industry or academia. His long-term goal is to become a tenured research professor at a major university.
And lest you think all this studying has had a negative effect on his social life, think again. This June will see his marriage to fellow XU alum Amanda Martin ’06, who will be completing her own medical studies at Tulane University School of Medicine in May and has been accepted into the residency program at the University of Rochester in New York NY.
“Getting my Ph.D. was the best way I could think of to honor my mom’s legacy,” said Algernon,
points with pride to the fact that all six sons of Ethel Kelley-Roach have earned college
degrees. “She laid the foundation for all of us.”
Somewhere up in heaven, there is a very proud Momma.
The students – Sierra Hall, a business-management major from New Orleans (McMain High); Andrea Hodge, an art education major from Mason MI (Okemos High); and Nile Lang, an art major from El Sobrante CA (Pinolde Valley High) – will receive assistance and training in leadership and business skills, participate in an eight-week summer internship, and be eligible for a two-year, $10,000 grant if they commit to working in some type of social entrepreneurship organization or business.
“So often we think of non-profits as the sole areas of social entrepreneurship,” said grant coordinator Dr. Pamela Franco. “However, corporate or other for-profit businesses can also can also foster social entrepreneurship. The goal of this program is to encourage African-American students to consider social entrepreneurship as a viable career objective.”
The new program is funded through a $92,000 grant from the United Negro College Fund for
Meghan Bias ’09, has been accepted into medical school at LSU-New Orleans.
Dr. Ayanna Bucker ’97, associate director of the Public Health and General Preventive Medicine Residency Program and assistant professor at the Morehouse School Medicine, has been selected by The German Marshall Fund of hte United states as a Marshall Memorial Fellow. She was one of 54 "emerging American leaders" to receive the prstigious international award.
Kenya Crocken ’95, has been named dean of ITT Technical Institute in St. Rose LA. She had previously served as assistant dean.
Danyale Ellis ’97, has been named Director of Development at Christian Community Health Center in Chicago IL. CCHC is a federally qualified Health Center with clinical sites and social service programs serving community residents by incorporting primary medical care into a comprehensive slate of supporting programs.
Dr. Earl Mitchell Jr. ’60, was been inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame. Oklahoma State University’s first tenured African American faculty member, he served at the college for nearly four decades as a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, assistant dean of the Graduate School and as associate vice president for multicultural affairs. He also served as state director for the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation.
Rosalie Nguyen ’08, has been accepted into the LSU School of Dentistry.
Ayana Smith ’09, has been accepted into medical school at the University of Tennessee.
Dr. Janel Bailey Wheeler (pharmacy) and Dr. Kisha Gant ’09 (now a pharmacy resident) were one of 65 student/faculty pairs nationwide selected for the 2010 Wal-Mart Scholars Program. The goal of the program is to strengthen the recipient’s skills and commitment to a career in academic pharmacy through participation at the 2010 American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) Annual Meeting and Teachers Seminar in Seattle WA.
Dr. Ronald Dorris '72 (AFAM & English) presented a paper, "Collective Memory as Repository of African American Cultural and Intellectual History," at the Southern Conference on African American Studies in Jackson MS.
Dr. Conchetta White Fulton, ’85,’98 (pharmacy) served as keynote speaker for the Founders’ Day Observance of the Tau Iota Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. The theme was Positive Role Models Encourage Positive Relationships.
Six staffers and students – Shirley Labbe (counseling); Danielle Burrell (institutional advancement); Vernon Dunn, Jr., a senior psychology/pre-med major from Kenner LA (Country Day High); Latasha Tinson, a junior psychology pre-med major from New Orleans (West Jefferson); Lisa Randal, a graduate counseling student; and Ariana Stone, a junior sociology major from Redmond WA ( Mountainview) – represented Xavier at the Morehouse School of Medicine, HBCU Center for Excellence in Substance Abuse and Mental Health’s Dr. Lonnie E. Mitchell HBCU Behavioral Health Policy Academy in Orlando FL.
Dr. Leonard Jack (pharmacy) has been appointed to the Louisiana Cancer and Lung Trust Board by Governor Bobby Jindal. The Board serves to reduce the risk, incidence, morbidity, mortality and economic impact of cancer on citizens of the state by planning and monitoring statewide efforts in education, early detection, screening, research and surveillance.
Dr. Joseph M. LaRochelle (pharmacy) has been appointed to the Faculty of LSU Health Sciences Center School of Medicine, Division of Pediatrics as Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics.
Dennis Sigur ’97 and Kenneth Kirk (Information Technology Center) made a presentation on “Campus-Wide Initiative for Tracking Attendance” at the Blackboard Transaction Conference.
Quo Vadis Webster ‘00 (premed) made a presentation, “Transforming Your Pre-Health Advising Office,” at the 2010 Pre-Health Advisors Conference held at Meharry Medical College in Nashville TN.