Ashesi Founder Patrick Awuah Wins $625,000 Award from the MacArthur Foundation

One of Ghana’s iconic figures in entrepreneurship Patrick Awuah has won a prestigious international award for his good work.

The founder of one of Ghana’s leading private universities Ashesi is one of the 24 recipients of this year’s “genius grants.”

The former employee of Microsoft will receive $625,000 paid out over five years by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

“It was a real surprise and, frankly, it took a while to sink in,” the 50-year-old told the Seattle Times via email. “I feel overwhelmed with gratitude” to the foundation and those who helped build Ashesi University.

“Awuah’s innovation in higher education is not only empowering individual students; it also has the potential to transform political and civil society in Ghana and other African nations by developing a new generation of leaders and entrepreneurs,” the Foundation said.

Awuah said he doesn’t have specific plans for the cash award, but he’s confident he can find a way to put it to use advancing the school’s work.

“The Ashesi community is buzzing with excitement,” Awuah said.

More than 900 people have been given the grants since they were first handed out in 1981. Shrouded in secrecy, the selection process doesn’t involve applications. Instead, anonymous groups make nominations and recommendations to the foundation’s board of directors.

That secrecy extends to the winners who, when they are notified of their grants are asked not to tell more than one person until a public announcement is made a couple of weeks later. That has led to some difficult times for recipients.

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