Sam Mutemwa ’17 establishes legacy of positivity and triumph


To many, Sam Mutemwa is a well of inspiration. They may wonder, from what reservoir does this well draw? In a nutshell, “I love quotes,” said Mutemwa. With story, metaphor and faith, he’s struggled with difficult decisions, the most demanding of which has been to uphold his daily resolve to stand out at Lake Erie College.

A native of Johannesburg, South Africa, Mutemwa is a member of the College’s Class of 2017, having recently graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in international business and a concentration in French.

He lives by the maxim: “When others sit, you stand; when others stand, you stand out; when others stand out, be outstanding.” This versatile quote offers direction and strength to current and future LEC students. Mutemwa stresses, “Never stop wanting to be different, wanting to excel, or chasing your ambitions in the positive sense. But above all, remember God in EVERYTHING you endure through the process.”

As an international student, he faced challenges. Mutemwa has had the resilience and courage to share his warm and friendly personality even as his heart ached for home. In fact, after leaving a period of study at Lakeland Community College, he turned down promising college offers to instead take up work at the VWV Group, a brand experience agency in South Africa. He supported his family through a temporary burden.

He recalled that of every college that expressed interest in him, “Only LEC was genuine.” A staff member reached out to him to check in on his situation. During Mutemwa’s campus visit, Marco Gaudio, senior assistant director of internal recruitment, told him what to expect, and the former director of admissions reassured him with a firm handshake. Together, these LEC staff members tackled Mutemwa’s financial need and saw to it that he could attend the College.

“That care and compassion instilled a desire to accomplish greater feats with LEC,” said Mutemwa. Like an answer to his constant prayers, “LEC had and has the right people who provide (personally, incomparable) opportunities.”

Other personal relationships shaped Sam’s journey as well. He follows up the popular quote, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder,” with a question. “How long can a heart remain fond?” This, he said, is the greatest hurdle international students face. “[The distance] deteriorated some of my strong friendships and ended most. It instilled a certain lack of trust in potential friends,” he said. Not one to be set back, he recognized “inconceivable beauty in this struggle.”

His struggle earned him great rewards. In just two years with the LEC Men’s Soccer team, he won honors such as GLIAC All-Academic Excellence Team, All-GLIAC Second Team, All-Ohio First Team and All-Ohio Academic First Team in 2016. A personalized, liberal arts education saw him through. He capped off his final year at LEC with the Class of 2017 Male Scholar Athlete of the Year Award and the Class of 2017 Academic Excellence Award for the School of Business.

A student ambassador and an orientation leader, he proudly represented Lake Erie College and all of our values to the campus and local communities. Aside from his commitments as a student-athlete, Mutemwa played midfielder for the Cleveland Legacy of the Premier Arena Soccer League Winter 2016/2017. He also volunteered as a soccer coach for NEO Sports Plant and Mentor Wave Soccer Club.

“Regardless of where he goes, Sam has a unique ability to inspire everyone around him through his positive energy and attitude,” said Reid Guarnieri, director of athletics.

This special power kept Mutemwa’s dreams alive. Fear never conquered him. In contrast, he understands that facing fear signifies what we must do in order to grow. A few of his personal fears included incorrectly answering questions in class, speaking as an orientation leader and ambassador, pointing out negativity within his team or speaking and participating in public or college events. It takes intense commitment to live up to the same ideal every day: “to be outstanding; differentiate myself in every aspect of life; retaliate against fear in whatever form; and, with God’s grace, be the creator of my success,” in Mutemwa’s case. With such foresight, he refined his character in those fearful moments.

His efforts at Lake Erie College paid off. “As a student, Sam is excellent - very intelligent and seemed to understand the concepts well. I am more impressed with his friendly personality and his communication and speaking power! I believe this is a rare combination,” said Dr. Rabiul Hasan, professor of finance and economics.

A long list of LEC faculty members made an impact on Mutemwa, including Dr. Jerry Jaffe, who teaches theatre and comedy classes among others. In his critical thinking class, Jaffe challenged students and enraptured Mutemwa with his “amazing vocabulary and speech.” However, the empowered LEC student should never back down. This challenge can be overcome by critically reading materials and writing responses - which will in turn ignite a greater passion for writing, in Mutemwa’s estimate.

His professors return such positive sentiments. “He’s one of those students who makes us realize why we love teaching. Sammy is a true believer in the value of learning,” said Dr. Mary K. McManamon, professor of marketing.

When presenting the Academic Excellence Award to Mutemwa, Professor Julie Ziemak said, “You are immediately drawn into his warm personality.” Continuing, she noted that, “According to Sam, you can really tell a lot about a person based on the friends they surround themselves with. We would all be blessed to call Sam our friend.”

Such occasions for growth may arise when personal passions and cultural moments meet incidentally. At the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service & Celebration hosted by the Lake County chapter of the NAACP, Mutemwa took the opportunity to express how King Jr. has influenced his life. To illustrate, he summoned the example of an African school girl whose pursuit of education blinded her to many obstacles. When she was swept away by a flooding river, she nearly drowned before clinging to a log and reaching safety. Still, she worried that her school textbooks had been lost in the waters.

“She was blinded so that her dream would stay lighted,” he told the crowd. He compared her persistence to that of King Jr.

“He still pursued his dreams. And his dream still lives on,” said Mutemwa, who could just as easily be referring to himself and his dream.

We at Lake Erie College feel honored that Sam found friends here. When our students live up to their personal goals, an institution grows to its greatest potential.

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