Academic director made most of choices

February 22, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

Editor's note: This is the fourth of a five-part series featuring black men and women who are making a difference in their communities.

Francis Achampong has large windows in his second floor office in Penn State Mont Alto's Conklin Hall, but they aren't needed to brighten up the room - his broad, infectious smile does that.

Achampong, 48, is Mont Alto's director of academic affairs, a job that puts him second in command of the 1,100-student campus behind David Gnage, the school's campus executive officer.

Achampong, who has a Ph.D. in law from the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies, was born in Ghana in West Africa, the second oldest of seven children of a nurse-midwife mother and pharmacist father.


"I was privileged to have educated parents," Achampong said.

All of the children received their early education in British-run private schools. Six graduated from college. Only the oldest, a sister, chose not to go to college, he said.

"She stayed in Ghana to become a cattle rancher," he said.

Also in Ghana are a sister who is practicing law, a brother who is in business and a brother who is a pharmacist, Achampong said.

Another brother is a tenured professor at Harvard University and another sister works for the United Nations in Switzerland, he said.

That sister graduated from Wellesley College. She talked Achampong into coming to America in 1981.

"I had choices," he said. His specialty is insurance law.

"I could have worked for an insurance company in England or taught law in Ghana, but she talked me into coming to the (United) States," Achampong said.

Law licenses from New York and Virginia hang on the wall behind Achampong's desk.

"I didn't want people to think that I wasn't a bona fide United States lawyer," he said.

Achampong was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1990. He earned a second law degree from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

At first, he thought he was going to teach at a college in Long Island, but ended up teaching business law and insurance at Norfolk State University in Virginia for 16 years. He left there in the summer of 2002 as interim dean of the business school to take the post at Mont Alto.

He also became an expert in the legal field of sexual harassment. His publications on the subject include eight articles and a book, published in 1999, entitled "Workplace Sexual Harassment Law."

Achampong was cited as an expert in the field of sexual harassment in a Business Insurance magazine discussion of the Paula Jones sexual harassment suit against President Clinton.

Among Achampong's duties at Penn State Mont Alto are academic planning, administration and evaluation of the school's 57 full-time and 37 adjunct teachers. He recruits faculty members and works with students, planning and budgets.

He met his wife, Nicole, at Norfolk State. They were married in 1998 and live in Washington Township with their children, Alexandra, 4, Joshua, 2, and Gabriella, 11 months.

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