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November 3, 2008

EOP 40th Reunion: Lasting Friendships, Career Success 

From left, James Walker with his current EOP counselor, Patrick Romain.

From left, James Walker with his current EOP counselor, Patrick Romain. (Photo, courtesy of James Walker)

James Clinton Walker will never forget what the University at Albany's Educational Opportunities Program has done for him. Walker, 58, now enrolled in the master's in social work program, was among the more than 300 attendees at EOP's 40th anniversary reunion Oct. 24-25.

Walker said the joy of meeting his suitemates again and the discovery of classmates he hadn't seen in 40 years were among the ingredients of a tremendously successful weekend that was held in conjunction with UAlbany Day and homecoming weekend.

"I have nothing but gratitude," Walker said. "To think we started out as inner-city students without the academic qualifications to get into college." EOP provides intensive academic training, tutoring, and study skills workshops as well as counselors who help students overcome both academic and personal obstacles to success.

The result? According to Walker, there were at least five UAlbany EOP graduates with a doctoral degree at the reunion, and 30 to 40 more with a master's degree. "EOP was the educational piece it opened a lot of doors," said Walker, who said he was proud to see there were former EOP students present who are now CEOs, vice presidents, and doctors.

For Walker, because of EOP he was able to take Photography 101 with Professor Wayne Lennebacker, who "took me under his wing," taught him photography, and wrote him a letter of recommendation when he decided to join the Army.

"I spent six and a half years as a photographer in the Army," said Walker, working at NATO in Germany for three and a half years. He also tested Kodak equipment in Alaska for the military.

Walker's suitemates from left: Clinton McIntyre, George Moore, Harry Johnson, and Melvin Brown.

Walker was delighted to see his suitemates, from left: Clinton McIntyre, George Moore, Harry Johnson, and Melvin Brown. (Photo, courtesy of James Walker) 

Back in the U.S., he opened his own photography business in the Bronx. Along the way he earned an associate's degree from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In May 2007, he graduated with a bachelor's degree, also from John Jay.

Walker still has the photography business, but a special invitation by Carson Carr Jr., who recently retired as the director of EOP, brought him back to UAlbany, this time as a graduate student in the School of Social Welfare. At first, Walker was skeptical, but Carr talked him into it.

"He said to me, No. 1, think of the incentive you are giving to the undergraduates, and No. 2, few men of color have a higher education degree or have a master's, so think of what you are doing (as a role model)." Walker was sold, and started back at UAlbany in the fall of 2007.

Today Walker volunteers for Liberty Partnership and points to the importance of mentoring at-risk children. He also volunteers at fairs aimed at making the streets safer.  

EOP gave him "40 years of friendship. We got more than an academic education the bonds you made of true friendship in 1968 are still strong today," Walker said.

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