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Nichole Nelson, C'11

I’m fortunate to have met Hask when I visited Penn with my parents for Multicultural Scholars Weekend in the Spring of 2007 because he had just retired from the University that year.  My parents and I coincidentally walked into the African-American Resources Center and we had a lovely conversation with Robert Carter, Valerie Dorsey Allen, and Colleen Winn, and they said that there was someone who I needed to meet.  And I met Hask.    

I was struck by his willingness to help me and other students even after he retired.  I appreciated his recommendation that I apply for the Center for Africana Studies Summer Institute and how he helped get me into the PennCap Pre-Freshman Program.  As a student from a conservative, virtually all-white town on Long Island, those programs were invaluable to me because they laid the foundation for me to navigate my path at Penn, in general, and specifically as a Black student on campus.  We kept in touch periodically throughout my freshman and sophomore years, but what really brought us together was Onyx Senior Honor Society. 

From my junior year onward, I had a front-row seat to his genius and creativity as we worked together on projects to encourage more Onyx Alumni to engage with Onyx.  We worked together for almost 10 years to re-connect Onyx’s founders and Alumni with the Society. Two of the founders spoke at its pinning ceremonies during my senior year and Hask introduced me to other founders and other Onyx Alumni throughout the years.  Just as he wanted Black undergraduate students to work together on projects to navigate the institution and thrive, he wanted us to continue working together even after graduation, to help each other succeed professionally and lean on each other during difficult personal times.   He had a number of ideas for Onyx like how it should have an endowment, offer grants and scholarships for undergraduates, offer scholarships for members to pursue graduate study, have a Graduate Board comprised of Onyx Alumni to aid in the Society’s Alumni affairs, and eventually raise enough money to give back to Black students from West Philadelphia. 

He often told me stories of finding money for different initiatives during his early years as an administrator in the 1970s. His way of making a way out of no way—literally—for Black students was incredible.  His imagination knew no limitations. 

I’m truly grateful for our 13-year friendship.  He’s changed my life and the life of thousands of people in profound ways.  He changed my life so much so that when I had to make a documentary as one of the requirements for Brian Peterson and Charles Howard’s course on the History of Black Men and Women at Penn, there was only one person who I wanted to interview, and that was Hask.

May his legacy live on in the activism that we pursue to aid Black students and make the University continue to feel like a home so that Black students can feel as comfortable inhabiting its many spaces as white students.  We miss you, Hask.

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