Visionary Leadership Plus Academic Achievement Equals Success for Claflin University Senior Dillon Isaac

May 07, 2015
Claflin University senior Dillon Isaac is a visionary.  He is the embodiment of the profile University President Dr. Henry Tisdale has adopted to describe Claflin students and alumni who will make their mark as transformational leaders prepared to face the challenges and opportunities of a global community. 

“I am truly thankful for what Claflin has done for me,” said Isaac, who will receive his degree in pre-medicine and biology with nearly 400 other graduating seniors at Claflin’s 145th Commencement Convocation on Saturday, 11 a.m. at the Seventh-day Adventist Worship and Convention Center.

Isaac amassed an impressive list of accomplishments at Claflin. He arrived on campus with the distinction of being a Gates Millennium Scholar.  He received internships, worked on research projects and studied abroad in Gold Coast, Australia.  He also participated in the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program at Duke University, where he was introduced to rigorous coursework in physics and organic chemistry while shadowing physicians.

“I had many inspirations which led to my interest and fascination in medicine,” said Isaac.   “My grandmother was a diabetic and I was innately fascinated with the doctor’s intervention at that time.  I watched what they did and her reaction to the medications and treatment. I felt that biology and chemistry would be best in helping me understand various illnesses and how to intervene to improve the patient’s quality of life.”

Isaac was selected for the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program at the University of South Carolina-Columbia. There, he conducted intensive research on fundamental immunological processes and received the Emerging Scholar Award.  The award is given to students who demonstrate outstanding academic and research potential.  Isaac also was a member of the Minority Association of Pre-medical Students and he earned the prestigious

UNCF Merck Science Initiative Undergraduate Award, valued at $25,000.   During the spring 2014 semester, Isaac was elected president of the Claflin University Student Government Association (CUSGA).

“Dillon is a very special young man,” said Tisdale. “His Claflin experience has been characterized by exceptional achievement.  He has taken full advantage of the opportunities he received and conducted himself exemplary both in academics and as a student leader. He truly is representative of what we expect of our students.  I am confident Dillon will continue to achieve at a high-level as an alumnus of Claflin.” 

Isaac’s quiet but effective leadership qualities were on display at Blackville-Hilda High School in Blackville, South Carolina.  As a junior he was president of the Beta Club – an academic honors program with a strong emphasis on leadership and community service.  During his senior year, Isaac was elected president of the student council.

“Despite being very shy, I have always been very motivated,” said Isaac, who was the salutatorian of his senior class.  “Believe it or not – I would have been labeled an introvert.  But I wanted to break out of my shyness so I just put myself out there.”

Claflin was not the only school on Isaac’s radar as he approached his high school graduation.  Duke, Harvard, and the University of South Carolina were among the others schools he considered.  However, while working for his father’s campaign for mayor in his hometown, Isaac met Mrs. Bernice Tobin, a former faculty member in the education department at Claflin.   His father lost the election but the chance encounter with Tobin was a fortuitous one.

“I told Mrs. Tobin I planned to attend Duke,” said Isaac.  “But she felt Claflin would be a better environment for me.  She proved to be right.  Claflin helped me grow and evolve as a person and academically.” 

Tobin is a close family friend and the wife of Dr. Walter L. Tobin, the former superintendent of Orangeburg County Public Schools.  Tobin knew Isaac’s parents and other members of the family very well but she really did not know him.

“I saw this quiet but extremely intelligent young man following instructions from his father without showing any real passion for what he was doing and not really interacting much with anyone,” said Tobin.  “I knew Dillon had the academic ability to succeed anywhere.  I just felt he needed to be at a college or university that would stimulate his growth socially.  Claflin was perfect for Dillon and it gave him an opportunity to grow into the young man he is today.  I am very happy for him and his family.”

As a Gates Millennium Scholar, Isaac will receive full and continual funding for his post-graduate studies.

“When I received the Gates Millennium Scholarship, it took me a while to understand what it meant,” Isaac reflected.  “My uncle sent me a message which asked did I realize that the scholarship had made me a millionaire. Even though that is not entirely true, I suppose I could consider myself a millionaire because of the many, many opportunities and people I’ve been introduced to as a Gates Millennium Scholar. As a recipient, you are empowered to pursue your life’s greatest and most visionary ambitions.”

With his days as an undergraduate coming to a close, Isaac is putting the finishing touches on his legacy as a student at Claflin.  Last week, he officially relinquished the position of SGA President to his successor, and Friday (May 8), Isaac will deliver the liturgy at Claflin’s Annual Baccalaureate Ceremony.  Then on Saturday, he’ll be greeted by a chorus of cheers and applause as he crosses the stage and receives his degree.  

“Graduating from Claflin is more than about me and my accomplishments,” said Isaac.  “This is for my parents and other members of my family who continue to love and support me. And this is also for those who did not have the opportunity to attend college and earn a degree. I’ve been blessed for all of this which motivates me to help others.”

Isaac’s next stop will be to the campus where he initially planned to attend after high school -- and it’s doubtful he will encounter any detours this time.  Isaac is headed to the Duke University School of Medicine’s Master of Biomedical Sciences (MBS) program.

“My academic and leadership experiences at Claflin have prepared me for what lies ahead at Duke and beyond,” said Isaac.  “I have truly embraced Dr. Tisdale’s vision. What he says is true – the sky is not the limit – when there are footprints on the moon.”

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