When Steven Irby ’89 graduated with his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering more than 30 years ago, he wasn’t just realizing a personal goal — he was laying the groundwork for students, just like him, who would follow in his footsteps.
Irby, who currently serves as IT Director at Constellation Energy, became the first in his family to graduate college, a life-changing feat which inspired him to pay that same good fortune forward with the establishment of the Steven Irby Scholarship Fund in 2017. The scholarship, which is awarded to two undergraduate students annually, was created to support students in good academic standing studying STEM related fields and who actively help Drexel foster a welcoming community for Black students.
Now, Irby is leaving his mark on the future of his profession — like Ledornubari Nwilene ’22, a Drexel alumna and former Irby Scholar. Nwilene, who now works as a product manager at Oracle, was a senior pursuing a degree in computing and security technology when she received Irby’s scholarship: funds which alleviated a very real financial burden she faced as an international student. Receiving the Irby scholarship also helped Nwilene recognize and invest in her own potential, as it provided an opportunity to see herself as others saw her.
“This scholarship in particular provided a chance for me to tell my story of what I’d done, an opportunity to show I had made an impact, not just as a student at Drexel, but as a Black student,” she says. “It made me reflect and think, ‘wow, I’ve done a lot!’”
For Irby, who understands firsthand the challenges of financially-strained African American undergraduates, his continuing commitment to Drexel, DUBAC and students like Nwilene has created a longstanding impact — one that will continue to influence the next generation of great Drexel STEM professionals.
“There is still so much work that needs to be done, but this scholarship was like a pat on the back. That was what I needed to keep going and doing the work I was doing,” says Nwilene. “Steven’s scholarship made me feel seen.”