Alumni Profile: John Dau
John Dau, ’05, has been named a 2014 Outstanding Alumni Award recipient by the American Association of Community Colleges. The award is given annually to former community college students who make outstanding contributions in their chosen career fields and to their communities. Dau is 1 of only 6 national recipients
Dau’s (pronounced: “dow”) amazing journey to the United States began in a refugee camp in Kenya where he learned to think of education as the parents he never had. “We called it our mother and father. Through education we could find a job, feed ourselves, provide for ourselves and our family. Education could give us the tools to protect ourselves and be strong.
Dau was a “Lost Boy,” one of the tens of thousands who were displaced or orphaned by war in the Sudan. In August 2001 at the age of 26 Dau came to the United States. One year later he began taking classes at Onondaga along with a group of approximately 80 refugees. “OCC was like a family to us. The teachers helped with school work and life lessons. They took their time to go the extra mile and help with everything. It created a strong bond not only with me but all of the refugees.
Dau graduated in 2005 with a degree in Humanities and has dedicated his life to helping others. He is President of the John Dau Foundation which he runs from his Syracuse office. Dau has 38 employees in Africa with whom he communicates daily with via Skype. His foundation raised $800,000 for a medical clinic in South Sudan which it now runs with remarkable results. The clinic has
- Treated more than 111,000 people since opening in 2007
- Vaccinated more than 7,000 children, the first time children there have ever been vaccinated
- Helped more than 8,000 women give birth, the first time women in South Sudan have given birth in a medical facility
- Brought 16 U.S. doctors to South Sudan for eye surgeries on 600 people. They were completely blind but can now see
Dau says all of the people are treated for free because of overwhelming giving here. “It happens because of what I call ‘American Big Heart.’ Americans donate money. They are the greatest people.
Dau’s foundation has helped buy books for Lost Boys in Syracuse, and books are at the center of his next big project. “I want to build a library in South Sudan. I enjoyed the library at OCC. I want people to have the same advantage over there.
In his spare time Dau serves as a motivational speaker. He’s also written two books: “God Grew Tired of Us” and “Lost Boy, Lost Girl,” which he co-authored with his wife who is also a refugee. They were in the same refugee camp together before coming to America. Since marrying here they have started a family and now have 3 children.
“John Dau exemplifies the tenacity and spirit of so many community college students,” explained Dr. Walter G. Bumphus, President and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges. “As a Lost Boy of Sudan, he saw and experienced daily the horrors of ethnic strife in his homeland of South Sudan. That only gave him the strength and drive to succeed. The guidance that Onondaga Community College provided him, an immigrant from such a different world than his new home in Syracuse, New York, was a valuable stepping stone on his journey. The American Association of Community Colleges is proud to honor Mr. Dau with the 2014 Outstanding Alumni Award. His perseverance is an inspiration to everyone who wants a better life.”
“John’s remarkable success and determination to help others represents everything Onondaga stands for,” said College President Dr. Casey Crabill. “Through education John was able to better himself, and now he is using what he learned combined with a tireless work ethic to improve the lives of those in his homeland. We salute John for all of his accomplishments and congratulate him on the national recognition he has earned and so richly deserves.”
Dau was honored by Onondaga as an “Alumni Face” for his distinguished service. Displays honoring Alumni Face honorees can be found in the Gordon Student Center and Academic II.