Three offices in Boston University’s Metropolitan College building at 1010 Commonwealth Avenue are now named after inspirational women who personify hard work, perseverance, and empowerment. Funded through generous donations from Steven G. Akers (MET’94), BU MET is proud to introduce the Izabella Temkina Computer Science Chair’s Office, the Annie Wilcox Applied Social Sciences Chair’s Office, and the Mabel A. Akers Administrative Sciences Chair’s Office.
“I think their shared attributes are, basically, a dedication to helping others by helping themselves,” says Akers, ruminating on the similarities between the three women. “Hard work and a dedication to the philosophy of self-betterment.”
Gifted by Akers in 2020, the Izabella Temkina Computer Science Chair’s Office honors the mother of Dr. Anatoly Temkin. Dr. Temkin, who joined the Department of Computer Science in 1989 and has served as chair since 2013, allows that he was surprised by the gesture. “It was totally unexpected,” he says. “I am very happy to have the chair’s office dedicated to the memory of my mother. She was an MD and held a PhD and DSc in developmental psychology. She helped a very large number of children who were hard of hearing and deaf.”
“I knew it would honor Anatoly more to have his mother’s name on his office than his own, since she was an inspiration to him,” explains Akers, who earned his MS in Computer Science at BU MET. I wanted to find someone special to him because he is so special to me.”
Dr. Temkin took on the role of mentor when Akers was working on his master’s in Computer Science at MET in the 1990s. “I’d never had anyone take an interest in me,” says Akers. “Anatoly not only cared that you learned the material; he also got very excited if you were engaged and you showed him that you really were trying hard and you were pushing the envelope a little bit. He would go the extra mile to help you understand what new things in computer science were related to what he was teaching you.”
Also established in 2020, the Annie Wilcox Applied Social Sciences Chair’s Office had its genesis in a very different set of events: the murder of George Floyd. Moved by the tragedy and inspired by the ensuing social justice protests, Akers wanted to give his next gift in the name of a Black female alum.
“When the George Floyd situation happened, I just thought it was really important to show that BU had always had this tradition of helping people regardless of their color,” observes Akers. “It always made me proud to go by Marsh Chapel, where they have the birds in flight monument to Martin Luther King, Jr.”
That sculpture, by Chilean artist Sergio Castillo, is called Free at Last—after the final words of the 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. King (GRS’55, Hon.’59).
That speech was also the inspiration for Annie Wilcox (MET’06,’09), a graduate of MET’s bachelor’s and master’s programs in Criminal Justice and a 28-year veteran, now retired, of the Boston Police Department (District B-3, Mattapan). In 2008, she was promoted to a critical role as community services officer; in 2014, she was recognized for her commitment with a Henry L. Shattuck Public Service Award from the Boston Municipal Research Bureau.
Born in Williston, Tennessee, at the tail end of Jim Crow, the young Wilcox pledged to her mother that one day she would go to the same school as Dr. King. “The Martin Luther King, Jr., speech [‘I Have a Dream’] was all I needed to know that BU offers a good education for any student who is willing to learn,” said Wilcox in a 2008 interview with BU MET. “I said to my mom, one day, I am going to that school. And she said, “‘You are dreaming.’”
King’s spirit also factors into Akers’ latest gift, the Mabel A. Akers Administrative Sciences Chair’s Office (2021), which memorializes his paternal grandmother.
“I remember being a little boy when they had the racial difficulties in Birmingham and Selma, Alabama,” recalls Akers, who was shaken by images of brutality against peaceful protesters— firefighters turning firehoses on Black children in Birmingham in 1963, authorities beating marchers in Selma during the “Bloody Sunday” event in 1965. “My friend was Black. My dad’s coworkers were Black. I said, ‘Grandma, why are they doing this? Why are all the Black people getting fire-hosed and beaten?’”
Her response was simple, yet invaluable: Nobody should be discriminated against. Treat everyone well. “‘Just remember that,’ she said.”
Mabel Akers also championed education. “She went to what they called normal school to become a teacher,” says Akers. “And then she taught school. She always valued education.”
She was a supportive figure in his life. Akers recalls that when he was in fifth grade saving shoe-shine earnings to buy issues of Popular Science, Grandma Akers gave him a subscription for his birthday. And later, as a struggling college student sleeping in his car, she offered him a loan. “I was in a particularly bad stretch,” says Akers. “I had to repair my car or something, and I had nowhere to go. She offered a loan, but I knew my dad wouldn’t like that too much because he was embarrassed that he couldn’t help me out. But discreetly, she loaned me a couple bucks. And then I slept inside for the first time in a while.”
Access to an education—for everyone, without barriers—has been a driving force in Akers’ philanthropy. “Insofar as you can motivate even one person to think outside their self and realize that they can help other people, it is an investment,” he explains. “You’re lighting a match which sends a light into the world.”
Metropolitan College Dean Tanya Zlateva applauds Akers’ commitment to his alma mater, noting that he has played an active role in the MET community for many years. “Steve goes above and beyond, not only through his thoughtful gifts to the College, but also in the way he generously shares his time,” says Dr. Zlateva. “We are grateful for his support as an executive in residence, a member of our advisory board, and through his efforts to share his knowledge through lectures and other acts.”
“It is deeply rewarding to work with alumni like Steve Akers, who, when the times get tough (as I think we can all agree they have been for the last 18 months), selflessly think, ‘How can I help?’” says Dr. Katherine Moran, director of alumni relations and development at MET. “Steve has repeatedly demonstrated incredible generosity and leadership to his alma mater, which will propel future generations of students to achieving their own higher education aspirations.”
Akers is the founder and president of MaxCogito, Inc., and founder of Digital Reef, Inc., and Spring Tide Networks. He is an executive in residence at MET and serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board. In 2009 he received the MET Distinguished Alumni Award for Computer Science, and he was the guest speaker at MET’s 2011 commencement ceremony.
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