SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — A Savannah State University professor is among 12 other recipients of a prestigious honor.

Mathematics department chair Dr. Mulatu Lemma has received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring.

The Ethiopian native, who tells NOW that the recognition is a great honor for Savannah State, has taught and mentored students at the university for 25 years.

Lemma was recognized virtually for the award on July 3 and is currently awaiting his certificate, which will be signed by President Donald Trump.

The award highlights those who have made significant contributions to mentoring and supporting the future of the science, technology, mathematics and engineering workforce.

The mentorship award marks eighth Lemma’s award overall, but of all the others, he says this one means most to him.

“Mentoring is really what I enjoy,” Lemma said. “I’m student-centered, and my goal is to attract many minorities toward mathematics because minorities are underrepresented in mathematics.”

The Kent State University graduate adds that he’s mentored dozens of students across STEM fields, including biology.

“I’ve always believed that mentoring is powerful, and you can change a student’s life by effectively using mentoring,” he said.

Three of Lemma’s mentees — Dr. Samuel Dolo, Lakeisha Brown and Latrice Tanksley — now teach in Savannah State’s math department.

“I get a lot of encouragement to continue working with the students like this, especially those students who went to graduate school,” the dedicated mentor shared. “They give me feedback like, ‘Thank you, Dr. Lemma. Without you, I would not have done this.’” 

Lemma says the under-representation of African Americans in mathematics has pushed him to help get more minorities involved in the field.

“In 2017, we started a master’s program in mathematics, so we’re doing our job, we are increasing at least the number of minorities in mathematics,” said Lemma, who’s also known for discovering and introducing to the math community a sequence of numbers called the Mulatu numbers.

Dr. Sametria McFall, Savannah State’s interim provost and academic affairs vice president, says Lemma has been a valued member of the university for the past two-and-a-half decades.

“The same person that is being recognized today in terms of how he engages with the students, how he is always willing to step up and serve, is the same person that he was 25 years ago,” McFall told NOW.

“We’re just so extremely fortunate to have such a caring scholar on our campus, he has worked really hard to make sure that students have an opportunity to really appreciate mathematics, as it is one of those discipline students tend to shy away from,” McFall said.

Lemma will receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation as part of his honor.

Island High School teacher Megan Heberle was also recently honored with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.