Tag Archives: University of Bridgeport

Babatunde: Behind The Subway Counter

Westport is filled with spectacularly interesting people. So many folks here have transformative back stories, and do intriguing things.

We find them in typical places: schools, the train, the beach, cultural events.

But they’re also in places we might not expect. Like behind the Subway counter.

The hat says “Victor.” His real name is Babatunde Aborisabe. He’s happy to hear either one. In fact, he’s pretty happy always.

His smile and enthusiasm might be unexpected. His father died before Babatunde was born. His mother had a very limited education.

But school teachers in his native Lagos, Nigeria encouraged him. They gave him confidence. He joined the Debate Club, and learned how to organize his thoughts.

He was named a class leader. That’s an important responsibility. In Nigeria if a class is rowdy or inattentive, the class leader is punished.

Babatunde read a lot — about leadership, business and more. Ben Carson — the neurosurgeon and author — became a great inspiration. Babatunde devoured books like Think Big, The Big Picture and Take the Risk.

Heeding Carson’s call to be the best at whatever you do, Babatunde went to college for science and engineering. He worked in food and drug quality management for the government. He continued to develop intellectually.

Babatunde Aborisabe

Babatunde Aborisabe

Then he took a huge risk: He came to America to earn his master’s. In 2013 Babatunde enrolled in the University of Bridgeport’s technology management program. Very soon, he became a team leader.

He’s found his professors to be very approachable. “Here you are allowed to disagree, and challenge opinions,” he says with joy.

“I love it,” he says of college specifically, and the US in general. “The opportunities are wide for anyone who works hard. But I know that I am the only one responsible for what happens to my life.”

Babatunde has gotten involved with 2 churches in Bridgeport — including one with Nigerian roots.

He graduates next semester. He’s exploring Ph.D. programs.

In the meantime, to earn money, he is a shift leader at Subway in Westport. He makes sandwiches with a smile, for customers who have no clue about his story.

“People want to be treated well,” he says of his job. “I like doing that.”

Remember the names: Babatunde “Victor” Aborisabe. You will hear about him in years to come.

(Hat tip: Amy Scarella)

Remembering Manute Bol

Manute Bol — the Dinka tribesman who became one of the best shot blockers in NBA history — died today at 47.  The news brought back memories of the day I saw him in Westport.

It was 1985; Bol was playing basketball for the University of Bridgeport.  One winter afternoon, he walked down Main Street.

Manute Bol

At 7-6 tall, with the spindliest legs imaginable — and striking ebony skin — he certainly stood out.  As he loped down the sidewalk, everyone stopped and stared.

He must have known people were talking and pointing.  It must have happened all the time.  (Though not back home in Sudan:  His mother, father and sister were all between 6-8 and 6-10; his great-grandfather was 7-10.)

Yet he carried himself with grace.  He did not slump; he did not glare.  He did not try to be anything other than what he was:  Manute Bol.

I am not a basketball fan.  So I was unaware that — after his 10-year pro career — he became a political activist.  He returned to Sudan, working for peace and overseeing school construction near his birthplace.

Sudan is a long way from Westport.  But — based on my brief glimpse of this remarkable man here — I am sure he was as dignified in that poverty-stricken, war-torn land he loved, as he was walking down a very alien Main Street here.