Kenny O'Dell is McKendree University's Lincoln Laureate

Lincoln Academy of Illinois Honors the State’s Top College Seniors

(LEBANON, Ill., November 6, 2015) - Kenny O’Dell, Jr., a McKendree University senior from Carlyle, Ill., will be honored for excellence in curricular and extracurricular activities by the Lincoln Academy of Illinois on Nov. 7. The Academy will present the Abraham Lincoln Civic Engagement Award to an outstanding student from each of the state’s colleges and universities at its annual Student Laureate Convocation at the Old State Capitol in Springfield.

The honors program scholar is majoring in pre-professional chemistry and minoring in three subjects: creative writing, biology and sociology.

“I took all these minors as a way of learning how to learn, of being able to integrate very different concepts,” said O’Dell, who plans to study orthopedic surgery in medical school after he graduates from McKendree.

“He possesses a natural aptitude for abstract thinking as well as self-discipline and an intense work ethic,” said Dr. Alan Alewine, associate dean for curriculum and professor of mathematics. “He is eager to discuss with faculty scholars a wide variety of topics including pharmacology, literature and theology. He clearly understands the power of lifelong learning.”

O’Dell said he entered college focused on the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics but as a sophomore, challenged himself to try creative writing. That sparked a growing interest in writing short fiction and occasional poetry; his chemistry lab reports improved, too. Some of his work has been published in “Scholars,” the university’s journal of undergraduate research.

The student vice-president of the university’s chapter of Phi Kappa Phi national honor society also competes on the McKendree Bearcats’ fencing team. He is currently teaching himself to read and write kanji, a Japanese system based on complex Chinese characters.

Typical of many Student Laureates, O’Dell has shown a commitment to service and civic engagement on and off campus. He has tutored numerous McKendree students in chemistry, offering expertise and encouragement. He has volunteered at the Lebanon Care Center, with Catholic Urban Programs, at East St. Louis’ Griffin Center, and spent a spring break in Detroit on a weeklong mission trip. In his hometown of Carlyle, he serves on the board of Case-Halstead Public Library and plays piano at the First Baptist Church.