CU names two Jefferson Award honorees for 2024

CU Boulder’s Wingo, Miranda recognized for excellence in academics, community service
By Staff

Two University of Colorado community members have been named recipients of the 2024 Thomas Jefferson Award, among the highest honors bestowed at the state’s largest institution of higher education.

The honorees are:

Faculty: Ajume Wingo, Ph.D., Department of Philosophy, CU Boulder

Student: Matthew Miranda, undergraduate, Class of 2024, CU Boulder

Named for the third U.S. president and a Founding Father who greatly influenced American arts, sciences, education and public affairs, the biennial Jefferson Award recognizes CU faculty, staff and students who demonstrate excellence in the performance of regular responsibilities at the university while also contributing noteworthy service to the broader community.

The awardees were chosen for embodying and advancing the ideals of Thomas Jefferson: broad interests in literature, arts and sciences, and public affairs; a strong concern for the advancement of higher education; a deeply seated sense of individual civic responsibility; and a profound commitment to the welfare and rights of the individual.

The honorees will be celebrated at an awards reception, 3-5 p.m. April 22 in the Flatirons Rooms of the Center for Community at CU Boulder. Click here to register.

Ajume Wingo

CU names two Jefferson Award honorees for 2024

An associate professor of philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences at CU Boulder, Ajume Wingo’s commitment to humanitarian causes and dedication to catalyzing positive change extends across the globe.

A prince from the kingdom of Nso in Cameroon, Wingo joined CU Boulder in 2009. He has founded organizations advancing human welfare and liberty in some of Africa’s most needy communities.

In Cameroon and Ghana, Wingo founded nonprofit humanitarian organizations that make biodegradable sanitary pads that are distributed to local girls. PridePads Africa also educates community members about menstruation, working to fight the stigma that contributes to barriers facing young women.

Wingo also established a nongovernmental entity that built systems to provide clean water to communities in need, a particular help to women and girls who previously carried water in vessels on their heads. Another of Wingo’s efforts is helping to bring peace to Cameroon in the wake of civil conflict.

In academia, Wingo is a respected authority in political philosophy, political monuments, and ethics. He has published widely on liberal democratic philosophy and politics, particularly on institutional building in places where there are non-liberal democratic or illegitimate political institutions. He has also published on civic education, African politics, African art, and aesthetics.

Matthew Miranda

CU names two Jefferson Award honorees for 2024

A first-generation, nontraditional student, Matthew Miranda is a senior studying political science and communication with a Leadership Studies Minor at CU Boulder, with graduation expected in August.

After a brief stint in community college, Miranda earned his Personal Training Certification and worked as a fitness trainer before the outbreak of COVID-19 across the country. Seeking a second shot at earning a degree, he left his home in Florida and moved to Colorado on his own during the pandemic.

At CU Boulder, he took on the role of program director for CU GOLD (Gaining Opportunities through Leadership Development), which provides peer-to-peer education on leadership topics including effective communication, public speaking, ethics, conflict management, and more. During Miranda’s three semesters at the post, CU GOLD saw a record of over 300 student participants. He forged partnerships with numerous clubs and organizations on campus, fought for an increased budget for the program, and added more paid student positions to the executive board. His advocacy for leadership education for college students has earned him awards including Student Leader of the Year and the James E. Schafer Leadership Award.

Miranda has a passion for public service. He has interned for U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper and state Rep. Eliza Hamrick. He also worked on a successful political campaign as a campaign manager for Lafayette’s mayor, J.D. Mangat. Miranda also helped relaunch the Boulder County Young Democrats, where he now serves as chair. His future aspiration is to run for elected office, where he can continue to advocate for leadership education and champion policy important to young people.

Winners of CU’s Thomas Jefferson Awards are selected by a committee of CU faculty, staff and students. Recipients receive an engraved plaque and a $2,000 honorarium.

The Thomas Jefferson Award was established at the University of Virginia in 1951 by the Robert Earll McConnell Foundation to honor teaching faculty who exemplified the humanistic ideals associated with Jefferson. By 1962, six other institutions – including CU – had established a Jefferson Award. In 1980, the university added a student category; in 1988, the staff category was approved. Funding for the awards is derived from earnings on an endowment provided by the McConnell Foundation and from a bequest by Harrison Blair, a CU alumnus.