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  Role Models

Music prodigy, 10, attracting a lot of attention

Gabi Wilson plays four instruments, and has the voice of an 

By Mike Celizic contributor                                                                                                                           

 2:59 p.m. ET, Wed., Dec. 19, 2007

If you were listening and looking at the TODAY Show on Wednesday 19th, December, 2007,when Gabi Wilson started singing, you would have had to turn to see just who it was who was producing such full and rich sounds. 
And when you saw it was a 10-year-old girl sitting behind a baby grand piano, you’d be forgiven for being astonished that anyone so young could sing like that.
   You were in good company. The feeling was the same in the studio, where everyone from the anchors to guest Patti LaBelle was mesmerized by the little girl from
Villejo, Calif., with talent that seems unlimited.
   So, where did it all come from, asked TODAY’s Hoda Kotb before Wilson began to play and sing her idol Alicia Keys’ song, “No One.”

  “When I was still in my mom’s stomach, my dad, he’s a big musician, and his band used to practice in the living room and I’d hear a lot when my mom was making coffee or something,” she said. 
   Her mom and dad, Kenny and Agnes Wilson, smiled in the wings when she said that, nodding their agreement. Kenny Wilson was something of a prodigy himself and was compared to Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Guy as a guitarist and vocalist as a teenager in
Arkansas. In Villejo, he founded the Urban Bushmen band, a popular group that is described on its Web site as a “hardcore blues and R&B band with a touch of Hip-Hop and Nubian Soul.” 
   When Gabi was 6, her father first took her to sing at private gigs, and it wasn’t long before she was wowing big crowds in public. At the age of 8, she was named California’s Most Talented Kid at the state fair, beating out a field of 60 other kids up to the age of 16. 
   At 9, she was opening for bands like Tony! Toni! Tone!, superstar Keyshia Cole, The Ohio Players and more. And at 10, she was playing  the Apollo in
New York.
   Now, not yet in her teens, Gabi plays four instruments — piano, bass, drums and lead guitar —and has self-published a book of her own poetry. 
   She took some piano lessons, but said she plays by ear and is just now learning to read music. She’s appeared on “The Maury Povich Show” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” And none of it seems to faze her.
   “I just feel like, comfortable,” Gabi told Kotb and Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” who was filling in for TODAY’s Natalie Morales. 
  “I feel like I’m just in the living room, that’s why I’m never nervous. Sometimes I feel like I know a lot of the people, and even if I didn’t know any of the people, I know my mom and dad are still there for me.” 
   A fifth-grader who’s also a straight-A student, Gabi said her friends and classmates aren’t jealous of her fame. 
   “My friends are really, really supportive,” she said. “Sometimes at school they ask me to sing.” 
   Increasingly in
America, it seems that everybody’s making the same request.

World’s youngest professor can’t legally drink

Alia Sabur, a prodigy in many ways, says she wants to share 
 her knowledge

By Bob Considine contributor

 3:18 p.m. ET April 24, 2008


    Perhaps in Alia Sabur’s wildly advanced studies she came across a famous quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
   “Knowing is not enough. We must apply,” the German writer once observed.
   That could serve as explanation for what prompted the 19-year-old to become the youngest college professor in history.
   Armed with prodigious wisdom, Sabur told TODAY’s Ann Curry on Wednesday that knowledge is power — especially when sharing it.
   “I really enjoy teaching,” said Sabur. “It’s something where you can  make a difference. It’s not just what you can do, but you can enable a lot of other people to make their changes.”
   Sabur, from
Northport, N.Y., has clearly been ahead of the learning curve since an early age. 
   She started talking and reading when she was just 8 months old. She had elementary school finished at age 5. 
   She made the jump to college at age 10. And by age 14, Sabur was  earning a bachelor’s of science degree in applied mathematics summa cum laude from Stony Brook University — the youngest female in U.S.  history to do so.
   Her education continued at
Drexel University, where she earned an M.S. and a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering.
   With an unlimited future ahead of her, Sabur directed her first career choice to teaching. She was three days short of her 19th birthday in February when she was hired to become a professor at 
Konkuk University in Seoul, Korea.
   This distinction made her the youngest college professor in history, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, beating the previous record held by Colin Maclaurin in 1717.
   Maclaurin was a student of physicist Isaac Newton. Sabur said she is erely gravitating toward putting what she has learned to good use. 
  "I really feel I can help a lot of people," she said.
Konkuk University, Sabur said she will take part in classroom instruction, but will also focus on research into developing nanotubes for use as cellular probes that could help aid in cures for diseases. 
   Although she doesn’t start until next month, Sabur has taken up  teaching math and physics courses at Southern University in
New Orleans, which is still struggling from the devastation left in Hurricane Katrina’s wake in 2005.
   “Some people come and they do Habitat for Humanity and they build houses, but I don’t think I would be very good,” she said. “So I tried to do what I’m good at. I was particularly interested in this university because they are still in trailers after Hurricane Katrina. And I thought it  could be something I do to help.”
New Orleans, Sabur is old enough to teach, but not to join her fellow professors in a bar after work. In Korea, where the drinking age is 20, she might have more luck. In traditonal Korean culture, children are considered to be 1 year old when they are born, and add a year to their age every New Year instead of their actual birthday, so in Korea Sabur is considered 20. 
   Varied interests on top of her unprecedented academic achievements, Sabur has a black belt in the Korean martial art of tae kwon do and is also a music prodigy. 
She has been playing clarinet with orchestras since her solo debut at age 11, playing with recording artists Lang Lang and Smash Mouth. 
   “You can reach a lot of people with music,” Sabur told Curry. “It’s never been really a hobby to me. It’s always been on equal par with my academics.”
   So is there anything Sabur can’t do?
   Well, apparently she struggles with basketball and with long writing and admits to sometimes being absentminded.
   In fact, sometimes she forgets just how special she really is.
   “Well, I know that what I’ve done is special and I think about it,” she said. “But sometimes I forget, because I’m used to it and I don’t think about it all the time. Actually, sometimes it takes other people to remind me a little bit.”

Graduating high school at 90: ‘Just plain wonderful’

75 years after dropping out to help family, John Locher is ‘dumbfounded’

By Mike Celizic contributor

11:20 a.m. ET June 12, 2008 

   For a high school dropout, John Locher did all right. He supported his family during the Depression; fought in World War II; got married and raised eight children, and became a senior design engineer for General Motors.
   And now, at the age of 90, he’s graduated from high school.
   “I believe that’s why God kept me alive all these years,” the proud graduate told TODAY’s Al Roker and Natalie Morales Thursday in New 
 Three days earlier, the graduating class at Southwestern High School in Detroit had given him a rousing ovation when he joined them at the school’s commencement ceremonies.
   “Wonderful,” he said of the experience. “Just plain wonderful.”
   Morales noted that Locher’s life and career speak for themselves. He worked for GM for 38 years, working himself up to senior design engineer. 
 He raised a big family and has 19 grandchildren and 11 great-grand-
children. Retired now and living with his wife, Mary, in Florida, he’s done very well.
   But Locher said the lack of a high school diploma always bothered him.

No dummy
   “For one thing, one of the kids said I was just a dummy, a dumb jerk  and so forth,” he told Roker and Morales. He didn’t say when that insult was delivered or identify who said it. He just said,
“I didn’t believe it ... but I felt bad about it.”
  His children knew that it bothered him, so last year, two of his daughters, Michelle Goodyear and Jeanette Locher, contacted his old high school to see if he could finally be declared a graduate. 
   “We wanted to do something special for my father for his 90th birthday, and we knew that this was something that was important to him,”  Jeanette said. “So we contacted the school and we started working on it. We were hoping to get it for his birthday in September, but it got there for Christmas.”
 Locher didn’t have to take any more courses. School administrators decided he had earned enough “life credits” to make up for the two years of school he was unable to complete. They mailed the diploma to Locher, then invited him to join Monday’s commencement.

“When I opened it up, I almost fainted," he told the Associated Press at the commencement. “I thought someone was playing a real cruel joke on me.”
  It was no joke, but a well-earned validation of his life.
  Locher brushed off talk of his many accomplishments. “I never achieved anything,” he told Roker and Morales. “I’m dumbfounded even to this day at all this that’s going on.”

Family came first
Locher told AP that he dropped out of school in the 10th grade in the 
early 1930s, when his father contracted tuberculosis. As the eldest child, he felt an obligation to support his family.
   “My family was starving, literally,” he told AP. “I had to make some provision to make money. I was the oldest. I had a paper route. I did all kinds of work. I worked one place for 33 cents an hour, and I worked my fanny off.” 
   Among the jobs Locher had were weaving wicker baskets, repairing cars and making deliveries for a bakery.
   In 1936, he got a job with GM, and, with time off to fight for his country in the South Pacific, he put in 38 years before retiring. He married Mary Jean La Haye, who is now 80, in 1945.
   Locher said that learning is a lifelong adventure. His advice to today’s graduates is to always work to make themselves better and to use their abilities to help others.
   “God has been really good to me,” he said at his commencement. 
“I feel 100 percent lighter. I appreciate this moment very much ... 
It really was overwhelming.”


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Intelligence plus character - that is goal of true education - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr
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