A native of Harare, Zimbabwe, Dr. Matthew Mbanga came a long way attend Angelo State.
When his parents’ independent newspaper was banned and then bombed in the late 1990s for threatening to expose government corruption, it was decided that Mbanga and his sister, Rita, would go abroad to college. They conducted their college search through the U.S. Information Service.
“We opened the huge directory that listed every single college in the USA and started researching alphabetically in the ‘As,’” Mbanga said. “We read the description of Angelo State and thought it was a good fit. We both sent our SATs and were awarded Carr Scholarships. Without the Carr Scholarship, which meant I didn’t have to pay out-of-state tuition, I wouldn’t have been able to attend ASU.”
In addition to his academics in what was then the Department of Communication, Drama and Journalism, Mbanga served in the Student Ambassadors Association and worked in the Office of Alumni Relations. He was also elected Homecoming King in 2001 and was a four-year MVP of the Ram Rugby Club.
“My rugby teammates are some of my best friends to this day,” he said. “We still travel halfway around the world to see each other. My time at ASU also gave me the confidence to dream big dreams and the courage to live them.”
That courage was also needed to help Mbanga recover from a horrific motorcycle accident that happened shortly before his ASU graduation. It then led back home to Zimbabwe, where he volunteered at orphan camps, aided impoverished small farmers and eventually become a pastor while also earning his MBA and doctorate online through Bakke Graduate University in Dallas. He was then sought out to become CEO of the Foundations for Farming (FFF) sustainable agriculture organization in 2020.
“This is a very significant moment for me to pay tribute to all in the ASU community that impacted me…”
Since then, FFF has been honored with a 2021 Presidential Commendation and the 2022 Partnership Award from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization for equipping nine million Zimbabweans to feed themselves through innovative climate-smart farming initiatives.
“It is a special privilege to serve my country and play my part to see that human flourishing is unleashed in our precious, poverty-stricken corner of the planet,” Mbanga said. “It is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling, but we still have a mountain to climb – the journey continues!”
For his tremendous servant leadership and impact on his nation, the ASU Alumni Association has named Mbanga its 2023 Distinguished Carr Scholar Alumnus.
“I am delighted and humbled,” he said. “To be able to return to the place that gave me so many happy memories and had such a profound impact on my life is a real blessing. This is a very significant moment for me to pay tribute to all in the ASU community that impacted me and opened their hearts and homes to me so generously all those years ago.”
Mbanga and his wife, Lauren, have been married for 15 years and have four young children, Daniella (11), Mackenzie (9), Jonathan (6) and Michael (3). His parents are now safely living in South Africa, and his sister, Rita (Class of 2001), also graduated from ASU.