HBCU student-athlete, aspiring doctor wins academic scholarship
Ethan Baly wasn’t sure when he would be notified, but he knew the announcement was coming soon.
During his senior year of high school in Charleston, S.C., Baly had applied for the Lewis and Elizabeth Dowdy Scholarship at North Carolina A&T State University.
One of the school’s most prestigious honors, the Lewis and Elizabeth Dowdy Scholars Enrichment Program was established in 2008. It’s awarded to freshmen who have shown academic excellence and scholarly leadership throughout high school.
The students selected receive a full four-year renewable scholarship, including tuition and related fees, room and board. Students may also use awards funds to travel abroad during the fall and spring semesters.
USTA Southern is debuting a four-tournament USTA Southern Playoff Series that will award 26 wild cards to the inaugural USTA Southern Men’s & Women’s $15K USTA Pro Circuit Event on clay. The series will give expanded opportunities to historically Black college and university (HBCU) student-athletes.
Only 20 students are selected each year, so Baly realized it was far from a sure thing. He went through a series of essays and interviews during the selection process and then waited for the recipients to be announced.
“My mom actually found out first,” Baly said. “I heard her screaming and asked what she was screaming about. ‘You got in!’ she said. I honestly didn’t really know what to say. I was just happy is the simplest way of saying it I guess.”’
The feeling is mutual at NC A&T.
Baly is now in his sophomore season playing for the Aggies men’s tennis team. His scholarship has not only benefited him, but the entire program.
“It was great because I have always dreamed of having my college paid for, whether that was tennis or academics,” said Baly, an aspiring orthopedic surgeon. “It also helped for tennis to be able to give back the money I was receiving to go elsewhere to help strengthen the team and get new recruits.”
Attending HBCU was early goal
From the time he began exploring his college options, Baly wanted to attend a historically Black college and university (HBCU). He grew up in an HBCU family, with his father attending Howard University for medical school and his mother going to Tennessee State. Baly saw North Carolina A&T play an away match and had a chance to meet the coaching staff. Once they arranged for him to visit the Greensboro campus, Baly was convinced.
“I felt right at home,” he said. “HBCUs are always big on diversity. I wanted to be in an environment where people who were teaching me looked like me and had the same perspective as me to help me with my education purposes.”
Baly has been a huge asset to the program beyond just his playing ability, said North Carolina A&T head coach Dejon Bivens. “He brings a good Black perspective to our group. It’s an international program, and he represents and tries to expose our players to the Black culture,” Bivens said. “He has the clothing and the hair and he is pretty well versed in plays. He knew about the ‘Othello’ play and made the guys go see that on campus.”
Baly’s teammates call him “Mr. A&T” because of his pride in representing the school or “Doc” because of his professional aspirations in the field of medicine.
“He embodies everything you look for when someone is choosing this school,” Bivens said. “He could have gone to a lot of other schools, but he really wanted to immerse himself in the college experience here and being Black and being around other people like him.”
Baly loves the individualized nature of tennis and largely being in control of his own fate on the court. But he truly thrives in the college game because of the added team dynamic. “I feel like my role is to bring the energy and positivity and leave it all on the court. I have to give 100 percent of everything I have,” Baly said. “I want to help build an environment of positivity and good energy. Even if I don’t win, the positive energy might push your teammate to win.”
Being given the Dowdy Scholarship helped Baly with his transition to college. Along with maintaining a 3.5 GPA, he must attend regular meetings and perform community service activities.
“It puts me in a cohort of 20 individuals that are excelling academically. That really helped with the experience and being around like-minded people who were also focused on success,” said Baly, who took all college level courses in his final two years of high school. “That program also gave me a lot of resources and tools that I needed to be successful in classes as far as interacting with teachers.”
Giving back is part of Baly’s nature. During his freshman year of high school, Baly and his mentor, James Martin, created a free program for Black Americans who wanted to learn tennis but didn’t have the sources to start.
Created ProStroke 300
Baly also won the Duke Energy Invention Convention after creating the ProStroke 300, an invention that helps players take shorter backswings on the tennis court.
Once he earns his undergraduate degree, Baly wants to attend either Meharry Medical College or George Washington University for medical school. His father, a former college tennis player at Stony Brook, is an internist, and Baly was always intrigued by his work. He realized he wanted to become an orthopedic surgeon when he was 7 and watching football on television.
“One of the football players was injured and they were saying he was going to have to get surgery and the orthopedic guy was there at the game. I thought, ‘Wow. Being an orthopedic, you can go to all the football games,’ ” Baly said. “I wasn’t thinking about all the other aspects of it until I got older and did more research and decided I was really interested in it.”
Baly had a strong start to his sophomore season for the Aggies. He won his singles flight at the Elon Fall Tournament and placed third at an event at Wake Forest. “He has a really strong competitive nature and a big forehand and great volleys,” Bivens said. “He is a great doubles specialist and tactician. He will fight to the end and is pretty smart with how he plays.”
Although Baly could have chosen other colleges, he has no regrets about picking North Carolina A&T. His parents often told him about the personal growth they experienced at HBCUs and he’s proud to extend that for another generation.
“I have made a lot of different connections and met a lot of people. It has been great seeing a bunch of different people from different places who are also trying to better themselves,” Baly said. “It’s been everything I expected and more.”