National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, 2022, 23(1): 137–39


Copyright © 2022 Joseph Gazing Wolf


As part of the National Collegiate Honors Council’s (2022) collection of essays about the value of honors to its graduates (1967–2019), the author reflects on the personal and professional impacts of the honors experience.

Growing up in “Garbage City” on the outskirts of Cairo left little hope for a better life. Members of indigenous communities of Upper Egypt had been forcibly relocated to this landfill by the Egyptian government decades before my birth. These tribal communities were known in Egyptian culture as “the black savages” and “the trashy ones.” My parents were compassionate people of little means, and although rummaging through mountains of trash for food and shelter was often life-threatening, I was happy. Later I would come to learn that my “parents” were really my grandparents and that my real parents had left me shortly after my birth. Since then, my life has been a series of rejections, with rare life-altering exceptions. As a child from Garbage City, I suffered the double stigma of being a “savage” and living in abject poverty. People either avoided us because they considered us ignorant or they abused us because they considered us diseased. Indeed, life itself seems to have objected to my existence, having nearly died from malnutrition three times prior to turning five.