Returning Roger Enrico’s Investment

5 Jun

15530_817603988040_7446985245473508698_nOn Thursday morning, I received a tough text from my favorite high school teacher: Roger Enrico, the man who had put me and countless others through college, had died. The timing was uncanny. He was scheduled to have breakfast with me and about eight fellow Enrico scholarship recipients in Dallas on tomorrow, Monday morning. I poured over the articles in “The New York Times”, “Adweek” and “Wall Street Journal.” They all praised his legendary career and philanthropy. But that only scratched the surface.  

I remember being a nervous-wreck before I met him for the first time.  I wondered what he would think about me. I have yet to reach my potential and floundered a bit instead of soaring like most of my peers since leaving college. I don’t have a fancy title or ridiculously lavish lifestyle. I was still a woman finding herself. Would he be disappointed? That last breakfast, I sat next to him, surrounded by nearly a dozen other recipients as eager as I was to offer pent-up thanks. He was kind and unassuming. He seemed amused. “You’ll be ok,” he offered at the breakfast’s end with a twinkle in his eye.

He covered roughly $160,000 over the course of my undergraduate career to pay my tuition at Babson College, money that appeared magically to the financial aid office annually like clockwork. Every year in college, all we were asked to do was write a letter about our experience at Babson. I remember one letter in particular that I wrote while sitting on the steps of a university in China with tears in my eyes. I dreamed of that-traveling the world whimfully, tuition covered—since childhood. That letter must have captured the essence of my gratefulness, because the donor office forwarded it to my dean, who told me it touched him as well.

What do you say to the man who literally changed your life? I remember being absolutely devastated over the financial aid package Wellesley College, my first choice school, offered. I didn’t really want to go to Babson at first. I hadn’t even visited before freshman orientation. Looking back, I laugh. Babson was where I needed to be. Though I was more artsy than most, and cherished classes where I polished my writing chops rather than business acumen, it was a great environment for growth, development and pushing the envelope.

I was asked to say a few words about what the scholarship meant at a fancy Homecoming luncheon last September at Babson. Mr. Enrico was being honored with the college’s high recognition for his tremendous work with the Enrico Scholarships that sent kids from Dallas to Babson College, without the burden of tuition. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.Who knew that would be his last visit to campus? Enrico Babson Medal with scholars_1PM 9-26-15

I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to thank him both privately and publicly for the gift of a lifetime. I will to pay it forward so that the money invested in me is returned in full, not to him, but to his vision of the scholarship as an investment in Dallas’ future. That’s the ultimate way to honor his legacy.

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