Thursday, June 7, 2012

Donations Matter: A Testimonial

We just noticed today that Wake Forest University just surpassed 1,400 donors for the B-School Annual Fund. It is a good time to remind everyone that there are 23 days remaining to meet the goal of 1,000 new donors, which will earn the Schools of Business a $200,000 donation to the Wake Forest Fund for Business. The challenge was issued last month by Mike Farrell ('10) and Dave Wahrhaftig (MBA '78).

Donations matter. We found a transcript of a speech by Kathy Bryant (MBA '07) that drives home the point of just how critical gifting is to helping people pursue their dreams. We are excluding an excerpt but the full version can be found here.


I did complete my Executive MBA in December of 2007. What you don’t know is upon completion of my undergraduate degree in 1995, I swore I would never go back to school! But in April 2006, life took a turn. I was a casualty of corporate downsizing. Within three weeks, I landed a job — not a dream job, just one to help me survive. But my 11 years of work experience was no longer enough to sustain, interest, or advance me. What’s more, I started to see a pattern in my life that I did not like — quitting when challenges seemed too difficult.

I had to get out of my comfort zone and advance myself both professionally and personally. It was time to eat my own words and pursue an MBA after all! So on July 31, 2006, I attended day one of a program I swore for 11 years I would never attend!

Two months into the program life took another turn. My twin sister’s husband abandoned my sister, my 2-year old niece, and my 5-month old nephew. I became the surrogate partner and parent. I didn’t make enough money to cover all the bills for my “new” life, let alone for an advanced degree. As Winston Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going."

The financial pressure weighed heavily on my heart, so I considered exiting the program upon completion of the first semester. Two months later, I was notified that I was the recipient of the Gay Nell Hutchens Scholarship, designed specifically for female Executive MBA students with financial burdens. That was my sign to complete the program in its entirety.
Hutchens and Bryant (WFU)

Later that month, I attended the Stewardship Breakfast and met my donor, Gay Nell. We had a pleasant breakfast. Gay Nell told me that I should not give up my pursuits. Then it occurred to me. I owed it to myself and to Gay Nell to finish the race. I could not disgrace her by rejecting her generous gift or by failing to complete the program. I had to set my sites on the long-term implications.

So I continued the MBA program and periodically wrote letters to Gay Nell, giving updates on school, work, and home. In time, Gay Nell became my mentor, my cheerleader, and my friend.

To be honest, for several months after completing my MBA, I literally sobbed to my closest friends, “was this degree even worth it? Seventy percent of my classmates had already received pay increases or promotions. Meanwhile, I was miserable in my current job, wondering why I did not yet have a more enriched job, or at least one that paid more!

Then I realized if that was my sole takeaway, then I had missed the whole point of my education. I had been taught by some extremely gifted professors, grown through interaction with more experienced classmates, acquired new skill sets while refining others, cultivated a network with classmates and alumni, and developed confidence, a sense of being, and a skill set to interact competently with senior management. In essence, I had stretched out of my comfort zone, accomplished a difficult feat to completion, and grown professionally and personally.

It was when I came to these realizations that my big break came and demonstrated the value of my MBA and the alumni network. Gay Nell had passed along my resume to another Executive MBA, who delivered it to Human Resources of VF Corp. in Greensboro, NC.  I now have an enriched and fulfilling position at VF, making more money and traveling the world. Without the pursuit of my MBA, I never would have met Gay Nell. Without Gay Nell, I never would have gotten a seat on the VF bus!

Of all the lessons Gay Nell has taught me in the two years I have known her, I can sum most of them up with two words: courage and stewardship. Our lives are daily opportunities to have the courage be good stewards of our relationships, talents, education, careers, and personal development. And this is my challenge to you who are currently pursuing your advanced degrees. Have the courage to be good stewards of your relationships, talents, education, careers, personal development, and your donors’ generosity. Build a life that will make them proud that they were part of your journey — that they were your hope, your inspiration, and a part of how you will sculpt the rest of your lives. I leave you with one final thought spoken by Churchill, “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities … because it is the quality which guarantees all others”

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