Saturday, July 26, 2014

Failure First LV

AEFFSF 10th Anniversary

“This is indeed an occasion worth noting. Just ten short years ago, our friend, The Coach, Robert Siena selflessly set in motion one of the most unique scholarship programs ever. From the start he wanted the fund to be unconditional and thorough.” Alan swallowed hard as he briefly let some emotion show. “Without him, the Alan Edgewater Failure First Scholarship Fund would not exist. He was the driver. Even though he left us far too soon, we are fortunate to have known him. Indeed we are honored to have his wife Irene as our chairwoman to help assure the mission lives on as intended.” He glanced at Irene Siena but turned as he had wiped moisture from his eyes with the back of his index finger.

Alan was genuinely and visibly moved. Unlike any of his so very public appearances, he had to take a couple of deep breaths before continuing his address at the Missouri Athletic Club in downtown St. Louis. A full room that included board members, guests, supporters, agency representatives from Abbeshire & Bluestone, Ambrosia (and global parent company Omnicom) along with seven AEFFSF scholar graduates, all of whom seemed to embrace the notion of helping the fund continue in the great tradition it was becoming. Alan mentioned each with brief but personal comments as he asked each to stand when mentioned.  

“Johnny Appleseed, our first scholar, started with a white hot spotlight on him at the U. Today he is a lawyer in St. Louis who leveraged his scholarship and finished with honors a law degree at Saint Louis University. He is actively involved in AEFFSF and community affairs in his (and coach Siena’s) hometown of Red Bud, IL.  He is poster boy and spokesman for our non-profit.” And even though there was a request to hold applause until the end there was a burst of appreciation for Johnny. Alan smiled and resumed,

“Andrew Valentine is supporting his child Mocha (born his Junior year at Oberlin College). At 6 years of age his boy showing some musicality himself and while this is not a traditional family arrangement we are not a traditional scholarship program. Andrew is still involved with the Oberlin College community while he is pursuing a music career. And with some success I might add. Oberlin was awarded the Valentine Art Collection to manage and Andrew serves as a trustee of that valuable art collection which was started by his beloved Nana.” Another smattering of applause was permitted before Alan continued.

“Alicia Apricot is a construction expert and a go to person with WalMart developments. She learned quickly at Pittsburg State University in Kansas. Go Gorillas!” This time a whooping of female colleagues from PSU led the applause as Alan expected. 

“Gloria Beck is making movies. Just six years out of college, the name Gloria Beck has become something of a household name. She has single-handedly raised the profile of the AEFFSF with her viral video and social media celebrity. And we are honored to have her here with us today.” The crowd erupted again. And Alan himself joined the applause from the podium.

“Yes folks, our front four have already accomplished great things. And we have so much excitement coming down the pike. But perhaps it is unfair to put so much attention on our first four scholars, particularly since our next wave is showing signs of being every bit as impressive. We have more than a dozen schools clammering to be a part of the AEFFSF tradition with a matching gift program that allows us to extend our fund to reach its goal of extending its reach not only 100 years for scholars but in modest but meaningful ways for the families of our scholars. And while we essentially cut off our tuition assistance after a four year degree is completed we have, as we have in Johnny Appleseed’s case, found ways to mentor and inspire careers beyond the undergraduate degrees.   

“So stay tuned folks. I think it is highly probable that you will see updates on all of our scholars. The highlights of their accomplishments. But, allow me to pause for a moment to remind you that our scholars have become a family and everyone from our board chairman to our most recent entering freshman accepts a responsibility along with the honor.” Alan added with a burst of pride, “Rounding out our honor roll in order of their selections are…” Alan read names and schools from the program, verbatim while adding his own comments from notes to show he had a personal connection and knowledge about each.

Daniel Thomas, Miami University – the Miami in Ohio where he completed his degree in accounting. Daniel is currently working for Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati. 

Sharon D’Angelo, Purdue University – a boilermaker with a degree in engineering. Sharon is currently pursuing a masters degree, also at Purdue.  

Susan B. Henry, North Carolina State University – in Raleigh, North Carolina with a degree in history and works as an editor at a small publishing firm based in Research Triangle Park. 

Janet Bacardi Smith, Yale – Our first Ivy Leaguer is our most recent graduate and an accomplished sculptor and digital artist who completed her undergraduate degree un just three years and is now pursuing her master of fine arts (MFA).  

Shawn Alan Howard – University of Oklahoma where he is studying in the field of Education. 

Phyllis Flanagan, The University of Missouri - where she is pursuing a degree in Journalism.

“We are grateful that our front four Johnny, Andrew, Alicia and Gloria are here to help us celebrate along with AEFFSF scholars Daniel, Sharon, and Phyllis. To you newer members, welcome to the family. And to all of you, Thank You for your love and support.” With that the audience applaused.

Irene Siena made her way to the podium as Alan headed to his seat. She placed her eyeglasses on her nose and read from a single piece of paper that she unfolded. “It is with great pleasure that, on behalf of the board of trustees and all of us at the Alan Edgewater Failure First Scholarship Fund that I report that corporate and anonymous gifts and pledges have exceeded $255,000 this year. It is such giving that allows us to continue our work in managing the administration, marketing and our operations. We remain confident that our program will continue, as planned for more than 100 years. It is with a heavy heart and great joy that we wish you all a happy birthday with many many many more to come.”

As if by magic, Andrew Valentine’s voice emerged with a few lines written for the occasion. It was his beautiful A cappella voice that triggered the dimming of lights and a spotlight on Andrew, in his tuxedo. This was perfectly orchestrated as a mic was hidden in his lapel pin.  

We gather in pride as our lives unfold
Knowledge love and compassion to have and to hold      
Scholars yes but with ties that bind us;
We  look forward to the horizon as we celebrate what is behind us.

At that moment the kitchen doors opened and all attention was drawn to a large sheet cake with ten glittering lit sparklers rolled into the room. Cake and Ted Drewe frozen custard was served as the tune shifted to the familiar Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday dear fund. Happy Birthday tooooooooooo youuuuuu.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Failure Coach LIV

Retreat at Tan-Tar-A                         

Irene Siena was clear that she wanted the board and key stakeholders to regroup and plan for the future of AEFFSF.  So Abbeshire & Bluestone suggested a retreat to inspire, invigorate and get everyone on the same page. “Tan-Tar-A Resort is located directly on the Lake of the Ozarks just far enough away for everyone to focus on positive ways to marry business with pleasure.” Says Daniel Bluestone, in his most persuasive client pitch mode tone.“Beautiful views of the Lake of the Ozarks,” he paused, smiled and added “It doesn’t hurt that it is also a premium golf destination for those so inclined.” Daniel already knew he would likely be able to convince Bob Caster, Alan Edgewater and a player to be named later to fill a foursome on Thursday. That round was scheduled with the fourth golfer being Jimmy, an audio/visual/computer tech Abbeshire & Bluestone contracted to make sure all things involving technology were managed flawlessly. Jimmy was a soft spoken twenty-something with a smooth swing and a natural athletic ability. This team bonded on the golf course, all sharing a desire to facilitate a first rate retreat.


The early October weekend arrived and the foursome became the informal advance team. They were ready as the proceedings kicked off. An orientation and a full day on Friday spilled over into sessions on Saturday. There still would be time to relax that weekend, go for a boat ride on the lake, play golf, BBQ whatever. Extending through Sunday was also an option and it seemed like that was a popular idea for many participants. AEFFSF reserved a block of rooms at a group rate in advance.


Alan shuffled papers with notes as he facilitated brainstorming, breakout sessions and teambuilding exercises. 10 of the 12 board members were able to participate. Only two board members had unavoidable conflicts but submitted input in advance which was summarized by Abbeshire & Bluestone account managers. One-on-one and small group interviewing techniques to probe initiatives and generate innovative thinking applied. The discussion guide for interviews served as a sort of outline for Alan Edgewater as he challenged the group to think outside of the box. In all they occupied 22 rooms. Abbeshire & Bluestone staffers doubled up in three of those rooms. Jan Abbeshire and Daniel Bluestone shared a suite. Irene Siena, Alan Edgewater, Bob Caster, Lori Ripp and the remaining board members about half sans-spouse. In all, 32 guests enjoyed the amenities of Tan-Tar-A while sessions averaged 20-24 people with staffers quietly recording events and running around managing scheduled breaks.


The retreat was a blockbuster success. Board-members, agency and support people in and around the AEFFSF were fired up. Alan Edgewater was the perfect catalyst for distilling the accomplishments thus far and projecting a vision for the organization going forward. The team from Abbeshire & Bluestone were brilliant in capturing the essence of the proceedings while video segments punctuated accomplishments of the scholars. Edited with quality footage from the Newark public television production, the Philadelphia awards evening and highlights of Alan Edgewater and a moving tribute to Coach Robert Siena left not a dry eye in the house. This was not your average non-profit. This was big and was destined to become even bigger as board members enthusiastically supported the notion of adding value to assure continuing success of not only the scholars into perpetuity but also their families. In addition, it was clear that the schools liked the idea of fortifying the award with amenities and accommodations of their own. Being among the schools was becoming an honor on educational opportunity unlike any other. The University of Miami, Oberlin College, Pittsburg State University and New York University all received unprecedented social media activity followed by almost instant recognition of the AEFFSF scholars who became almost overnight celebrities. Johnny Appleseed, as the first recipient grew into the role as elder statesman with an eye on law school, Andrew Valentine was instantly recognized as a talented vocalist with viral videos with more than a million views, Alicia Apricot was surprised at how her interest in Construction Management vaulted her into a celebrated spokesperson for careers in construction through the Association of General Contractors (AGC) and Gloria Beck instantly capitalized on her existing franchise of followers featuring examples of her acting triumphs.       


The team at Abbeshire & Bluestone synthesized the notes and within three weeks generated what was to become a beautifully written and designed strategic platform with a dozen specific actionable steps, six of which were short term and six of which were long term objectives. Each supported by comments and reactions to the Tan-Tar-A weekend retreat.


Short Term

1.      Continue to champion the AEFFSF scholars

2.      Continue to offer the unconditional annual awards  (i.e. not based on academics, athletic or other ability).

3.      Leverage the success of the scholars with leadership grants through AEFFSF even as they graduate (i.e. assist scholars interested in post graduate training or career launch)

4.      Produce annual report and documentation with optimal transparency

5.      Selectively and conservatively support family and influencer network activity with incremental funding

6.      Continue to develop unprecedented model for scholarship

Long Term

1.      Assist in placement/role for scholars to assume leadership for future successes

2.      Train future leaders to propel sustainable AEFFSF for 100 years or more

3.      Manage fund for growth to keep the AEFFSF infrastructure relevant and healthy

4.      Develop an academic circle for participating universities/institutions willing to offer attractive benefits for AEFFSF scholars

5.      Develop incubator for entrepreneurship based on leadership direction suggested by scholars

6.      Make Alan Edgewater Failure First Scholarship Fund (AEFFSF) the gold standard of non-profit enterprise

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Failure Coach LIII

Law Offices St. Louis

“It took some doing but they voted me in as a partner.” Bob Caster leaned back in his chair and glanced out the window. It was mostly standard cityscape but he took a little pride in the fact that he could see part of the Wainwright Building, a turn of the century building, a landmark both described as an influential prototype of the modern office building by the National Register of Historic Places. Sipping black coffee with Sweet N Low, Alan Edgewarter was comfortable visiting his friend in his office. While they both knew no particular business was being done in that meeting, the meeting would not be questioned: Alan because he was a celebrity and a client; Bob because it would be presumed, by almost anyone who noticed them together in the office, that Bob must be doing what could generally be considered business development. They, of course, could not help but talk about the AEFFSF of which Caster served as a board member. “It is truly astounding how that idea coach Siena had to fund an unconditional scholarship program managed to shape an agency (Abbeshire & Bluestone), attract local, national and international media attention and also be held up as a model for non profits because of its management, creativity and policies of open book transparency,” Bob mused.  They agreed that Irene Siena was an ideal chairman because of her soft spoken parental tone and plainspoken candor about the organization.

“Our boy Johnny Appleseed is considering St. Louis University. He came to see me the last time he was home on some holiday break from the U. I’ve seen his transcripts and I understand his LSAT scores are good enough. With a little influence from an alum like me, I would expect him to get in. The Admissions Committee considers several factors in determining a candidate's eligibility: academic achievement, strength of the undergraduate program, application information, LSAT results, personal statement, work experience, motivation, leadership, and service. They, of course, require a couple of letters of recommendation. Maybe you want to write one? I mean if they have forgiven you for dropping out to become a motivational guru, lecturer and author.” Caster liked to remind Alan that he didn’t stick with the study of law even though he knew it was the right decision for him in the end. In fact, he knew Alan was a failure first case study of a sort.

“I’m happy to write a letter for Johnny Appleseed, but I think it might help more if you get one of your good ole boy friends who grew up here and went to Chaminade or DeSmet or CBC instead of a marginal transient Junior Billiken from SLU High like me.” Alan added, “I don’t have to play that game anymore. I know that stuff still matters in this big small town named after Louis IX of France but it doesn’t mean anything to me.”

“Johnny is going to have to find $40,000 for tuition and fees. I want to help him get started but I ain’t no Robert Siena. You know Jan thinks admitting Johnny Appleseed will bring good publicity to SLU and the region in general, especially if he ends up practicing law in St. Louis or Southern Illinois.”
“I don’t know Bob-O, the law is so damned boring. I don’t know how you can even advocate law school at Saint Louis University or anyplace else.”     

 “I think this kid can do it. I’ve read some of his Sociology term papers. He can write. If he can get in and get through One L I think he could become a local hero. Johnny Appleeed , the first Alan Edgewater Failure First Scholarship Fund award winner returns to the St. Louis region. Etcetera. Etcetera. And so on.”
Alan got up and tossed his Styrofoam cup into the trash can. Bob gestured with a file he pulled from his desk drawer, “Follow me, I want to show you something. You might be surprised to know about.” They moved to the conference room. Bob opened the file folder and showed Alan private investigator summary reports on Johnny Appleseed, Andrew Valentine, Alicia Apricot and Gloria Beck. “After Johnny’s little altercation in Miami the board approved an extra step in our selection process. Unconditional maybe. But we felt it was in the best interest of nurturing our transparent 501(c) to make sure we knew everything about those of whom we were investing.”

“There you go acting like a lawyer with the whereas and heretofore ipso facto Habeas Corpus…”
“This is serious Alan. We have been fortunate so far in awarding these scholars. This is a litigious society we live in. What happens if we are sued for discrimination based on religion, race, creed or whatever?  I don’t think anyone could make a case, but the more widely the AEFFSF is known, the more likely we become a target for frivolous lawsuits. This background check is just one example where we mitigate becoming vulnerable. But you just can’t anticipate everything that might happen.”

“As your attorney I advise you to seek professional help. You worry too much.”    

“I know you think I’m neurotic but the simple truth is your scholarship program was started by a high school football coach who won the lottery. Very little thought went into protecting the foundation, its founders and its caretakers from liability. Beyond the initial background check reports in this little folder here we aren’t tracking your golden ticket kids at all. And you and I both know the selection process is very loose. So far: We’ve got the coach’s personal pick who becomes a Hurricane, who if we are lucky, will study law. We’ve got an art heir who sings like an angel in studying in Ohio. We’ve got girl who looks good in a hard hat and steel toed boots. And we have an actress/film major/social media phenomenon. In a way, each of these kids have won the lottery. Now what are they gonna do to assure the ongoing sustainability of our little venture?”     

“As always Bob-O you have given me plenty to chew on. I trust your judgement and I know the foundation is in good hands with Irene at the helm and Jan managing all the details including the PR and marketing stuff."

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Failure Coach LII


The Philadelphia scholarship presentation was a big hit. Jan had been reluctant to partner with Tony Blank and the Ambrosia team but once she got over the awkward relationships she discovered the worker bees allowed her to exponentially expand her reach with writers and editors. Ambrosia also purchased two tables of ten for the gala event for $1250 each with Abbeshire & Bluestone managed to fill 50 such tables, the revenue of which covered food and table décor. Alan Edgewater covered a number of incidental expenses and Irene Siena and the AEFFSF paid for travel stipends and allowances for scholars and 15-20 special guests.      

“Pittsburg State is not in Pennsylvania,” Alicia Apricot would have to have to say on more than one occasion. “And my Pittsburg doesn’t have an h on the end of it,” she advised Johnny Appleseed as the two renewed their acquaintance. Johnny enjoyed a certain amount of status as the elder statesman among the scholarship winners. Andrew Valentine was the first to offer a welcome to Gloria Beck once he realized who she was. Andrew and Johnny shared some comments about coach Siena with his widow Irene. “He was much more than a coach to me,” Johnny said. “I wish I had an opportunity to play for him. He was such a supportive and encouraging force. I really enjoyed getting to know him, if only for a relatively short time” Andrew added. Alan was good at working crowds but always recognized the value of establishing a rapport with the speaker line up. Irene Siena had a natural motherly instinct with Johnny of course, but also with the growing family of scholars and board members. On this night however she had the air of a corporate executive in a sharp business and pearl necklace. She was the first presenter and offered welcome and a few “housekeeping” remarks about parking validation and restrooms before a boilerplate description of the AEFFSF mission and goals before introducing Alan Edgewater. Alan with microphone in place was able to rise and begin talking as a spotlight followed him around the room. He finished at the podium. He talked about betting on the future and in particular about the “…the promise of the scholars being honored this evening.” A cue that seamlessly caused the lights to dim and the video to roll.

Alan, Irene, Johnny, Andrew, Alicia and Gloria were seated at the front of the room behind name-cards marking their places flanking the speakers’ podium. There were two large screens and a film crew orchestrating the combination of live action, PowerPoint presentation slides and the crowd pleasing seven-minute video.

As the video faded to black and the house lights came back up, Alan joined the applause and smiled as he introduced the scholars and asked them to stand. A spotlight moved from Johnny, to Andrew, to Alicia and finally to Gloria. Alan allowed enough time to applause and announced, “Dessert and coffee will be served. Enjoy your evening, ” as  the wait staff moved quickly into the room to serve dessert and coffee.
The entire show was edited into a 12 minute piece (including the 7-minute segment) in a Philadelphia studio and made available along with B-Roll for media use. Some media outlets found additional footage of Gloria Beck to add regional relevance to news stories about the thespian’s scholarship award. With that Gloria was the star of the show. The availability of actor head shot images helped make Gloria the star in print too. The kid from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania appeared in newspapers in Philadelphia, Allentown and in New Jersey’s Star Ledger almost overnight whereas more generic stories appeared via UPI and Business Wire on in national media across the country. A minority-owned production company located in Newark, New Jersey contacted Abbeshire & Bluestone the following Monday morning about producing a show for PBS with a grant they had received. Dan Bluestone was all over that one (with some guidance from Jan.) The fearless foursome introduced in the 7-minute video became a launch point for a bigger story on college, careers and the arts. With Dan’s help the production company was able to produce a show that showcased a cappella Andrew, a scene from Streetcar Named Desire in which Gloria played the intrepid Blanche DuBois, Alicia Apricot in a hard hat on a job site and Johnny Appleseed in a law library. The 30 minute production was a hopeful story the future of education and the arts with a dose of business reality in approaching college. The show would be part of a series exploring the nature of education. The AEFFSF would get a mention but the individual stories were compelling enough.

Daniel Bluestone loved it when a chain-reaction of events would spin into new production and spark creative energy. He loved the art of juggling production elements and building content even if it would end up further manipulated by an independent production company or for local broadcast news. This gala evening and the AEFFSF story was starting to look to him like a perennial flower for his agency. It was a beautiful mixture of documentary and commercial story telling. Dan could not help thinking, “This is really turning into an intriguing human interest story as these kids move into the real world as AEFFSF protégé. Small towns: Red Bud, Arlington, Galena and Lehigh Valley. Different ambitions: Lawyer, Musician, Construction Manager and Film Actress. All of middle income backgrounds. All given an unexpected jump on life with freedom to pursue a formal education. And so far, it looks like they all will achieve a measure of success.

As a side note: Dan enjoyed spending time with each of the scholars and was impressed how they seemed to naturally blended together as friends by virtue of a shared set of circumstances. It was Dan who hosted the group on a field trip, prior to the evening gala, to visit the new home of the Barnes Foundation which opened in 2012. The Barnes Foundation was established by Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to “promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture.” Andrew Valentine emerged as an impromptu docent tour/guide  at The Barnes. “This collection is one of the finest of Post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings, with extensive works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Amedeo Modigliani, Chaim Soutine and Giorgio de Chirico, as well as American masters Charles Demuth, William Glackens, Horace Pippin and Maurice Prendergast.” He read from a brochure adding matter of factly, "...from about 1910, when he was in his late 30s, Barnes began to dedicate himself to the study and collecting of art. He commissioned one of his former high school classmates, the painter William Blackens who had been living in Paris, to buy several modern French paintings for him. In 1911, Barnes gave Glackens $20,000 to buy paintings for him in Paris. Glackens returned with the 20 paintings that formed the core of Barnes' collection."  
Later in the week, Jan noticed an increasing interest in AEFFSF among colleges and universities too. Somewhere along the line the Abbeshire & Bluestone PR contact information for inquiries started to become a referral for schools looking for innovative ways to promote their schools. It seems that AEFFSF scholars all generated great features about the schools. Jan and Dan knew this was true for Oberlin. “Small world.” Dan said to the Temple University Director of Admissions he met in the edit suite in Philadelphia. He just happened to be there to approve a student recruitment film at the same time Dan was directing the gala video and B-roll media packages.    

Failure Coach LI

Lehigh Valley Dramatist is named AEFFSF winner

Irene Siena was anxious to meet with the folks at Abbeshire & Bluestone for what otherwise was a  routine status meeting. She arrived early, around 11:00 a.m. for the meeting scheduled to begin at 12:15 in the conference room. Box Lunches were already waiting as staffers made sure the sidebar had ice, soda, tea and coffee. A stack of agendas were placed at the head of the table where Jan typically sat. Jan was a creature of habit while Dan always seemed determined to look at things from different angles. Depending on the level of ADHD he had on a given day, he would be fully engaged in the meeting or merely making a cameo. He did enjoy a free lunch however, so it was probable that he would at least spend some time with the team and AEFFSF Chairman. In addition to Jan and Dan there would be an administrative assistant, copy editor, and two account managers. It was unclear if AEFFSF board members would also be present this day as they were generally informed but not expected to appear at such meetings.

The agenda for the meeting was straightforward. Irene visited with Jan and Dan separately in their respective offices and chatted in a parental tone about the scholarship program. She wanted it to be clear that she had every intention of assuring the financial stability of not only the annual scholarship dispursements but the marketing and administrative costs as well. She was hopeful that additional corporate giving and donations would follow as the first scholars entered the world.

Another scholar had been selected and was to be notified. This time a talented would-be dramatic arts major from Lehigh, Pennsylvania with plans to attend NYU and study film. Born in 1994, Gloria Beck was a Millenial with a capital M. She was creative and spirited. Her life was documented in hundreds of social media posts. She was engaged in her community and several causes. She has thousands of followers as a consequence. She is tech savvy, smart and talented. She produced vignettes that were poignant and entertaining: Don’t text and drive; Bullying is hurtful; Learn CPR/save a life; school safety; Support this or that charity fun run and so on. Her productions were never preachy and always entertaining. At New York University, it seemed the school anticipated the arrival of Gloria Beck. The admissions office noticed her social media following, particularly her YouTube videos. In addition, she had already received a number of favorable reviews in equity theater productions in and around the Lehigh Valley, many of which she included in her application.        

At the University of Miami, Johnny Appleseed had become a passable student once he settled into his Sociology major. Along the way he convinced himself that he wanted to go to Law School. He stayed in touch with the coach’s wife as she felt he was almost one of the family and with the coach gone, she wanted to hold on to threats that triggered memories. Irene was already at work trying to make arrangements for funds Johnny to study law in Southern Illinois or the St. Louis Region. (Bob Caster pledged an undisclosed amount of money if Johnny was accepted and planned to go to Saint Louis University.)  

At Oberlin College, Andrew Valentine was becoming an accomplished vocalist and musician. His academic advisor convinced him to pursue coursework more aligned with music business vs. engineering. With this shift he was able also focus on fine arts and art history as well. He appreciated how much he had learned about art and artists from his Nana. 

At Pittsburg State University, Alicia Apricot was comfortable with Construction Management study and was still learning alongside her father Bubba Apricot who we still working the Via Christy building initiative. She was fun with an easy laughter that made others want to teach her things about the business. She was like a sponge when it came to comprehending the fine points of managing phasing, scheduling, sub contracts, job site safety and teamwork.

The award banquet for the AEFFSF would be held in Philadelphia at another downtown athletic club location reminiscent of the gilded age of Mellons, Morgans, Rockefellers and Vanderbilts. In the first four years the AEFFSF brand was becoming well known among philanthropic organizations as a model for a unique and innovative trust. Due, in part to the Abbeshire & Bluestone public relations efforts, the scholarship fund attracted mentions in a long list of articles, some of which were critical of the unconditional “no strings attached” aspect of the award but most praised it for its innovation, transparency and promise.
Irene convinced the board that the winners should stay connected. Irene hoped that each would give back to the legacy of this honor and oppportunity. Abbeshire & Bluestone produced a stirring movie on video that, for the viewers in the room and those so inclined to learn about the mission of AEFFSS. It gave a status and update on each of the scholars in a documentary style that used still images intercut with images and interviews various teachers, advisors, family and the scholars themselves talking to the camera. It was tightly crafted 7 minutes, opening with an Alan Edgewater introduction that paid homage to Coach Siena’s vision, and set the stage for profile segments. Johnny Appleseed, Andrew Valentine, Alicia Apricot and finally Gloria Beck were introduced to the audience almost as celebrities. The piece concluded with Irene Siena behind a desk of what looked like the Oval Office of the President of the United States. “On behalf of the Alan Edgewater Failure First Scholarship Fund, thank you for your support. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: ‘This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.’ In memory of Robert Siena, who cared so deeply about our mission of giving opportunity to further their education unconditionally and with gratitude to Alan Edgewater and the Siena Foundation and, of course, the scholars and their families.” At that point the video cuts to a AEFFSF logo treatment and fades to black. As the house lights come up the applause becomes louder. The production is a crowd pleaser. It was a tribute to Alan’s popularity, Jan’s publicity and Dan’s creativity. All of that added up to a powerful message and a feeling of being privileged to be a part of a very special evening.

Meanwhile Irene and the Board of the Alan Edgewater Failure First Scholarship Fund were structuring procedures to keep their 503(c) exciting, alive, relevant and newsworthy. Abbeshire & Bluestone was thrilled to have such a client. Alan Edgewater was thrilled to have such a vehicle for public engagement.