Saturday, July 5, 2014

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. 

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