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.


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