I grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. From kindergarten through 12th grade I attended the Pembroke Hill School, a private school. My parents never discussed sending my brother or me to public school. Given how terrible the Kansas City Missouri School District was in the late 1980s, I was extremely fortunate that my parents could afford to send me to an excellent school. The majority of the children my age in Kansas City, Missouri were not as lucky.
My parents were very supportive in all regards, but especially when it came to education. Going to college was always part of the plan. My parents regularly told my brother and me that they would pay for college and graduate school if we wanted to pursue that as well. Additionally, they were supportive of experiential learning opportunities like sleepaway camp and study abroad.
After second grade my parents started sending me to camp every summer. I went to Camp Nebagamon in Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin for five years. Then I spent one summer at Sanborn Western Camps in Florrisant, Colorado. These summer camp experiences were not only fun, but were among my first experiences living independently from my family.
Sometime during 10th grade, my parents introduced me to Bob Schweich, a friend of my father’s from when he went to Camp Nebagamon. Bob would end up having a huge impact on my life. Bob was a securities analyst on Wall Street, but also a huge advocate of study abroad for high school students. As a high school student, Bob had participated in summer abroad programs in the Netherlands and Denmark with the Experiment in International Living. As a result of Bob’s encouragement, I went on an Experiment in International Living France Homestay/Travel program after my junior year in high school. This six-week program ignited a lifelong curiosity and interest in other countries and cultures.
I attended college at The University of Michigan. The second semester of my sophomore year I went abroad again, this time on a semester in Kenya with the National Outdoor Leadership School. When I returned for my junior year, I focused my studies on economic and political development in Africa. I created my own major (Development Strategies for Africa) by getting sponsors in the economics and political science departments. In the spring semester of my junior year I went on Semester at Sea and learned about and visited Venezuela, Brazil, South Africa, Kenya, India, Malaysia, Hong Kong. Taiwan, and Japan. The highlight was Bishop Desmond Tutu being on the ship from Brazil to South Africa. When we arrived in Cape Town he hosted a reception at his official residence, Bishopscourt.
After college, I served for two years in the Peace Corps in Mali, West Africa. I lived near the Niger River in a mud house with no electricity or running water. My largest project was initiating and managing the establishment of a savings and credit bank in a community of 10,000 people with no previous banking institution. I also designed and supervised a 30-acre rice production project funded by the United States Agency for International Development. My formal assignment was working with the Malian Ministry of Health to transform a state run rural clinic into a self-funding health center.
The Peace Corps was one of the most amazing and important experiences of my life. I learned a lot of things from the Malian people. Despite terrible poverty, I saw widespread hospitality and generosity. I came to appreciate that people who live in extreme poverty are the same as people anywhere, especially when it comes to wanting the best for their children.
After the Peace Corps, I started law school at Stanford. I had applied to law and business schools at four different universities from Mali. I was accepted at both programs only at Michigan, but I wanted to have a new experience. Additionally, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to study at Stanford Law School. I figured I would re-apply to Stanford Business School during my first year of law school and certainly I would be accepted since I would be a member of the university community. However, it was not meant to be. Stanford Business School rejected me again, but fortunately I was accepted by Columbia Business School. I ended up working out a program that allowed me to do a bi-coastal JD and MBA in four years. I graduated with both degrees in May 2000.
Since graduate school, I have spent my business career in financial services; first as an investment banker at Lehman Brothers in New York City and since then in the investment business.
I recognize how fortunate I am to have grown up with such incredible educational opportunities. My own experience impacts my perspective greatly.