Arriving and Thriving
For students who are the first in their families to go to college, that acceptance letter can feel like the entry point to a new life. But once a student enrolls as a Falcon, how is Bentley ensuring they have the resources they need to thrive? It takes partners like trustee Dan Farley, MBA ’95, who donated $250,000 to initiate the First Generation Student Success Fund.
While financial aid and support through the admission process is critical to getting students in the door — and an area where Bentley donors also direct a great deal of philanthropic support — equally as important is the experience students have once they’re here. Says Farley, “My wife and I have focused a lot of our philanthropy in this area: how do we create educational environments that people can be successful in? The program Bentley has set up is a great example of what can be if we’re able to attract first-generation college students to Bentley and then support these students during their academic careers.”
The program Farley refers to is a set of growing initiatives, many overseen by Associate Provost for Student Success Jane Griffin. The Class of 2026 included the highest number of students who are the first in their family to attend college in the university’s history, and these First Falcons were welcomed with many inaugural activities, including the First Falcons Pinning Ceremony, which honors both students’ achievements and their parents’ encouragement and sacrifice.
Watch the First Falcons Pinning Ceremony
Another offering is the opportunity to join Tri-Alpha, a national honor society recognizing academic excellence among first-generation college students. Both the ceremony and the society are supported by Farley’s gift — fees to join the honor society were completely covered by the First Generation Student Success Fund. One new Tri-Alpha member, Laila Altanbour ’25, explained a major benefit of joining and connecting with first-gen mentors.
The power of education.
Bentley has a long history of educating those from working class families, many of whom are first-generation college students. Strategic support for the group has grown over the years, and became more official with the creation of Griffin’s associate provost role. It was then that Farley and his wife Cheryl created the success fund, knowing how important it is for people to feel supported in a new experience, particularly one as overwhelming as college.
“Admission and recruiting are just part of the puzzle; retention is key for the students and for the university,” Farley explains. He’s right: Bentley’s commitment to these students can’t end with their admission as a Falcon. For a first year student who hasn’t had a family member model a college experience, what are their expectations when it comes to final exams? To making friends in an unfamiliar environment? To asking professors for help if they’re not grasping course material? First-generation students are often learning as they go, plus educating their own families along the way. That’s where Bentley’s resources come in.
Bentley’s commitment to ensuring that students not only succeed, they thrive — “that has longstanding implications not only for the individuals, but for the university, and for society more broadly,” Farley says. “I’m a big believer in the benefits of diverse organizations and the impact that can have on better decision making and better learning. It gives students a leg up in terms of taking that to their work environment to create better teams and better decision making frameworks.”
Farley is well equipped to assess organizational decision making: He’s been with State Street Global Advisors for more than 30 years, currently as executive vice president and chief investment officer of their Investment Solutions Group. Being a leader at such a large employer of Bentley alumni offers some unique opportunities. Farley recently led a discussion between a group of State Street executives who are Bentley grads and university leadership about what the business world is seeking in the students coming out of Bentley. “I’ve enjoyed being a part of the big-picture conversation about Bentley’s mission. I want to be a part of helping ensure that going forward, people have access to the same high-quality Bentley education I had — and more.”
Even before their significant investment at Bentley, education — and access to it — has been a leading priority in the Farleys’ philanthropy ever since they met at Stonehill College. In fact, they also support a scholarship program there for special education teachers who work in inner-city schools to earn their master’s degree. Dan also chairs the board of directors for the Crispus Attucks Children’s Center, an early childhood education center in Dorchester, Mass. which supports about 200 students from birth to grade five from lower-income families. “We love that ability to help create a learning environment for the littlest students all the way up to university, supporting both ends of the spectrum.”
Five Questions with Dan Farley
Moving Bentley forward.
As the chair of the investment committee of Bentley’s Board of Trustees, Farley is seeing through his commitment to setting the school up for future success. “The university has had great success managing its endowment, posting returns that are competitive with many larger institutions. Yet, given its size, it’s under-endowed relative to many of its peers. While the endowment has been prudently managed, there’s still work to do to grow that to be commensurate with its peers.”
Generous donors like Farley are the keys to that progress. On his investment in the First Generation Student Success Fund, Farley says, “Our ability to kickstart that was really important to me, and will be important to the success of the program.”
And kickstart momentum is just what the Farleys did. Other alumni and supporters have stepped up and shared their own inspiration for supporting students who are the first in their family to go to college, including $250,000 from Melinda Williams Reno ’92 and Will Reno ’90. A Falcons Forward giving day challenge of $10,000 from Angelo G. Manioudakis '88 and Melani Cammett inspired $10,000 more from Dave Muscato ’84.