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Pay it Forward Thinking
This article originally appeared in the Bentley Magazine.
Sitting down recently with Bob Weafer ’68, MSF ’81 and Emily Williams ’14 was like spending time with old friends — even though the pair had met only once before, at Bentley’s annual Scholarship Appreciation Luncheon. Here, the two share their perspectives as donor and recipient of a scholarship established by Weafer’s parents, Robert and Mary. It is awarded to a Bentley student based on criteria that include financial need and academic performance.
Emily, what does receiving aid such as the the Weafer Scholarship mean to you?
Emily Williams: It means Bentley. My mother is an independent social worker and my father became unemployed during my senior year in high school, as I was about to make my decision about colleges. I distinctly remember getting my acceptance letter from Bentley and my mom saying that it didn’t look like I’d be able to go without receiving some help. Then the public colleges didn’t come through in terms of financial aid and it ended up being less expensive — with financial aid and scholarships — to go to Bentley. It was incredible.
EW: When I started looking at colleges, I thought: Where will I have fun, where am I going to make friends? But as soon as my dad got laid off, it was: Where do I want to start a career?
I knew I wanted to go into accounting, so I began asking where I would make connections. It was an “aha” moment, figuring out that I needed to go to a school with a lot of alumni in the area who can provide networking opportunities.
The Weafer Scholarship has helped me go to Bentley, and I work hard so that I put it to good use. It’s not just going to class; I really try to have my hands and feet in a lot of different activities on campus.
Are there parallels in your Bentley experiences even though you attended at different times?
Bob Weafer: I know Emily has held a lot of jobs while studying, and I also worked during school. I became associated with Bentley when I was 7 years old; my father was a professor then CFO. I had all sorts of summer jobs: cleaning out dorms, washing walls, painting floors. When I got to Bentley as a student full time, I worked as a faculty assistant, correcting homework and exams, and scheduling. I coordinated Bentley’s move from Boston to Waltham in 1968.
EW: I’m an office assistant at the Residential Center, so similarly I’ve worked on a couple of moves as we shifted departments to various buildings during construction. I’m also a tour guide for Undergraduate Admission and a resident assistant. I serve on the Campus Activities Executive Board, and as a member of Beta Alpha Psi [national honors fraternity].
Bob, why did your family choose to support Bentley with a need-based scholarship for accounting majors?
BW: My family has three generations of Bentley connections: my father, me and my two sons [Steven ’99 and Michael ’02]. The institution is near and dear to my heritage. As Bentley CFO, my dad was always concerned with the cost of education. He also loved accounting. It was natural that he and my mother wanted to establish something for accounting students with demonstrated financial need. Once my parents passed away, my wife, Lisa, and I decided to continue as stewards of the scholarship. I’ve already talked to my kids about keeping it going.
Meeting Emily, I could tell right away that she also has a true love for accounting, and she is so appreciative of the scholarship. It was one of those priceless moments … something that makes you say “OK, I want to make sure this scholarship continues.” It’s important to give back to something that’s meaningful to you.
EW: Absolutely. In my heart, I feel that everyone has an obligation to give back in some way. It’s one of the reasons I chose Ethics and Social Responsibility as my Liberal Studies concentration. I volunteer at the Boston Marathon with Beta Alpha Psi and always try to find ways to pay it forward. Not every family has two parents who make high salaries. The fact that I was able to attend a top business school is refreshing, given my financial background.
Despite having met only once before today, you seem to have a special bond.
EW: I think our connection draws from the fact that his family did an incredible thing for me and my family. I wanted Bob and Lisa to know that what they did made the ultimate difference in my life and career. Being able to deliver that message in person is something I will never forget, and meeting them inspires me to think about ways that I can someday help someone in a similar situation.
BW: At the scholarship luncheon, as my wife and I talked with Emily and her mother, it was clear how the scholarship helped. I was so impressed, and I’m still impressed. Emily works hard, studies hard, gets involved in activities, and is learning life’s lessons. She’s going to show up to work with a practical sense and not just an academic sense. There’s no question in my mind that she’s going to be successful.
Although these numbers are impressive, student need far exceeds the amount produced by Bentley's endowed scholarship funds. Other university assets are applied to fill the gap. "For this reason, and to further our mission of providing access to a high-quality education for talented and deserving students, raising funds for scholarships is an essential philanthropic priority," says President Gloria Cordes Larson.
To learn more about investing in Bentley students through scholarship support, visit our Annual Giving website.
Alison Davis-Blake, the former business school dean at the Universities of Michigan and Minnesota, was inaugurated as the eighth president of Bentley University in a ceremony attended by students, faculty, staff, alumni and other members of the extended Bentley community.