Lexi Jackson, BSBA ’20, was the student speaker at her virtual graduation recognition ceremony on May 15. She plans to serve her new St. Louis community as a Lead for America fellow, working to promote environmental justice and economic development in the city’s frontline communities. Today she writes for the Olin Blog about why she made a four-year pledge in support of merit-based scholarships.
I was sitting on a crowded school bus in April 2016 when I received the call. Trying to tune out the background noise, I answered the call from an unknown number with a hesitant greeting. I could have never anticipated the response waiting on the other end.
“Congratulations, Lexi! You have been named a Class of 2020 Dean Scholar, underwritten by Jerry and Judy Kent, for the Olin Business School!”
These words carried with them a full-tuition scholarship to Washington University in St. Louis and membership in a cohort of top scholars from around the country.
Growing up in the small town of Nixa, Missouri, I could have never imagined that I would join the ranks of business scholars who had held internships in high school that would be coveted by any college student. My high school did not offer a robust business curriculum and very few members of my graduating class went on to pursue a four-year professional degree of any kind.
After my father suffered a severe car accident that rendered him disabled and unable to work, I knew my family could not finance an education at a private university. All things considered, the odds were not in my favor to become a Dean Scholar at the Olin Business School…and then Judy and Jerry Kent entered the picture.
The Kent Family has generously established the Judy and Jerry Kent Scholarship Fund, which underwrites scholarships for a cohort of BSBA students each year. As Missouri natives, I related to the Kents’ journeys of working their way through college and their careers to make a difference for so many others.
They saw a potential in me that not even I was able to uncover. Through their generosity and support, I attended one of the most prestigious universities in the world and graduated from a top-ranked business school.
I am especially grateful for the opportunity to have put a name and face to those that made my education possible. Through the Scholars in Business program, I was able to connect with the Kents every year, write to them every semester, and learn from them every day.
The value of my university education is priceless. It has opened doors that would have never been possible for me otherwise.
I am inspired by the Kents’ generosity and am forever grateful for my Olin education. As I enter the professional world as an alumna, I pledge to make the same commitment to future scholars of the Olin Business School. While my initial donation was meager, I plan to substantiate my pledge as I progress through my career.
If I could one day provide the same opportunity to another student that the Kents provided to me, it would be the greatest honor of my life.
I encourage the Class of 2020 to take up a similar charge. We are graduating in the midst of one of the most uncertain and destabilizing moments in time. While our class will forever be immortalized in history, it is up to us to immortalize our legacy. Contributing to the future of our institution and its scholars is one of the most meaningful ways to do just that.
Thank you, Judy and Jerry Kent, for giving me the gift of education. I have cherished every moment of my time at Olin Business School and will carry its lessons with me throughout my life and career. Through contributions to the Scholars in Business program, I hope to make the same opportunity possible for other students for years to come.