Standing in front of LEAD Scholar students and their sponsors last week, I asked everyone in the room to close their eyes and envision 30 years from now.
These students have all earned the highly competitive merit-based LEAD Scholarship from the Alumni Association. They are truly the Leaders and Best, and we are so fortunate that they decided to be Wolverines. By 2052, what amazing things will they accomplish?
Certainly, future doctors, engineers, attorneys, actors, educators, and policymakers were sitting in the room. There’s no doubt in my mind that they will become outstanding citizens of the world. And the University of Michigan degree these LEAD Scholars are now poised to earn will help lift them to heights they might have difficulty imagining.
I know that feeling. Because in 1989, I was just like them.
I grew up on the east side of Detroit and was a first-generation college student when I showed up at Mosher-Jordan Hall. Years before the Alumni Association launched LEAD, while at Cass Tech High School, I earned a scholarship and an opportunity to attend the University of Michigan.
The fact is, a degree from U-M is incredibly valuable. Since graduating in 1993, I can’t tell you the number of times that doors have opened for me in my professional career because of my U-M education and connections.
The same will be true for these exceptional LEAD Scholars. Their life’s journey will be catapulted because of the investment being made in them and their connection to this great University. Speaking with them last week, I wanted them to envision their impact, dream their dreams, and, inspired by my story, know that they can come true.
It was a perfect culmination of my first 10 days as President and CEO of the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan. I returned to this community — a place I consider a second home — for moments like this.
In the next 30 years, as these students are making a tremendous impact on society, I hope they will embrace this concept that U-M will always be, imperfections and all, home.
Corie Pauling, ’93, is the president and CEO of the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan.