We all are products of our experiences and how we choose to navigate them. In my case, dropping out of college is one of several indelible marks on my soul. I was one of those “most likely to succeed” cats coming out of high school, so dropping out of college a few months later was an unexpected re-write. Remaining a college drop-out for the next eight years was humbling and sometimes disorienting, as I watched former high school classmates repeatedly lap me on the career track.
When I got an opportunity to go back to college, thanks to the intervention of a dear family friend, I made the most of it and graduated with honors. When that same family friend encouraged me to apply to law school, I turned a deaf ear. With a wife and two children to care for, I needed to get out of the classroom and into the job market – or so I thought. After a year of rejections and disappointments, I bit the bullet, took the LSAT and applied to law school. By now, we had three children, so the family demands were increasing.
I applied to only one law school – St. John’s Law in Queens, NY. It was the closest school to my home, which I thought would best allow me to juggle the demands of law school and family life. Turns out, the proximity of the school almost didn’t matter, because on May 5, 1993, I received a rejection letter from St. John’s. You know, the kind that thanks you for applying, apologizes for being unable to accept every candidate, and wishes you well in all of your future endeavors. Not satisfied with the form letter, I wrote the dean of admissions, politely asking why the school turned me down. After a meeting with the dean, the school reversed its decision and offered me a seat in the next entering class.
Three years later, I graduated and began my career. Some twenty years later, I can say without stuttering or blinking that I am blessed to have had the opportunities to do what I do. That rejection letter I received is in a frame mounted on a wall in my office, tucked right under my law school diploma. It serves a daily reminder to never give up, and as a testimony to the thin line between success and failure.
What does this all mean? Well, it helps explains why I bear a joyous burden of helping others, especially young people. We all need a chance, and those of us who have “made it,” whatever that may mean, have an opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of others. One of the ways I’m seeking to do that is to start a scholarship. I’m still working on the specifics and could use some guidance from anyone who may have some tangible experience in this area. If that’s you, or if you know someone who fits the bill, please let me know. I’m just looking to lend a hand, and am looking for someone willing to do the same to help me do it.