Boston College Annual Report 2003

Gabelli Scholars Fund

.When Tamorah Roark ’03 first started teaching the teenaged prisoners, she felt uncomfortable and a bit naive. The prison was a long way from the Boston College campus, and even farther from her home in Columbus, Ohio.
But that, after all, was just the point.

Roark was completing the community service required of Presidential Scholars, an exclusive honors-plus program designed to nurture future leaders with a social conscience. Spending a summer with prisoners, or others, in need gives some of the University’s top students the chance to experience what Presidential Scholars Program Director Dennis Sardella calls “an up-close and personal view of what social problems look like.”

To Roark, they looked like troubled boys in an English class, who slowly gained her trust, and she theirs. “It was never violent, never even disrespectful,” says Roark, who is heading to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine next year.

During that same summer after freshman year, Roark also worked with Haitian refugees. “I was exposed to two new populations of people that I was completely unaware of,” she says. “I knew I was going to go into medicine. This opened my eyes to different populations I could consider working with.”

Each year, the Presidential Scholars Program (PSP) invites 150 standouts among the University’s early-action applicants for a weekend at Boston College; only 15 are chosen to be Presidential Scholars. The recipients, generally in the top two percent of their high school class, receive full tuition regardless of need. This award is thanks in part to Mario J. Gabelli P’90, P’94, P’95, P’00 and the Gabelli Foundation, whose $10 million gift created the PSP’s largest endowment, the Gabelli Distinguished Presidential Scholars Fund.

.“This gift reflects our strong endorsement of Boston College’s Presidential Scholars Program. This program, in a relatively short span of time, has attracted and graduated men and women of distinctive scholarship and integrity who have had—and will continue to have—an impressive, positive impact on our world.” MARIO J. GABELLI P’90, P’94, P’95, P’00

The Presidential Scholars Program helps Boston College attract some of the nation’s brightest students, representing a wide variety of disciplines. When Roark was a high school senior, she chose Boston College over Harvard not just for the scholarship, but also for the mentoring, the internships, and the close familial atmosphere of the PSP community.

“Aside from the financial perks, the program was really awesome,” she says. “I could tell they were interested in me as a person and what I could contribute.”

Presidential Scholars are required to complete three summer programs: the community service program, a cultural study in France, and an internship of their choosing. Roark worked in a biomedical lab at Tufts University researching a rare children’s cholesterol disorder, and continued working there part-time after the internship ended.

Besides the formal requirements, Presidential Scholars also enjoy private biweekly lectures by prominent local and national leaders, journaling workshops, total-immersion lunches in which only Spanish or French is spoken, and leadership seminars that teach practical skills such as interviewing techniques, public speaking, and proposal writing.

While the PSP is inspiring Boston College’s top students intellectually and guiding their career choices, it is also carefully cultivating leaders who comprehend poverty, injustice, and other societal ills. The result is a new crop of graduates who enter the world with both mind and heart well developed. “The sense that some part of what we learn has to be given back to the community is instilled very early,” says Roark. “It is a privilege to take whatever you’ve been given and give it back.”

Photo at top of page: Tamorah Roark at her internship in a Tufts University biomedical lab.

Inset photo: Mario J. Gabelli.

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