HEARTS AND MINDS
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
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
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.
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.”
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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