Bathed in the dusky haze of the afternoon sun, the smell of freshly mowed grass hovering as an undeniable harbinger of spring, the University of La Verne baseball and softball teams on April 8 don...
Frederick Terrell ’76 flies cross country to impart some wisdom to young business hopefuls and give back to his alma mater and to the community.
Frederick Terrell was telling a roomful of high school students about how he and his brother, Emmett, started a rock band when they were much younger and, at the front table, Emmett was dying.
“We look back now, and we weren’t very good,” Frederick Terrell said, his older brother nodding in laughter. “But we thought we were going to be rock stars. The point is, having a fall-back plan is essential.”
Now Vice Chairman of the Investment Banking Department for Europe’s largest bank, Credit Suisse, Frederick Terrell had the rapt attention of 100-or-so high school students gathered at a welcoming breakfast for the University of La Verne’s remarkable Reach Program.
The three-week summer camp for local high schoolers pursuing a future in business, has in six years generated one astounding statistic: 95 percent of those who have attended the Reach Camp have gone on to attend college.
Terrell, a 1976 graduate of La Verne College who has achieved staggering financial success in business, wasn’t there to teach theory of international finance or dissect statistical abstracts. He was there to offer ground-level advice to some who are in a similar place to where he was 30-something years ago.
“You can have anything you want; it’s out there for you,” Terrell told his audience. “It doesn’t matter where you start. There is so much good will and people out there who want to help you. People I never could have imagined were some of those who ended up helping me the most.”
Such a positive, hopeful message instantly resonated with his audience, most of them high school seniors-to-be.
The three-week, Reach Summer Camp, started seven years ago by University of La Verne professor of business Issam Ghazzawi and Rita Thakur, Associate Dean of the College of Business & Public Management, is a focused seminar in the basics of entrepreneurial enterprise. Students divided into groups are guided through all the steps involved in starting their own business, including designing a business plan, conducting consumer research, and developing marketing and advertising. The work is just an exercise, but the money the winning groups receive is real.
“This is one of my favorite programs,” Thakur said. “This brings kids who are from underprivileged backgrounds to campus, and shows them how to go to college. After the Reach Program, I fly high for three months, after the success of the program. So, I’m very excited to start a new one.”
“What I have learned from these kids is, not five miles from here, what conditions they live under. I have had students tell me that what they like about the Reach Program is that they get three meals a day. I have heard from them that in the evenings they can go out without getting shot. Many of us are too privileged to understand where they come from, so this is eye-opening for me.”
Terrell told his audience a story from his childhood of his father coming home with a truckload of melons, which quickly sold out to neighbors, once word got around. He told of shining shoes, washing cars — practically anything to make a few bucks. A few nods in the audience confirmed a connection.
“I think his story is a lot like their story,” Emmett Terrell, himself a successful man as a superintendent of schools in Pomona and a member of the University of La Verne Board of Trustees, said of his brother’s decision to speak. “We’re first-generation college kids. He came here to La Verne as an undergrad, as did I. The ability to make as much of it as you want to is very important.”
So, Frederick Terrell’s message was clear: Start a rock band if you want, but be ready to jump on other opportunities.
“If you don’t like where you are, do something about it,” he said. “Jump in the pool and start swimming around. People are more alike than they are different. The real trick in life is breaking out of the box. Keep your ears open to the conversations around you, of people who may be able to help you, and follow up with them.
“Here, La Verne, is a place you can develop a plan. All doors can be reached through education.”