Why Give? One Alumnus Shares His Story

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Jerry and Susan Poissant

By Tom O'Keefe

I met Jerry Poissant '62 in 2007. Since then I have seen Jerry, his wife, Susan, and their grandchildren at various U of D Jesuit social and athletic events. Jerry and Susan have six children and eight grandchildren.

Jerry is a member of the board of advisors. This year Jerry and Susan added The High to their estate plan. Jerry is also helping raise money from his classmates to establish the Class of '62 Endowed Scholarship.

Jerry received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Eastern Michigan University. He retired in 2003 after a successful career in real estate finance with the Taubman Company.

Recently I asked Jerry what motivated him and Susan to be such strong supporters of U of D Jesuit. Following is his response.

Jerry Poissant '62 Tells Why He Supports U of D Jesuit
In spring 1958, I excitedly told my father that I had received an invitation to attend U of D High School in the fall. He said, "That's great son. Does it cost money?" I replied, "Of course it does." I'll never forget his response: "Well, I'm sure you'll find a way to pay for it."

That response seemed cruel and insensitive to me at the time, but it was the best thing that could have happened to me. It started me on a path to assume responsibility for the choices that I made in my life. It was an important learning experience.

For the 1958/59 school year, tuition at U of D was $200. That seems like a ridiculously low amount today, but adjusted for inflation it was about $1,600 in 2012 dollars. Not an inconsequential amount, but an amount that a high school student could easily earn with a part-time job.

For the 2012/13 school year, the tuition at The High will be more than $10,000. This is not an amount that a student can easily earn and pay. Frankly, it is not an amount most families can easily afford.

What has changed in the past 54 years? In 1958, most of the faculty members were Jesuits who worked for room and board. Today most of the faculty members are lay people who must support themselves and their families. They work for considerably less than their public school counterparts because of their incredible commitment to the mission of The High.

The education that I received at U of D was the foundation for the rest of my life. I firmly believe that my life has been bettered immeasurably by that education. Because of these feelings I have been a supporter of the Annual Fund for as long as I can remember. Modestly at first, but as my income increased over the years, my support increased as well.

More recently, my wife and I have had the opportunity to meet some of the students currently attending The High who wouldn't be there without the benefit of financial support.

Four years ago we met a sophomore; a quiet, shy but academically talented kid. In December of his senior year he excitedly ran down the hall to tell me he had just been admitted to Brown University with a full four-year scholarship. How exciting!

There was the student I met at lunch one day who told me his grandfather had legally adopted him because both of his parents were in jail. As much as he loved his grandfather, he considered The High his home and the other students his family. Notwithstanding the bus ride with three transfers that took him an hour and a half to get to school, anytime he was not at school he yearned to be there.

How do you summarize more than 50 years of experiences and emotions in a few words. My skills seem completely inadequate.

After a brief conversation, my wife and I decided that supporting the mission of U of D Jesuit was something important to us. We will continue to financially assist students each year during our lives and when we are gone we have included The High in our estate plan as though it were one of our children. This was our way of attempting to pay it forward. To return the gift given to me by all of those Jesuits in the 1950s who dedicated their lives to me and my fellow alumni.

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