Thankfulness has been on my mind recently, so it was a welcome surprise this morning to see the photo above accompanying an article on the Roberts Enterprise Development Fund (REDF). It shows Jed Emerson, George Roberts, and Melinda Tuan sometime in the 1990s, which is when I met Jed and Melinda. George is in the center as a sign of respect for his seniority and status--he's the billionaire who funded REDF--but it's Jed and Melinda who had a profound impact on my life and to whom I remain deeply grateful.
In 1996 Melinda was an MBA student at Stanford who was considering a summer internship at Compass Family Services, where I was serving as Associate Director. She wound up spending her summer elsewhere, but she made a powerful impression on me, and we stayed in touch. Her example taught me that business school could be a place where someone could pursue entrepreneurship and social impact.
The following year Stanford hosted a conference on entrepreneurship, and I attended the nonprofit track, which Melinda had organized. I saw Jed speak there--he was the founding CEO of REDF, and Melinda would join him after graduation as Managing Director--and I was thrilled to see that the room was overflowing, with people sitting on the stairs.
I was struck by Jed's blunt candor and sharp sense of humor, as well as his email address, which he wrote on the board: Live4Punk@... He also made a powerful impression on me, and his example taught me that people could be themselves at a business school--they didn't have lose their identities in a conformist crowd.
I was so inspired by both of them. I thought, "If this school supports people like Jed and Melinda, then this is where I need to be!" I applied to the MBA program and was thankful to be accepted, but I had no idea at the time what an amazing course my life was now set upon.
Two decades later, I am so incredibly fulfilled by my work as a coach and teacher, and it would not have happened without the two of them. Thank you, Jed and Melinda.