Carol and I have gone back and forth about predestination, God’s influence on our day to day activities and the role of coincidence in our lives. Whether any of the above, we stand still when we think of what happened to us in May of the year 2000. Carol and I were doing as much as we could in a number of different acitivies, mostly trying to get rural kids to go to college. Carol had expanded her Bright Futures programs to a few schools and I was doing a number of arbitrations and fact findings. We were also doing long range plans, working with rural school boards and I was lobbying for PARSS. I had also been working for Leader Business Systems, selling optical scanning programs and generally trying to get some business for them.
In that week ( the second week I think) of May, 2000, we got two phonecalls. One was from Andy McKelvey, CEO and owner of Monster.com and Bruce Melgary representing Gerry Lenfest, who had just sold his Suburban Cable Company to Comcast for $7.5 billion dollars. Each of them wanted to start a foundation to help rural kids go to college. They had gotten our names from two Harrisburg people, who had referred them to us as folks who would know about rural education. Thus began a 10 year odyssey that enabled us to fulfill our dream of sending needy rural kids to college.
Let’s begin with Andy McKelvey. If you have ever heard of Monster.com, the job finding website, it was purchased by Andy as an investment for about 3 million dollars. His experience in the yellow page advertising business ( he was the person who added pizza and a standardized set of ads in all yellow pages) was a natural for the expansion of Monster. He was imaginative, creative and one of the most innovative people Carol and I had ever met. Our meetings with him over the years showed him to be someone who was open to any kind of suggestion and able to throw so many ideas up against a wall, that it was inevitable that one or two stuck. We were told by the person who started us on this trek. Roxanne Previte, that we should “embrace ambiguity” in dealing with Andy. She was so correct.
We also owe a great deal to Andy’s wife Dena ( now Deena) McKelvey. She was Andy’s sixth wife. Dena was most certainly a trophy wife. She was tall, blonde, leggy, and beautiful. She had grown up in California. Her dad was a policeman in Redwood, CA. She had been married twice before, one to a businessman in Cleveland and one to a major league baseball player. However, beyond all this, she was one of the most kind hearted people we had ever met. The stories that can be told of her generosity are astounding.
Dena called us after we had been somewhat employed by the newly created McKelvey Foundation and asked us to take her to a rural school district. We were living in Harrisburg and knew that the closest district that would affect her was about an hour away from here. Dena flew from N.Y.C., where the McKelvey’s lived and landed in Harrsiburg. We got on the PA Tpke. And drove to the Fannett-Metal School District in Franklin County. Fannett- Metal is truly rural- 30 miles long and 4 miles wide ( the Path Valley), with some areas lacking in sewage, water and electricity. It most certainly was a poor district. We had called Dana Baker, the school superintendent and had him round up some community people, some teachers and some students to meet with us and answer some of Dena’s questions.
The meeting went well. Dena was astounded at the lack of resources of the school and the community. Although we did not see tears coming to her eyes, we knew that she was affected by what the people said to her. As we were leaving to have her take her plane back to New York, Dena asked if she could go to the ladies room. We all talked about the possibility of a scholarship and how it would look. When Dena came back, we bid our farewells and drove her back to the airport. We had some great conversations and Dena promised that we would work with her to establish the program and become full time consultants to the Foundation.
Later that night Dana Baker called and asked what this was. We did not know what he was talking about. Evidently, Dena had left and envelope on his desk with $500 checks made out to each of the people at the meeting. He asked us what to do with the checks. Carol and I quickly responded. How about giving them out in scholarships at the end of the year. Dana liked that idea and that was what was done. It was the beginning of our wonder magical tour over the next ten years.


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