Successful Grad Gives Back, Makes Hefty Donation to Alma Mater

The Mehlman Talent Initiative is one generous donor's way of giving back to his alma mater

The Mehlman Talent Initiative is one generous donor’s way of giving back to his alma mater. Photo: Shutterstock

When Ken Mehlman graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in 1988, nobody knew who he was. At the time, he was just another college grad trying to make something of his life. But in the years since then, Mehlman has made quite the name for himself. He is now a distinguished political figure, lawyer, and businessman.

It’s no secret that education played a big role in Mehlman’s career, which is why he is funding a new program at Franklin & Marshall College designed to teach students how to lead successful lives. It’s called the Mehlman Talent Initiative. But here’s the key differentiator: the program doesn’t focus on intellect or success alone. Rather, it focuses on developing the personal characteristics associated with success.

Scholars and researchers are finding that there’s more to success than just being book smart. This concept is best illustrated in the classic “rags to riches” stories, where a severely disadvantaged person overcomes nearly impossible odds. Researchers think they have finally identified the key trait behind some of the world’s most successful people: grit.

Those unfamiliar with the term can think of it as perseverance, tenacity, or determination. It’s that ever-so-rare quality that makes a person never give up, and it’s commonly found in underserved communities.

Mehlman believes that studying the ways in which high-achieving, disadvantaged students have overcome adversity will bring forth insights about how a person can develop grit. If grit can be cultivated, taught, and developed, then students will be better equipped to conquer the challenges that come their way. And that’s the goal of the Mehlman Talent Initiative.

“At a time of increased global competition, accelerating technological evolution, and rapidly-shifting business, political, and social environments, resilience and the ability to rebound and reinvent are critical,” Mehlman stated. “Young men and women who have already overcome adversity bring different life experiences and are well positioned for 21st century success, but they need practical tools to flourish. This initiative will support these students and provide a framework for the rest of us to learn from them.”

The Mehlman Talent Initiative was just launched this past April, so it remains to be seen whether the program yields any results. But it’s certainly a revolutionary idea that is worth exploring.

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