1. Note a memorable Haverford experience or faculty member.
What strikes me most as I recall my Haverford experience is what it was like to enter the school in the 9th grade, when many friendships had already been formed. This journey of feeling like an outsider, to feeling like Haverford was a place where I truly belonged and could make a contribution, was among the most transformational of my life and has informed everything I have done since.
Under the guidance and genius of music teacher Michael Stairs, I discovered a strength that I did not know I possessed. In those days, there was a select singing group that was traditionally made up of seniors. I tried out and didn't make the cut, which was very painful. Mr. Stairs took me aside and said, "This school has enough talent and enough committed young men for a second group, don't you think? If you think you can convince people to join, I will help you rehearse." Under the mentorship of Mr. Stairs and with Tyler Bell '89 as a best friend and co-conspirator, we put in motion a group of remarkable diversity of age, passions, and ability---all of whom agreed to meet weekly at 7 a.m. to bring forward what would become the Notables singing group. I was invited to reframe my experience and build something from scratch for the first time--and I really haven't stopped since.
2. What was your inspiration to found Broad Street Ministry?
I have long held a deep love for the possibilities that the Philadelphia region presents. In 2005, we opened Broad Street Ministry, located along the Avenue of the Arts across from the new Kimmel Center. Everywhere you turned there was evidence of Philadelphia's re-emergence as a world-class city. But it was heartbreaking to see how many people came through our doors who were experiencing homelessness, joblessness and most troubling, the sense of hopelessness. Of the top 10 largest American cities, Philadelphia had the highest percentage of people who lived in deep poverty, which is a designation of having to live at 50% below the poverty line. Today, BSM is a community that is pulsing with life seven days a week. Close to 8,000 Philadelphians enter our doors every year to gain access to a balanced meal, clothing, legal assistance, healthcare, employment, and housing aid, and a pathway to rebuilding their life. The model is remarkable because it approaches the individual and the challenges they are facing holistically. Ten highly effective nonprofits--each with an area of specialization--work together to partner with people to get them what they need to move forward in life.
Haverford affords each young man an incredible opportunity to discover their unique skills, to be pushed in the direction of excellence by faculty and peers, and ultimately to be enveloped into a large family of alumni and friends who were shaped by the enduring ideals and educational vision of this great school.
3. How is Rooster Soup Company changing the cycle of poverty in Philadelphia?
Rooster Soup Company is the nation's first crowd-funded, for-profit restaurant where 100% of its profits will go to alleviate hunger and homelessness. The story began when BSM sought partnership with the hospitality and tourism industry in Philadelphia. Steve Cook and Mike Solomonov, two of the principals of CookNSolo Restaurants, shared with me that the Federal Donuts footprint was expanding. The result would be an incredibly tasty byproduct that could be converted into delicious chicken soup. The original thought was that these guys would be able to treat our guests to an unlimited supply of delicious soups during the cold winter months at next to no cost. But then we decided to improve upon that idea. BSM has an ambitious job training initiative we were trying to launch that would put countless Philadelphians back into the workforce, but we were having trouble funding it. What if we sold the soup instead? In order to test this idea, we launched a Kickstarter campaign. The response was frankly astounding: over $179,000 was raised in 30 days! Thanks to this investment and this unlikely partnership, Rooster Soup Company is set to open by the end of this year. It will be a full-service restaurant located on Sansom Street, in the heart of the business district, where anyone who visits can help out their neighbors just by eating lunch. Read more about Rooster Soup in the Wall Street Journal >
4. How can Haverford students make the most of their education?
Alumni of a certain age will remember that one of the surest ways to get in trouble was to leave campus without permission. While I smile at how many hours I spent in detention for violating this rule, I would say that my advice would be to be bold enough to strike out from campus, but with a different goal in mind. Haverford affords each young man an incredible opportunity to discover their unique skills, to be pushed in the direction of excellence by faculty and peers, and ultimately to be enveloped into a large family of alumni and friends who were shaped by the enduring ideals and educational vision of this great school. But I have found that context in education is everything. I would encourage these leaders of tomorrow to forge meaningful relationships beyond Haverford's campus and into the opportunities and challenges of America's fifth largest city. The city would welcome the investment of talented young men in areas as diverse as social impact investing, civic engagement, new media, and the arts. I believe as never before a more dynamic tie needs to be forged between Haverford's Main Line context and the great city of Philadelphia--our destinies as citizens are linked and our possibilities for mutual enrichment have never been greater. Get off campus and get invested in the vitality of the city!
- The Big Room Blog