The Power of Education Scholarship Pays It Forward

BJ Jenkins

The power of education is a fundamental philosophy in BJ Jenkins’s family.

When the family business is education and most members of your family are public school teachers, this principle becomes fixed in your value system. And, it’s what has guided Jenkins and his wife, Julie, an artist, in their philanthropic pursuits.

Their most recent gift to the College, which doubles their previously anonymous gift that established a scholarship for Emerson students in need, will result in a $1 million investment that they hope will eventually fund full tuition for a student every four years.

“[In my family’s experience] education has become a stable, foundational path that has given people a lot of choices in life. If there was an opportunity that I had, I felt it was [because] of my college experience,”
Jenkins said.

The father of Tatum Jenkins ’22, BJ Jenkins said the idea behind the scholarship was to honor his daughter’s positive experience at a school that celebrates the importance of arts and communication in our society.

“I thought of it [as a way] to give opportunity to [another] student and to build a foundational base at a great school,” Jenkins said, explaining that his wife’s passion for the arts also contributed to the decision. “[The arts
and communication] are incredibly important to the fiber of the country.”

The current president of Palo Alto Networks in California said he also supports the idea that his children stay connected to their alma mater, which is why he has asked Tatum to take over the management and administrative aspects of the scholarship starting next year.

Tatum, who graduated in December 2022 with a degree in Writing, Literature and Publishing, was always drawn to the written word, according to her father. She started reading early and even taught her younger
brother to read.

At Emerson, Tatum played on the ultimate frisbee team and served as the music director of WERS 88.9, and is a huge Taylor Swift fan. (Yes, she got tickets for a show in the recently launched tour.)

She is currently completing graduate school applications for an education degree, following in the path of so many of her family members.

“Like any college student, she’s had ups and downs—she missed out on a trip to Kasteel Well in the Netherlands, during the pandemic—but the teachers and classes have… meant the most to her,” Jenkins said.

Now, Jenkins hopes his daughter can take the lessons she has learned from her college experience and apply them to managing the scholarship.

“It’s like anything in life, what you care about and are passionate about is what you should invest your skills, time, and money in. You have to pay it forward. I think that’s important from a value perspective to have
accountability. Our kids hopefully see that in our activities, and [it encourages them] to carry it forward,” Jenkins said.

And, in the case of this scholarship, there’s already been a wonderful added reward related to the first recipient, which makes this gift all the more meaningful.

Although the Jenkins family never intended to be told the identities of the recipients of the scholarship, they learned about the first one anyway.

A home builder they have worked with for years revealed to them that his niece had received a significant and needed scholarship from Emerson. The comment piqued their interest and by asking more questions, they learned—in a six-degrees-of-separation moment—that the niece was the recipient of their scholarship.

They considered it good karma.

“My wife said, ‘This is why we do this.’ The connection [to the recipient] highlighted the value of helping someone. When you see the impact you have, it makes you want to do it more. It’s one of the most pure feelings you can have,” Jenkins said.

CategoriesNews Spring 2023