David Treadwell

David Treadwell

In the fall of 2008, I was at the Altamont School in Birmingham, Alabama doing interviews for the purpose of writing the School’s admissions materials. One young woman stood out from the rest: Rai Miller — a top student, a fine actor and the class president. When she said she was considering Stanford and Northwestern, I launched a full-court press for Bowdoin. Rai ultimately chose Bowdoin; compiled a fine record (magna cum laude, Student Commencement Speaker, etc.) and won a Fulbright Scholarship to teach English in Indonesia. Tina and I served as her “host family” during her remarkable Bowdoin career. (Rai is currently pursuing a PhD in Psychology at Oklahoma State University.)

But this piece is not about Rai Miller. It’s about good connections. During Rai’s first two years at Bowdoin, she became a mentee of — and good friends with — Awa Diaw, a young woman who was born in Senegal and then moved to New York City with her parents. When Awa was a Bowdoin senior, she was trying to clarify her career goals. Rai, then a sophomore, said to Awa, “Talk to Mr. Treadwell; he might be able to help you.”

So I spent a delightful hour with Awa talking about her hopes and dreams. In addition to being smart and savvy, by the way, Awa is tall and strikingly beautiful (think Vogue magazine cover model). She was torn between consulting and education. I nudged her towards education.

That night my stepson and his good friend Dave Liebmann, then the Assistant Head at the Fay School in Massachusetts, happened to be staying at our house. I asked Dave, “Would the Fay School be interested in hiring a bright, engaging African-American woman who could teach French and coach track?”

“We just might,” said Dave. Long story short: Fay hired Awa to serve in various administrative capacities, and she spent a most successful three years there. Then she went on to earn her Master’s degree in Education Policy and Social Analysis at Columbia. We visited Awa at Columbia and again after she had graduated. During the second visit (last December) we took her to lunch at a nice cafe near Bryant Park. During that visit she told us she was applying to several top business schools. She also mentioned that her brother Mamadou had just been accepted Early Decision to Bowdoin. We said that we’d keep an eye on Mamadou, but that we couldn’t have him as an official “host student” as we already had three host students. Awa understood.

Awa got a great scholarship to attend the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. As luck would have it, Tina and I had spent some time in Bloomington, Indiana (home of Indiana University), last fall visiting our daughter-in-law’s mother Kathy Ruesink. So, of course we have connected Awa with Kathy. As luck would also have it, Awa decided to apply for an internship with Microsoft in Seattle where my son David is a Vice President. So, of course, we connected Awa with David, and she’s now on the brink of landing an internship.

But, back to Bowdoin and Mamadou. He came to Bowdoin in September and, hello again Lady Luck, his math mentor for his first year is Alicia Lima, our sophomore host student who hails from Boston by way of Cape Verde. After meeting Mamadou, Alicia texted me saying, “You have to add Mamadou to our host family. He is great!” So, of course, we did; he is now our fourth host student. Mamadou, like his sister Awa, is smart, savvy, engaging and tall. He’s off to a fine start.

Mamadou’s father Baba recently attended the Family Weekend at Bowdoin, Baba, not surprisingly, is also a terrific person — smart, warm, human. He was very gracious in expressing thanks for the support we have given Awa and Mamadou. We assured Baba that it is a privilege and an honor. And it truly is. How many people at our age get to play a role in the lives of exceptional young people from across the United States and around the world? Nothing gives me more pleasure, and Tina feels the same way. Oh, and we’re not through. After all, we hear that nine-year old Khoudia Diaw is exceptional in her own right. We’ll be ready to welcome Khoudia if she happens to come to Bowdoin.

David Treadwell, a Brunswick, writer, welcomes commentary and suggestions for future “Just a Little

Old” columns at [email protected]


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