Block providing 'opportunity' for young people
A special something about the promise in young people, if given an opportunity, has attracted Richard Block ’62 to the HEOP (Higher Education Opportunity Program) program now flourishing on the Alfred University campus.
A conversation with Amy Jacobson, director of gift planning, University Relations, first piqued his curiosity."It simply sounded very worthwhile and of interest to me. Nadine (Shardlow, opportunity programs director - see related story) sent me some materials, we spoke, and I actually felt a stronger connection to Alfred than I had for years.”
“At the time I was attending Alfred in 1959, there was one African American student in the school. In the years that my wife (Freya ’64) and I were there, I only remember one student per year. A few simply left,” he recalled. (HEOP and EOP, the opportunity programs, provide a broad range of services to NYS residents who, because of academic and economic circumstances, would otherwise be unable to attend a postsecondary educational institution.)
So what prompted Block to believe it would beneficial to put his own resources, both financial and human, into HEOP?
“An affliction I am not embarrassed about is an affinity for the underdog,” he said. “So many of us were born lucky, however some are not so lucky. If they are motivated, if they are learners and potential leaders, they deserve the same chances. They deserve the same opportunities,” Block maintained.
He continued: “From 2005 until 2010 I had the opportunity to work with young ‘at risk’ kids aged 18-21.The first thing I noticed was how much talent they possessed and how motivated many of them were. This was a source of motivation to support the fine program at Alfred.”
Block noted he is also motivated by a personal philosophy regarding the importance of higher education.
“It’s an opportunity to learn more about life’s possibilities,” he explained. “There are other ways. It (higher education) is a structure that is well suited for most mere mortals. It is an age and place where a clearer idea of what you want to do, and even more importantly what you do not want to do, can develop.”
Block is happy to report he has had a firsthand look at the potential of the current Alfred University HEOP program participants.
“Actually I have met some 10 graduates and also had a chance to meet about the same number of potential students. That is not much, but when I met the graduates in New York, with Nadine, I saw the power and force of the program.
“We (Block and Freya) live in New York City. Nadine scheduled a session with graduates. We were able to use a common room in our apartment building. The spirit towards the program was impossible to miss. The leadership of Nadine and her mentor, who also attended, was very powerful. It is difficult to not want to be part of something like that. It is difficult to not want to support an organization that reflects such strong leadership.”
Block and Freya have also used the same space for several recruiting meetings that were a follow up to that first reception with the HEOP graduates.
Block has not been back to campus to meet with students, but he hopes to make that trip this year.
“The energy from these young graduates, their willingness to work together to help in the recruiting of new students, their stories from that little village called Alfred, were very moving to me. The genuine desire to support each other and to create a good life for themselves was clearly present,” said Block.