Arriving at Tufts as a freshman from her home city of St. Louis, Lori Samuels, J81, A22P, had no idea what she wanted to study—and she loved that. She loaded up on psychology courses; took French and spent a semester in Paris; talked to all the professors; and even rang the doorbell to then President Jean Mayer's house for a chat about political science. "I'm not sure you can do that in a lot of places," she recalled with a laugh.
Samuels remembered that encouragement and challenge, that sense of endless possibility, as she went on to earn her M.B.A. from Northwestern University, work in marketing, and start her own manufacturing business. "You don't do what's easy. You push yourself," she said. "There are so many paths you can take, so many opportunities you never even dreamed existed."
Now, Lori and her husband, Ted, A22P, are making a joint gift toward the operating costs of the Bridge to Liberal Arts Success at Tufts (BLAST) program. The couple, co-chairs of the President's Council at Tufts, hope to give future students the same kind of support, opportunities, and guidance that formed the heart of Lori's Tufts experience—as well as inspire future donors to follow their lead.
Targeted toward incoming students who have limited resources—many of whom are the first in their families to attend a four-year college—BLAST offers a six-week residential program the summer before freshman year, and academic guidance and support throughout all four school years. This includes coaching on study strategies, exam preparation, time management, and public speaking; one-on-one tutoring in writing and other subjects; and providing regular group meetings where students work together to develop academic and leadership skills. The program, which also includes workshops, course credits, and financial support, helps set students up for academic success at Tufts and beyond.
"We got a good sense of the kind of instruction and guidance BLAST provides the entire way through school. What BLAST does is teach students how to best and most effectively use their intellectual abilities to succeed," Lori said. "And we felt the possibilities of what BLAST could do were important enough to jump in in a big way."
As ongoing contributors to financial aid, the couple strongly believes in fostering a campus that represents a wide range of people. "The diversity of the students' backgrounds, interests, and passions and their unique perspectives was something that absolutely shaped my experience," Lori said. "By providing opportunities that are open to all regardless of what they have, the university wins, and every student there wins."
Ted Samuels agreed. "Tufts has always been a great school, and one of the things that makes it a better school today is its broad and diverse population," he said. "It's a special place, and we're excited and humbled to be able to do this."
Lori and Ted Samuels are now challenging other donors to join them. They've pledged the equivalent of one year of operating support for the program, with the promise to double their commitment if other members of the Tufts community collectively contribute in equal measure. The combined gifts will support several years of funding for BLAST, a program that has been made entirely possible by the generosity of alumni and friends since its inception in 2012. "Excellence costs money," Ted said. "The impact of gifts is both profound and permanent."
Lori added, "The idea is to encourage others to get involved in whatever capacity they can. Once you see what your money does, and what donations to programs like this at Tufts can do, you're sort of hooked."
The couple has always had a passion for leveling the playing field and creating a richer experience for everyone—and Lori can't think of a better return on their investment, especially now that their daughter is attending the university. "We're happy to be supporting a program that builds and deepens the community of students who attend Tufts," she said, "and we hope that this best, brightest, and most diverse group of kids will go out and do broad-minded and great things."