Gratitude in writing
Scholarship recipient promises to make good on alumni association’s investment.
Jerad Williams doesn’t take the generosity of others for granted.
That’s why, after earning one of seven $7,150 scholarships from The Ohio State University Alumni Association this academic year, he wrote a heartfelt thank-you letter to Andy Gurd, the association’s chief operating officer.
“I wanted to show Andy how much it really meant to me and that the investment he and the alumni association have made in me will not be wasted,” said the second-year pre-med student. “This scholarship has allowed me to breathe. I was always worried about how I am going to finance my education. Receiving this scholarship let me clear my mind and focus on school instead of how to pay for school.”
He made a pair of pledges in his two-page, handwritten letter: “I promise to take this scholarship and better myself. … I promise to help whenever I am able and to make these extraordinary opportunities given to me mean something.”
To that end, Williams is putting his all into his Ohio State education — by joining an a cappella group, pledging a fraternity, spending his first spring break doing a service project in Florida and pursuing a dream of one day being part of Doctors Without Borders.
Williams is a triplet. He and his two sisters grew up in Lyndhurst, Ohio, with two older brothers. When the triplets were 7, their father died, and their mother raised her five children alone.
“My mother was my biggest motivator for attending college,” Williams said. “She worked to give us everything she could, and it would be almost negligent to misuse her hard work.”
Why did you decide on a pre-med concentration at Ohio State?
Growing up, I wanted to work in a zoo and travel on an African safari and that was it. Going into ninth grade, I picked up a physiology book and thought, “This is cool.” My father was in the last year of his medical school residency when he passed away, so I had been around [medicine] because of him. I think the human body is fascinating. It’s a miracle. So that’s when my desire shifted from wanting to work with animals in Africa to wanting to work with people in Africa.
What clubs and activities are you involved with at Ohio State?
I’m involved with an A Cappella group, The Ohio State of Mind. In the group I sing bass, and we perform at various events around campus. I love the group because it’s a creative outlet for my mind and lets me step outside the realm of school. It feels amazing to perform and step away from the life of books and tests. We sang for a class reunion last fall and it was really cool to meet all the alumni and hear their stories. We were able to perform at a pregame Friday night football event with the alumni band … and we’re going to perform over spring break at a competition in Washington, D.C., called “SingStrong,” benefitting the Alzheimer’s Association.
I’m also in a fraternity. I wasn’t very interested in joining Greek life when I got to Ohio State, but I found this group of gentlemen at Delta Sigma Phi and I fell in love. Everyone is kind and compassionate, and it pushes me to be a better person every day.
I worked with the Buck-I-Serv program during my freshman-year spring break. We were able to travel to Florida and volunteer in an animal sanctuary building a bear enclosure. It was one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, experiences I’ve had.
When did you learn you were receiving an alumni association scholarship?
I found out in the middle of the summer. I was working two jobs and taking a summer calculus course trying to both pay for school and get ahead. The hours were exhausting, but it made finding out I would be receiving the scholarship that much sweeter.
What was your reaction?
I just cried. Andy Gurd was on the other end of the phone telling me I was one of seven picked and I couldn’t speak. I had been so stressed trying to figure out how I would pay for school. It was as if a giant weight was lifted off my chest. There were no words but “thank you” and “no way” at the time.