At Wednesday’s Leadership Donor Celebration, held at the middle school campus, Neil Mehta ’02 announced the establishment of The Mehta Endowment in Support of Scholarships and Entrepreneurship. This new endowment will provide financial assistance in the form of scholarships to qualified students who otherwise could not attend Harker. It also will support Harker’s business and entrepreneurship program with the creation of the Mehta Scholar Program, developing Harker’s network of student, alumni and parent entrepreneurs and investors.
A member of the first Harker upper school graduating class, Mehta said at the event that finding a way for more students to receive the unique kind of high-quality education he received at Harker has been a dream ever since he wore the cap and gown 20 years ago. “Harker changed my life in remarkable ways, and ever since I graduated, I’ve been looking for opportunities to pay it forward,” said Mehta, who is now the founder and managing director at Green Oaks Capital. “Today, I’m pleased to share that at least five students each year will be able to attend the upper school with a scholarship specifically designed to support young people of diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds.”
The endowment will be established with an initial gift of $5 million, and every amount donated to the Harker capital fund as part of the donors’ 125th Anniversary Gift will be matched, up to an additional $5 million. The full transcript of Mehta’s announcement speech at the event has been provided below:
Dear Fellow Members of The Harker Community,
I won life’s lottery the day I was born. I was fortunate to grow up with remarkable parents who cared deeply about who I would become, and who provided me with a set of values and priorities that allowed me to flourish within and beyond the walls of the classroom. Harker took this luck and amplified it. Since its earliest days, Harker has had an ability to bring out the best in young people – to push them to achieve things they don’t think themselves capable of; to expand the horizons of their minds; to remind them that hard work matters, and that to whom much is given, much is also expected. All of those things were true for me.
Harker changed my life in remarkable ways, and ever since I graduated, I’ve been looking for opportunities to pay it forward. Today, I’m pleased to share that at least five students each year will be able to attend the upper school with a scholarship specifically designed to support young people of diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds.
It’s no exaggeration to say that whatever personal or professional accomplishments I’ve enjoyed in my life wouldn’t have been possible without the opportunities that I was afforded at Harker. I had extraordinary teachers who challenged me intellectually. I had sports coaches who put in time and effort to shape the person I would become (and encouraged us to play on, even as a new varsity program that was sometimes hilariously overmatched). And I had exceptional peers who were by my side throughout high school, many of whom remain my closest friends even today.
As more time has passed since graduation, I’ve come to appreciate a few things. First, while raw talent is evenly distributed, the opportunity to make the most of it remains largely limited to the well-off. Too many brilliant young people never attain their greatest potential simply because their families lack the resources to give them the best shot at it. Second, education is one of the highest leverage ways to amplify opportunity. When you are able to influence someone positively, early on in their development, you can profoundly change the arc of their life. And third, Harker provides the kind of education that gives talented students a springboard to become people of consequence – not just learners, but doers. A Harker education is an investment that pays lifelong dividends.
The Harker School is an exceptional place in the truest sense of the word. At a time when many schools in California are shuttering programs that let students aim for and achieve their grandest ambitions, Harker remains an exception, cultivating talented minds and affording them the conditions to flourish. It’s a place where you succeed because of what you can do.
Nowhere is there more human potential than in the young minds of our future. Their talent and energy are more urgently needed today than ever before. I’m confident that Harker is the right steward for those minds and hopeful that the Mehta Scholarship will help open its doors to anyone who can make the most of it, regardless of their ability to pay. My aspiration is for this scholarship to change the lives of its recipients, and also for its recipients to change the face of Harker, helping build a school that represents the technicolor of our community.
If you’re a high-achieving young person with big dreams, I hope you take the time to apply, even and especially if you don’t think that you could afford a school like Harker. I’m supporting this scholarship because the greatest talents, those that can really put a dent in the world, are vanishingly rare. To miss out on your potential simply because some are born lucky and others aren’t, is a loss not just for you, but for all of us. The Mehta scholarships are a small step towards ensuring that more talented students will have the opportunity to make the most of their abilities. We can’t wait to see what you’ll do.
P.S. One person in particular deserves special gratitude for his work with me on this gift is Joe Rosenthal. Joe took a keen interest in me as an unremarkable 14 year old. When I felt like giving up, he wouldn’t let me. He encouraged me to dream big when it felt irresponsible to do so. Thank you, Joe.