Inspired by One Georgia State Success Story, Ed and Cecil Laird Are Creating More
Posted On November 7, 2014
Categories 2014 Annual Report
The idea of real-world learning opportunities as a cornerstone of the Georgia State experience is hardly a new development. As far back as the 1960s, Ed Laird was taking classes that immersed him directly into the world of journalism.
"There were some great professors there, but the thing that impressed me the most was these were working journalists, teaching on the side, who actually wrote for the Atlanta Constitution," he says. "That was impressive, because they had real-world experience. You'd write a story for class, and if the professor liked it, he'd say, ‘Pretty good story there — why don't you take it over to the Constitution and see if they can use it?'"
Even as a first-generation college student, Ed says he felt at home. But it was the experience of another first-generation student, Jean-Francois Koly Onivogui, that truly drove home the importance of Georgia State.
"We had friends at church who told us their son had been in the Peace Corps in Guinea, West Africa, and there was a young man there with potential above the average who needed to come to the United States," Ed recalls. "Jean-Francois arrived speaking only very hesitant English, but he applied to Georgia State and they put him into a special English-language course.
"He graduated with a B.A., and now he's got his master's and he's in the Ph.D. program. We met with him many times over dinner, and he would fill us in on what he was doing and how well that was working, how Georgia State was helping him."
That experience inspired Ed and his wife, Cecil, to give a previous residence — a condominium in Buckhead — to Georgia State as a charitable remainder trust.
"We like the fact that so many of the students are first-generation college educated," Ed says. "Jean-Francois put a personal face on that, and there are many American students who are getting these opportunities too. We just love the fact that there's this university downtown that's changing Atlanta, and all these people's lives, for the better."
Photo by Harold Daniels.
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