Fiat More Like Gloria

Gloria Austin ’63, who was a math and science major when she attended Alfred University, is a passionate advocate for the liberal arts and a powerful example of what a student with a liberal arts education can accomplish.

Visiting her earlier this month at her lovely equine estate in central Florida provided a wonderful opportunity to learn more about Gloria’s professional successes, personal passions, keen curiosity, and intellect.

Gloria was a co-founder of Paychex, a pioneer in providing payroll, human resources, and benefits services to companies large and small. From its inception in 1971, Paychex has evolved into a publicly-traded company headquartered in Rochester that now has 141 offices serving over 600,000 payroll clients, employs 14,000, and generates annual revenues of nearly $3.5 billion.

Horses have always been a passion of Gloria’s, and after she sold her share of the Paychex business, she was free to devote much of her time to her horses. She has been driving horses and collecting carriages for over three decades. Gloria has won numerous championships with her horses and carriages in North America and Europe. She also has authored or co-authored eleven books on horses including Speak Your Horse’s Language; The Horse, History, and Human Culture; and The Unsung Heroes of World War I.

Gloria AustinDuring a tour of her estate, her curiosity as well as the breadth of her learning were abundantly clear. Did you know, for example, why Sun Tzu wrote The Art of War, a seminal military manual dating back to the 5th century BCE that still influences military thinking, business tactics and legal strategy around the globe? According to Gloria, it was part of the author’s application for a job with the then Chinese emperor. She regaled me with tidbits ranging from how humans have relied on horses for more than 6,000 years to the mechanics of various horse carriages.

By anyone’s measure, Gloria is a success, professionally and personally. She co-founded a leading business and has spent years doing what makes her happiest. In addition, Gloria is a generous philanthropist who has given back to many institutions including our University. She is a past member of our Board of Trustees and one of the now 506 founding members of our Saxon Circle.

The visit with Gloria, as well as with hundreds of other successful Alfred University alumni whom I have been privileged to meet over the last three years, cannot help but be contrasted with the college admissions scandal that has been in the news so much as of late (the New York Times has an excellent compilation). At the root of the scandal appears to be the desire on the part of parents to give their child the best in life, including admission to a “name” college.

But at what price, and by that I don’t mean the millions of dollars some were willing to pay to get their children into the “right” college by fraudulent means? I mean the price the children involved will pay, most likely for the rest of their lives. They know they are not academically or athletically talented enough to gain admission into the name colleges on their own merits. Won’t that leave them feeling like frauds, undermining their self-confidence and self-worth?

The Wall Street Journal has an excellent article “The Right Way to Choose a College,” which emphasizes that the “right” college is not necessarily the Ivy League school or a top 10 athletics school, but the place where a student can be inspired and engaged.

The article lists six key college experiences that correlate with how fulfilled employees feel at work and whether they thrive in life after college. They are:

  • Taking a course with a professor who makes learning exciting.
  • Working with professors and staff who care about students personally.
  • Finding a mentor who encourages students to pursue personal goals. [The single most common response from our alumni when asked what they most treasure about our University is that a faculty/staff member, and sometimes a fellow student, took an interest in them and changed their life for the better.]
  • Working on a project across several semesters. [Our Maker Culture.]
  • Participating in an internship that applies classroom learning. [Cue APEX.]
  • Being active in extracurricular activities. [Over 42 percent of our incoming undergraduate students are student-athletes. We have over 80 different student clubs and organizations.]

From my perspective, Alfred University checks all six of the foregoing boxes, and there are more than 25,000 successful Alfred University alumni who would say the same thing.

Fiat More Like Gloria!