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One Generation Removed – Paying It Forward

Poole with ParentsPhoto: Phenise Poole with her parents, Dorothy Poole Jones and Lewis Jones, at the 2012 CCI Experience Diversity Banquet 

J. Phenise Poole (BS/JEM ’95 and current member of CCI’s Board of Visitors) landed at UT Knoxville almost by accident.  She planned on attending an historically black college or university to become the second generation in her family to attend and graduate from college.  However, being selected to receive a full ride scholarship to attend the University of Tennessee as a Whittle Scholar changed the course of her college education. After earning her B.S. degree, Poole went on to earn a J.D. and is now an associate general counsel at Omnicare in the Greater Cincinnati area.

Thanks to the financial support she received from UT, Poole knows firsthand of the life changing impact scholarships can have. As a result, she recently worked with CCI Development Director Patrick Powell to establish the Cleveland and Nadine Young Scholarship for Professional Development, named in honor of her grandparents, who were hard-working farmers from Middle Tennessee.  “Neither of my grandparents had the opportunity to go to college,” said Poole.  “My parents did, and they placed a great deal of emphasis on education in our home.  Now, all of my cousins and I have graduate degrees.  It all started with the emphasis our grandparents placed on education and the example they set in how they lived their lives.” 

Poole’s family has a long history of “paying it forward.” In 1952, her grandfather’s parents realized African American Girl Scouts did not have the same opportunity as other Girl Scouts to go away to camp.  To remedy this, they made land available at a very low price to establish Camp Holloway in Middle Tennessee.  The camp still operates today Inspired by her family’s vision and willingness to invest in the future of many young girls, Poole made the commitment to follow in their footsteps.

When Powell approached Poole with the idea of establishing a scholarship to benefit students of need from diverse populations, she considered it an honor to share her blessings with others.  “Many people that I approach think they have to have a pile of money set aside before they can entertain the idea of establishing or contributing to a scholarship fund,” said Powell. “However, this is not the case.” “It was much easier than I thought,” said Poole. “I was able to establish a plan to make cash contributions to the fund over time on a structured, comfortable schedule.”

There are actually a number of ways donors can invest in the education of future CCI students.  “I recommend that people have a conversation with Patrick Powell and work with him and his team to find the best fit for their situation,” advised Poole.  “We all have the opportunity to make a real difference in someone’s life, and it can impact that family for generations to come.”

The skills and knowledge Poole obtained in her journalism classes have served her well in her career as an attorney.  Being able to write efficiently and effectively is a trait important for both reporters and attorneys. Strong public speaking skills are similarly important especially in stressful situations.  More importantly, Poole feels like her education helped her develop skills to ‘think on the fly.’ During her time at UT, she credits her Communication Law class with Dwight Teeter, professor of journalism and electronic media and former dean of the College of Communications, as  the influence that solidified her desire to go to law school. 

Reflecting on the impact her grandparents had on her desire for education, Poole hopes her gift will likewise be only one generation removed from changing the direction of many future families.