Brother E. David Ballard Provides $20,000 Last Mile Gift To Help Howard University Student Graduate
At Howard, a story of grit and grace
By Marcia Davis, May 14, 2017
Angel C. Dye graduated from Howard University on Saturday with a bachelor’s degree from the College of Arts and Sciences, and she’s heading off to a master’s program in fine arts this fall at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.
Hers was one face among those inside Burr Gymnasium on a chilly morning where the threat of rain hovered. The historic university, celebrating its sesquicentennial, awarded 2,173 degrees, all stories of achievement, and no doubt many of them threaded with tales of sacrifice and struggle, of overcoming great odds.
Dye’s story is like that, too, but in addition to the grit and fortitude it took to finish, hers is graced with generosity and the magic that sometimes can happen between strangers, even when it’s just voices over the telephone.
“I worked really hard to get here. I am really proud of myself for being at this point in my life,” Dye, 22, said post-ceremony Saturday as she stood in the crowd in her cap and gown, surrounded by family and friends who had traveled from Texas and Wisconsin.
Dye, like so many Howard students, had come to college — she from Dallas — with more hope than money and soon found herself behind a financial wrecking ball at a university battling its own fiscal troubles. By the time she was featured in a Washington Post Magazine article last spring about Howard and its struggles, she had been kicked out of her dorm, owed $20,000 in back tuition and was living off campus in tenuous circumstances. Dye had refused to go home, so she continued working to pay what she could, started a GoFundMe page and was attending classes even though she wasn’t registered.
E. David Ballard II, a retired medical doctor and Morehouse College graduate, read the article at his home in Duluth, Ga. Something moved him, he said, and he immediately told his wife, Linda. They got in touch with Dye by phone and were impressed with her commitment and enthusiasm. Soon, they were calling back. They wanted to help, they said. Dye had raised about $8,000 on her page. The Ballards decided they would pay off the tuition she owed. Within days they had wired the $20,000 to the university.
“I was convinced it was the right thing to do,” David Ballard said.
“Education really is the key to everything,” Linda Ballard said.
“It was amazing,” said Dye, who couldn’t believe what was happening.
The three have never met, but have stayed in regular contact.
“I would eventually love to meet them in person,” Dye said. “I sent them thank-you cards, a graduation announcement. I kept them in the loop on everything that was happening with me. They made such a huge investment to my life.”
Dye took out a $40,000 Parent Plus loan to finish senior year, a loan for which she and her mother, Sharon Cobb, had repeatedly been rejected. Everything began to fall into place, including her acceptance to graduate school, a two-year program with a full-ride fellowship, including a teaching assistant job.
“So many good things just happened back to back to back,” said Dye, a published poet. “It felt like God and the universe were affirming to me that I was on the right path. Because certainly when I had to move out of my dorm last year, and the day when I was distraught and I was praying and I was asking God, ‘Please give me a sign, because I don’t think I’m in the right place.’ ”
That path has been affirmed many times over, Dye said. She even got a shout-out from Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), a Howard graduate who was the commencement speaker. She mentioned Dye and two other students in her speech. Dye and her mother both said the moment made them cry.
The Ballards plan to keep investing in young lives. Their philanthropy began before learning of Dye and will continue. Their efforts to help people in need began while they were living in San Diego, where, with Linda’s urging, they set up a foundation to help foster children with their education. David Ballard said they will be partnering with Morehouse to set up a scholarship fund to help other rising juniors and seniors who run into financial walls and are at risk of dropping out.
“Whenever we can use whatever little we have to bless somebody and make their world a little bit easier, just like people have done for us along the way, we do those types of things, and when it’s time for us to meet our maker, we can say that we tried our best to do well with what we had,” David Ballard said.
They want Dye to do the same. She is planning to get a doctorate, then help teach young people who start out with little in life. It’s the kind of paying it forward that they hope to inspire, David Ballard said.
“We currently live in a society where if you don’t have money and you don’t have resources, what everybody is telling you now is you’re kind of on your own,” he said. “I look at, especially people of color, we’re bright, we’re smart. We do some of everything when we’re given a chance. And so we look at Angel like, if we can give her a chance, and we’ll just see how far she can take it. And if she can do that, it makes us happy.”
Brother Ballard is a Pharmaceutical Industry Consultant and experienced pharmaceutical physician executive and clinical gastroenterologist with over 20 years of pharmaceutical trial experience, including 16 years within industry. Drug development expertise encompassing multiple therapeutic areas, with concentrated emphasis on inflammatory bowel disease, acid related diseases, and gut motility disorders. Core competency strengths in leadership, alignment of clinical and commercial strategies, KOL relationships, Investor presentations, FDA negotiations, strategy development, and alliance management with both U.S. and international partners.