Twenty years ago this September, Michelle and I met on our very first day on campus as first-years at Brown University, where we had arrived before orientation for the Third World Transition Program (TWTP), at which incoming students of color were introduced to the university, the community into which they were being inducted, and the history and legacy which they were inheriting. A year later, we were best friends who had become something more. And five years after that, on June 27, 1998, we got married in front of our family and friends, many of whom had been there with us since the beginning.
A month ago, a dear friend, whom we had first met when I was a second-year student and Minority Peer Counselor working TWTP and she was a first-year attending it, wrote to tell us that she had learned at her reunion (held concurrent with commencement on Memorial Day weekend every year) that the campaign to raise a $100,000 endowed fund so that TWTP would never have to worry about the security of its funding was still $25,000 short of its goal, with the June 30 fundraising deadline fast approaching. Learning this, Michelle and I talked about what we could do. TWTP has meant so much to us and our Brown experience, literally the starting point of our journeys as college students, as socially conscious activists, as life partners. And truth be told, we hadn’t ever given philanthropically to our alma mater in a way that we felt we should have. And so, because we were lucky enough to be in a place in our lives where we could do so, and because it mattered, we offered the Alumni of Color Initiative a $10,000 matching challenge with which to rally our peers. If, by June 30, they had raised $10,000, we would give a matching $10,000, leaving only $5,000 left to raise to reach the endowment goal.
On June 6, our challenge was announced at a fundraising event in New York City, and then on June 12, an email went out to alums of color in our name:
Twenty years ago this September, we arrived on campus for TWTP, 18-year-old first-years from California who knew no one and were 3,000 miles from home. But on that very first day, we inherited a community, a history, and a legacy, to own and keep and grow and carry forward for those who would come after us.
So many TWTP alumni call it a transformative experience, and so it was for us. Not only did we meet each other and the friends who would stand with us when we got married six years later, but the call to understanding, action, dialogue, and justice to which we were introduced on those emotional and inspiring days in September informed who we became and what we did in and out of the classroom during our Brown years and beyond, into our careers and communities and the values we pass down to our children.
And now it is time to give back so that those who come next will be able to do the same. The Alumni of Color Initiative campaign to create a $100,000 endowed fund to allow TWTP to continue independently and in perpetuity is so close to its goal, and we now ask you, our friends, our brothers and sisters, to join us in support of a program that has meant more to us than we can say.
As part of the Jason Sperber ’98 & Michelle Quiogue ’96 MD’00 TWTP Endowment Challenge, our family will match any donations to the Endowed Fund for the Third World Transition Program up to $10,000 until the formal end of the campaign on June 30.
Click here to help us ensure that future generations of Brunonians of color will be able to have their own transformative inductions into a community and a legacy that has been so important to so many of us.
Jason L. Sperber ’98 and Michelle S. Quiogue ’96 MD ’00
It is the best 14th anniversary present we could receive to be able to announce that, in less than three weeks, our friends and peers, those who came before us and those who came after us, our fellow Brunonians of color met our challenge. Actually, more than met our challenge. As of this morning, there remains only $1,400 left to raise by Saturday, June 30 to meet the fundraising goal of $100,000 to fully endow a fund which will provide monies for the support and administration of TWTP in perpetuity. (So please, if you haven’t given yet, click the links above and give!)
Fourteen years ago today, as we pledged to love each other always, we were surrounded by friends who had journeyed with us in Brown’s Third World community and had been with us from the beginning. One of my groomsmen and two of Miche’s bridesmaids had been with us at TWTP, and if memory serves, we all met that very first day. Our ceremony pianist was another friend met at TWTP, and our ceremony violinist had been one of my counselees when I was an MPC in a first-year residential unit my second year. One of our ceremony readers was that very same woman who let us know about the dire need of the TWTP endowed fund, and she was accompanied by the man who would become her husband, who had been the very first freshman I had helped to move into the dorms on that very first day of the TWTP at which I was an MPC. We were surrounded and loved by friends whom we had met when we were first-years and they were older student leaders welcoming us into our new community, by younger friends we welcomed to campus as we had been welcomed who then became counselors and leaders themselves, by friends with whom we’d grown and struggled and studied and played side by side from day one. That day, it was beyond a doubt that we would not have been the people we were, and the people we were together, without our Brown experience, and our TWTP experience was no small part of that.
It’s been so gratifying to hear back from old friends in response to our campaign, from Facebook “likes” to reposts to emails from people we haven’t talked to in years telling us that they donated because of our challenge. 20 years after we met, 16 after many of us left Brown, we are still building community, making connections, and fighting for justice. But now, the nebulous “those who will come after us” we always invoked is more concrete. We do this for our children, and our friends’ children, and all the children who will come after.
What an inspiring story. On your anniversary you give a gift to everyone else.