On May 11, 2023, Cori Allen ’12 had 30 minutes. A new mom, off a cross-country flight, she had only a half-hour to put into words how when she was 18, the generosity of a stranger changed her life, and how that generosity would go on to change the lives of dozens of other Babson students.
The emotional task was daunting, but she wasn’t willing to let Bob or her friends down.
“On top of the Babson education and everything I learned, I’m here with my 5-month-old son,” says Allen, who is originally from Lawrence, Kansas. “I’m about to go back to this incredible job where I support my whole family. I bought a house in Los Angeles. My husband is going to stay home with our baby.” She’s not sure what would have been possible without her scholarship. “It’s hard to articulate in front of strangers how big that gift was.”
Allen was filling in for her friend Shoney Yakubjanov ’12, who was originally scheduled to speak at the Robert Weissman Celebration of Life to commemorate the immense impact of Robert (Bob) Weissman ’64, H’94, P’87 ’90, G’19, who passed away in April.
On this day in May, alumni, friends, and family gathered in Knight Auditorium to hear stories like Allen’s, stories showcasing how one person—in this case, a beloved community member, dedicated alumnus, and trustee—can make such a big impact on the Babson community.
Allen’s remarks specifically touched on how receiving a scholarship from Weissman made it possible for her to attend Babson. Allen and Yakubjanov are two of the four original recipients of the Weissman Scholarship, a four-year, full-tuition scholarship established in 2008 by Weissman, his wife, Janet P’87 ’90, G’19, and their family.
The Weissman Scholarship is more than just a way for the recipients to pay for college. For some, it’s a chance to try out career paths they didn’t originally think would be possible. It’s a chance to go to a school where they would meet their future partners, personal and professional. It’s an invitation into a club where a friend will step in for another, even if the prep time is limited.
Described as an “energetic, vigorous, down-to-earth” person, someone who had force and clarity behind his joyful voice, Weissman taught lessons through stories. Scholars describe his advice as more inspiring than prescriptive, and they say he always led with a laugh. He was someone you called on when you needed career advice and when you wanted to learn about hypnotizing chickens.
“You don’t usually go back to your college every year, but we would. He wanted all the scholars to meet each other. He said all of us, all the scholars, were creating this worldwide community,” Allen says. “He said, ‘And that’s going to be my legacy. Invest in each other. Invest in Babson. Invest in this community. And make a dent in the universe together.’ The craziest thing is we did just that. I couldn’t have told you that this is how it was going to turn out, but he could’ve.”
Bob’s memory, lessons, and spirit are a well for the Weissman Scholars to draw from as they build influential careers and families of their own. And, in a pinch, they can always call each other. Here, Weissman Scholarship alumni reflect on his lessons and legacy on their lives.
Ria Kale ’21
Senior business systems analyst at Prudential Financial, Hartford, Connecticut
“Here is this incredible man, who is the reason we were able to come to this school. You’re so intimidated that you don’t want to come up to him and say something. Then, you meet him, and he’s one of the most genuine, down-to-earth, nice people you’ve ever met. One of his favorite stories to tell is when he was at UConn before he came to Babson, he was in a fraternity. He talked about how easy it was to hypnotize chickens. He walked us through, step by step, how to do it. It was one of the funniest anecdotes.”
Cori Allen ’12
Product lead at Netflix, Los Angeles
“I decided at 13 I was going to go to business school and become an investment banker. When I got the scholarship, it was this huge burden lifted. I got to spend college searching for what mattered to me. I was involved in the student group that helped set the missions for the (Institute for Social Innovation). I was part of the group that persuaded the administration to have a sustainability concentration. I took a semester off to get a certification about climate change, which the Weissman Scholarship helped me do.
“I ended up in tech. I took jobs at tiny startups. I worked in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Portugal, Spain, and Italy. I’ve had this weird career in my 20s trying things. I’m at Netflix right now, working on one of their new (video game) businesses, which Babson made me good at. If I hadn’t gotten the Weissman Scholarship, I was looking into the face of a scary uphill battle. I got to try things and fail and grow really fast. I didn’t have to play it safe.”
Evan Lehrman ’18
Product manager at LTK, New York City
“He had these little nuggets of wisdom. One I remember is ‘You know one of the best ways to be a great person is every time you meet someone, you write their name and info about them on an index card so you can always revisit it.’ Turns out people really notice and care when you remember them. I wouldn’t have been able to come to Babson without the Weissman Scholarship. I did meet my future wife here, so I feel pretty lucky to have made it to Babson.”
William Nemeth ’17
Private equity investor at New Heritage Capital, Boston
“He was the first to listen. He was never the first to talk. I invest in smaller, founder-led businesses. If you sit around and listen, as Bob would, and are curious about what they do, you can apply some basic methodologies and frameworks into helping these entrepreneurs. You can build some interesting companies that can help transform industries and the world. Listening first separates us from different players in our space.”
Elena Ruan ’14, MS’14
Senior finance manager at Cognex Corporation, Natick, Massachusetts
“I landed in accounting because my dad is an accountant. When I started my first job, I was at a loss. It was a lot of hours and not what I wanted. I talked to his son Michael (Weissman ’87, P’19) about it on the phone and at one of our summits. He really encouraged me that it was time to take a risk and I wouldn’t regret it. I trusted in myself and switched careers. It was a much better fit. It was at this job that the Weissmans encouraged me to take that I met my now fiancé.”
Watch the Weissman family’s video tribute:
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