Alice English 10, the College's first Politi Scholar, says one generous man's expansive world view and foresight changed her life, enabling her to study for nine months in Grenoble, France.
As a result of her Politi Scholarship experience, English has become an assured speaker of French. She discovered a new passion and career path after she assimilated the special French relationship with their food, inspiring her to discover where her own food came from.
"I am so grateful to Mr. Politi for his generosity toward Saint Mike's," Alice wrote in a recent letter to the College expressing her gratitude for the Politi Scholarship. "Without him, I wouldn't have been able to afford this experience, and thanks to it, I achieved a high level of expertise in the French language, came to better understand their culture and had adventures that will shape the rest of my life. Right now I'm working on an organic vegetable farm in Connecticut.
"I hope to work on more farms in the U.S. and abroad (including France of course) to learn about food production, and trade and distribution. Hopefully this will lead to a better understanding of and perhaps solution for some of the problems in these areas. I would never have become interested in this if it weren't for my study abroad experience."
Who Francis Politi Was
Francis Politi, an international statesman and businessman, died in 2006 at age 95 in his hometown of Northfield, Vt., after establishing a close relationship with the priests of the Society of Saint Edmund at Saint Michael's in his later life. He designated that his $1 million gifts to both Saint Michael's and Norwich University be used for continuing commitments to international education.
Since English's pioneering experience, The Politi International Fellows Program, funded through the Politi Fund, has offered competitive $5,000 scholarships for students who want to study for a full year in a foreign country, in their second language.
Developing a World View
Since Alice received that first Fellowship, six others have also taken advantage of this funding source to study abroad for a year. Fellowships for 2011 were awarded to students who are now in Bordeaux, France; Pune, India; and Provence, France.
Also, 43 students have received a Politi Study Abroad Scholarship (also known as a Politi Language Incentive Grant). These provide $500 to each recipient to help enhance that student's semester-long study abroad experience.
The Dr. A. Francis Politi International Fund was established by Francis Politi's estate with the purpose of "strengthening the College's ability to produce graduates who have studied in other nations as a means of gaining a deeper understanding of foreign cultures, developing fluency in a foreign language and generally increasing their global perspective."
A Businessman, a Patriot
Mr. Politi's long, astonishing career brought him into worldwide prominence as a statesman for the U.S. government and as a businessman in countries far and wide. After leaving his hometown of Northfield, he started a monument business in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., but set that aside to help the nation at the start of World War II, when he joined the War Production Board working under the New Deal Office of Price Stabilization in Washington. Next, he joined the U.S. State Department where he worked for the Board of Economic Warfare.
He traveled to Argentina and Brazil, where he was said to have purchased vast stores of commodities like leather, sugar and beef, which he sent to Russia in order to take them out of reach of Axis powers. Also during the war, he went to Mexico and purchased and shipped North train-car loads of pesos made of silver, which was desperately needed by the U.S. for manufacturing electronics.
A Handshake Was Enough
Fluent in English, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and French, with workable knowledge of German and Dutch, Mr. Politi became a CEO at a number of international companies after the war, including Carborundum International. He operated out of Geneva, where he became known for closing enormous financial deals with a handshake.
While maintaining residences in Switzerland, Upstate New York, Wisconsin, New York City and elsewhere, he retired to Roxbury, Vt., and always considered Northfield, Vt. his home, as he continued to spend summers there throughout his life.
By Mark Tarnacki
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