Ron Seichrist, the Visionary Behind Miami Ad School, Receives the Mosaic Award for his contribution to diversity in advertising.
That’s not Ron. (He doesn’t look that good in a dress.) That’s Pippa Seichrist, his wife and cofounder of Miami Ad School. She accepted the award on his behalf at the American Advertising Federation award show in Las Vegas. She also gave his talk, at his request, exactly as he would have. Find out the unlikely person who changed Ron’s life forever and how Ron has paid it forward ever since.
The presentation started with this short video.
Students at Miami Ad School represent a diverse group of cultures, colors and ways of thinking.
(Pippa gives Ron’s talk.)
First let me say I am proud to accept this honor. However I do so on behalf of all educators who rarely get recognition for the extraordinary difference they make in the lives of so many young people of all sexes and colors.
(Pippa interjects, “Well, this part is a little awkward.)
Secondly I must accept this award on behalf of my wife, Pippa, who is even more deserving than I. I suggest the AdFed changes their policy that does not award teams. Teams are an essential part of the advertising profession. Pippa has been a lot more than “the wind under my wings” as Bette Midler sings. Pippa is my wings.
I was very fortunate to be born poor.
I am the son of German immigrant parents and grew up in a little town in Virginia next to a military base during World War Il. In high school in the 1950’s I went to a remarkable school that somehow had the vision to let their pupils follow their interests and strengths. I loved to write and draw cartoons. Although English was not my first language, somehow I was exempt from English and wrote for the school newspaper and drew caricatures of my teachers and friends. In art classes I designed the school football uniforms. In my senior year I was selected to read my senior essay which was really a historical parody of the Civil War. I loved my teachers; they loaned me money for lunches, a teacher loaned me his suit for my prom and other teachers took me to dinner and even to see an opera in the capital two hours away. I did well in school and eventually was elected student body president.
There was no question in my mind that I would go to college. When I approached my parents about going they laughed and said that was impossible.
I would have to work in the Navy Yard like my father and everyone in our town. I was crushed. Really, really crushed. I went to school the next day completely depressed. My teachers knew something was very wrong with me; they never saw me depressed or silent. One after the other approached me. Finally my homeroom teacher asked me to stay after school and talk. At the end of the talk she told me I must meet her the following Saturday morning in front of Overton’s, the local grocery store.
At 5:00 am I met her and we went into the food market and to a small office upstairs where sat Al Overton, a small man in a white shirt and a bow tie. He wasted no time. “Do you want to go to college? Why?” I remember my answer, “I want to learn everything.” He seemed to ignore my answer. But said gruffly, “I will send you to college, any college and pay all your expenses, room and board, But you can not fail one class and you must graduate.” And almost growling he added, “Another thing. You must agree to someday send someone else’s child to college.”
I found out years later that this same man anonymously sent 27 other kids from this poverty-stricken town to college. This experience and this little man with a gigantic heart changed my life and became the driving force behind my first school and all the others that have followed.
I did all the things he said, In fact I have sent children from many cities and countries to college. I am to this day continuing my pledge to him. Some years ago my wife, Pippa, convinced me to go back to my high school reunion. She knew the story of how I got to college and asked if we could meet my benefactor. He had to be in his 90’s by that time, but I thought we could see his son at the very least.
We arrived at his very small, modest house just as Mr. Overton was coming down his front stairway. I walked over and said “Mr. Overton, do you remember me?” In his typical gruff voice he said, “Of course I know you. You are Ronnie Seichrist. Did you ever make anything of yourself?”