Bridgette Florestal: When an Investment is Still Producing a Return 25 Years Later

New York banker John F. McGillicuddy never knew Bridgette Florestal, a graduate of UNCF-member HBCU Xavier University of Louisiana, and an aspiring physician, and she never knew him. But an investment in UNCF, its member HBCUs and their students by the New York bank J.P. Morgan Chase, which McGillicuddy served as chairman, forms a chain of investment and return on investment that connects the bank and student as directly as if they had been partners in the same enterprise—which in a way they were.

The partnership goes back to the beginning of UNCF in 1944, when John D. Rockefeller Jr. led a coalition of bankers and business executives in supporting the aspiration of its founder, Tuskegee Institute (today Tuskegee University) president Frederick Douglass Patterson to start the United Negro College Fund. In 1993, the bank established a UNCF scholarship and named it after McGillicuddy, its retired chairman. Since its establishment, the John F. McGillicuddy JPMorgan Chase/UNCF Scholarship Program has awarded more than $6.5 million to 90 students.

One of them is Bridgette Florestal. By the time she was 7, both her parents had died, and she and her younger brother were raised by their grandmother. She had attended Catholic schools, but financial challenges forced her to transfer to public school. But by high school she had become a high achiever and graduated 14th in a class of over 500. She applied for 150 scholarships. Just one of the scholarship organizations she wrote to replied: UNCF, which awarded her a full scholarship, the John F. McGillicuddy JPMorgan Chase/UNCF Scholarship, good at any UNCF-member institution.

“I applied for more than 100 scholarships, but the only one that replied was the one I needed—the John F. McGillicuddy JPMorgan Chase/UNCF Scholarship.”—Bridgette Florestal

Florestal aspired to be a doctor, so after freshman year at UNCF HBCU Clark Atlanta University, she finished college at Xavier University, also a UNCF-member institution, which ranks first in the nation in the number of African American graduates who go on to complete medical school. After graduation, she went on to medical school in Cuba, learning both medicine and Spanish, before returning to the U.S. to study to become a licensed physician.

Bridgette Florestal had the ability and determination she needed to make her aspiration into reality. That’s the potential that UNCF and its supporters—like JP Morgan Chase and hundreds of other funders of scholarships, and like the hundreds of thousands of companies, foundations and individuals whose contributions give UNCF’s 37 HBCUs the resources they need to give their students the education they need and deserve—invested in.

Bridgette Florestal was the return on that investment. She was their dividend.