Robinson (NC ’85) studied abroad in France and the scholarship opportunity she created has already sent Tulane senior Dereck Rovaris to South Africa.
Jacquelyn Smiley Robinson (NC ‘85) in front of the Ponte Vecchio during her junior year abroad in Paris. (Photo courtesy of Jacquelyn Robinson)
October 3, 2012
When she was young, Jacquelyn Smiley Robinson (NC ’85) dreamed of one day living in France. A scholarship established through a bequest from the late Newcomb College professor Margaret Groben made her dream come true.
Robinson was so touched by Groben’s kindness that she recently created her own study-abroad scholarship.
"It was important to me to start this fund at Tulane because I reflect so often now on all the opportunities that I was given because of the generosity of others," Robinson said.
The Jacquelyn Smiley Robinson NC ’85 Study Abroad Fund has already sent Tulane senior Dereck Rovaris to South Africa during his junior year, where Rovaris said he gained life-long lessons and friendships. "My learning experience in South Africa makes me want to dare to say that no collegiate experience is complete without at least a few weeks abroad," Rovaris said.
Before her own junior year, Robinson wrote a captivating essay in French to win the Margaret Groben Study Abroad Scholarship. A professor of German, Groben was lauded by her colleagues for the time she spent with her students, her compassion and her dedication to learning.
Robinson said her junior year in Paris was the time of her life. She and her classmates strolled through the Luxembourg Gardens on their way to and from classes at the Sorbonne. They viewed the 17 plays from her theater class on various Paris stages, including an opera at Le Palais Garnier. Art History class often met in the Louvre.
"We sat on the floor in the Louvre in front of whatever work of art we were studying and took notes, asked questions and thought how fortunate we were," Robinson said, adding that the memories are still powerful. "The Louvre is too large for me to say I learned my way around it, but on the occasions when I've returned, I find my way to rooms and paintings that are so very familiar, and whose stories are so vivid to me that they fill me with nostalgia and bring tears to my eyes."
Today, Tulane’s Office of Study Abroad continues to provide students with remarkable opportunities. The office coordinates more than 120 different summer, semester and year-long options in over 35 countries, and the number of Tulane students studying abroad is steadily rising.
After Robinson graduated from Tulane with a degree in economics and French, she went on to get her MBA at the University of Wisconsin in Madison where she met her husband, Levoyd Robinson. They moved to Chicago, and she worked in corporate finance. She is now a mother to two daughters, a community activist and a French teacher and tutor.
Robinson is still grateful for the encouragement to study in Paris that came from her demanding and influential French history professor, Simonne Fischer.
"Throughout my life, there have been excellent teachers who inspired, encouraged and prepared me academically to absorb all the world has to offer and to make my own impact on it as well," Robinson said. "And then, there were generous and caring souls who didn't know me, but knew that they wanted to provide opportunities for students who needed assistance. I've benefitted greatly from their generosity. They've enriched my life in ways they probably never imagined; through this scholarship fund, I hope I can do the same for someone else."
Above Robinson’s desk at home hangs a post card she received from Rovaris. The card shows an aerial view of the Cape Peninsula in Cape Town, South Africa, the southern-most tip of the continent.
"There are many places in Africa I'd like to visit, perhaps one day, the southern tip," Robinson said.
"Perhaps I'll talk to Dereck before I go."
Mary Sparacello is a writer in the Office of Development.
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