Friday 25th November 2016
On Monday, 21st November Aiglon dedicated the majority of its morning assembly to the unveiling of a plaque dedicated to The Seba CZ Scholarship Fund.
The scholarship was created in memory of Seba Calleri-Zavanelli (Belvedere, 1992) who lost his life on 17th September 2004 after reaching the summit of Mount Kenya.
To honour Seba, his love for Kenya and his passion for helping those less fortunate than himself, Seba’s employer, friends and family came together to create a scholarship at Aiglon for boys from the Starehe Boys School. Seba had spent time at Starehe during his Aiglon years and we are sure that he would have wanted his name associated with helping these academically gifted boys that come from an economically challenged environment.
Two “SebaScholars” have already gone through the School and this presentation comes before the upcoming selection of a third. The plaque serves as a way to honour Seba’s memory, recognise the achievements of previous scholars (the first SebaScholar will be graduating in Stanford this year) and to promote the fund.
The design intentionally echoes the logo of Round Square, as it was through a Round Square service trip to Kenya that Seba first discovered the importance of an inspiring education. The plaque hangs now in the entrance to Exeter Hall.
Dr John L. Garcia, Seba’s supervisor at AEA Investors, now Chairman and CEO, helped pioneer the fund. He travelled from New York especially for this occasion and was invited to address the students.
What follows is a transcription of his remarks. Consider supporting The SEBA CZ Scholarship Fund online here.
Assembly Address by Dr John L. Garcia, Chairman & CEO of AEA Investors
Thank you Headmaster and good morning to all of you here at Aiglon. I want to thank Fiorina and Carlotta, Seba’s Mother and Sister, without whom this scholarship would not have been possible. It was their effort and dedication that made this happen in Seba’s memory. Their commitment does not stop there as they also welcome the scholars into their family. You at Aiglon welcome them into your family but they also literally welcome them to their own family by taking them in during the holidays, which I think shows a special level of commitment to this Scholarship. Family was what Seba was all about. I also want to thank the School, the Governors and the Head Master whose efforts, work, and dedication to bring these boys here to Aiglon and the hard work it entails to get them on to their new life at university is also a great commitment. I thank them for that.
But who am I, why am I here? I’m the chairman and CEO of a private equity firm, maybe some of you know what that is, maybe some of you don’t but we basically invest people’s money. We are a financially-oriented business and there seems to be very little relationship between what we do and what you do here. However, we have certain core values that we believe in, certain things that drive how we behave as individuals, and how we execute our business of essentially shuffling paper around, and those core values are around excellence in all its forms.
We believe that academic excellence is the cornerstone of what makes our employees able to succeed and that excellence is what starts here in a place like this and it continues academically through university; if you become academics you continue in that. If you don’t, you take everything you learn here and apply it to problems in the real world and those are the problems that we try to solve; solving problems that help companies, employees and industries. Whether you are doing geography, history, physics or biology, they all matter because it is how you think that is important in analysing problems.
The second is sport excellence. Sport is also important because it encourages team work; it encourages people to succeed personally but also as part of a house or a school or a team and those things are very important to what we do. We are a team-based organisation. We work in teams. Whatever you learn on the ski slopes or the rugby pitch is also important. So be magnanimous when you win but when you lose be generous. And that is also what we believe our employees should do. Those two things I believe are core principles of ours and core principles of yours.
Third is integrity, I think that means not taking shortcuts, doing the right thing. I hope your families, your school and later your work environment will encourage integrity because that is always about doing the right thing.
That links the fourth and most important thing which is taking all those things and having a moral compass that you live by. A moral compass that allows you to live outside of yourself, for your community and for society in general and that’s where ultimately what we do at AEA links to what you do and to this, The Seba CZ Scholarship Fund.
Seb joined our organisation with great academic excellence, with sporting excellence; we actually have a cup named after him. We have a slalom race that he won every year he was with us and so we named the cup after him. Whoever wins that cup takes it very proudly to their desk and displays it on their desk for everyone to see. That’s the Seba CZ slalom champion for the year.
He also came with integrity. He came to us and worked diligently twenty-four hours a day on one transaction. It took him three years to do that transaction; it ended up closing, we bought the company in June ‘04 and sadly Seb did not live to see the benefit of that transaction. It ended up being one of the most successful transactions in our European Fund. Seb was instrumental in finding it, nurturing it, working hard every day to make it happen and then we took that; the easy part was to improve it and sell it on. Seb was very successful in our organisation because he was someone who everyone loved, someone who had great personal charisma and character and that I think was because of his family values; from the values he learned here at Aiglon, from the trips he made to Kenya, from the experiences he had at the Starehe Boys School, with mottos like: “to whom much is given, much is expected.”
He lived those values. He cared about education. He cared about helping children who had less than he did. When he passed away, it was a great tragedy. We all felt it. I’ll never forget the day when I got that phone call. At AEA we thought that from this tragedy some good should come, not just from the memories from his family and the school but something greater than that. And so we wanted to be a small part of helping this scholarship come to fruition and to allow scholars, people that need a little bit of help, come to a school like this and then go do great things and help their community.
We thought that would be something to sponsor, to be proud of and we are immensely proud of what is happening here at Aiglon with these scholars. We hope to continue supporting this for a long time in the future and we hope the family and the school will also. Thank you all for the opportunity for me to come here and to be a part of this event and for allowing AEA to participate in a small way in this wonderful experience of helping create the Seba CZ Fund. Thank you.
(Transcribed from the original and edited for clarity.)