Released in March, “The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change,” chronicles Braun’s journey to find his calling. Each chapter describes “one clear step that every person can take to turn your biggest ambitions into reality.”
Even at the age of 16, Braun was working summers at hedge funds with career sights set on Wall Street. But while traveling as a college student, he met a young boy begging on the streets in India. When he asked the child what he would want if he could have anything in the world, his answer was simple: a pencil. That answer changed Braun’s life.
Even as he returned to the U.S. to complete his bachelor’s degree at Brown University, then headed to a top management-consulting firm, Braun didn’t stop questioning why he had access to quality education in a safe environment while millions of children around the world lived without basic needs.
Three years later, in 2008, Braun left his job in high finance and founded Pencils of Promise, a not-for-profit that builds schools, offers scholarships and trains teachers in developing countries.
“An All Bonaventure Reads committee member introduced us, on March 18, to ‘The Promise of a Pencil,’ which had been published on March 17. She had read about ‘Promise’ in a morning LinkedIn message and many of us were smitten by the online samples then hooked by the book itself,” said Jean Trevarton Ehman, chair of the All Bonaventure Reads committee. “Of the 41 other books we had auditioned since October, few had resonated with us. This year’s ABR theme is compassion. ‘The Promise of a Pencil’ seems to be that, in book form.”
Braun’s approach that blends nonprofit idealism with for-profit business principles has led Pencils of Promise to successfully break ground on more than 200 schools in some of the poorest regions in Africa, Asia and Latin America. It also led him to be named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 List in 2012.
In an interview with Forbes magazine contributor Dan Schawbel last week (April 18), Braun described his approach.
“As much as I’m a passion-driven person, my background helped immensely because I’m now an entrepreneur that filters every decision through the question, ‘Will this provide long-term ROI?’ I always wanted to build an organization with the head of a great business and the heart of a humanitarian idealist. I believe that’s what Pencils of Promise has become,” Braun said. All proceeds from the sale of Braun’s memoir benefit Pencils of Promise.
“The Promise of a Pencil” will be distributed this summer at Orientation to first-year students, who will be encouraged to complete it prior to the start of school in the fall. Students will engage in conversations and activities throughout Welcome Days, University 101 courses and various campuswide events during the 2014-2015 academic year.
“Braun’s commitment to performing meaningful service and providing access to education resonates deeply with the mission and values as a Franciscan university,” said Chris Brown, director of St. Bonaventure’s First-Year Experience program and Orientation.
“I was struck by the way this book highlights the transformative power of education, and I hope our incoming students take the time to reflect on the significance of their opportunity to pursue a college degree. Our committee is excited to explore the numerous connections between the ‘The Promise of a Pencil’ and the academic and co-curricular opportunities at St. Bonaventure,” Brown said.
The university will welcome Braun to campus Sept. 29, when it’s anticipated he will meet with clusters of students throughout the day in advance of an address to the Class of 2018.
Visit www.sbu.edu/AllBonaventureReads to keep up to date on ABR activities.
About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them. We are establishing pathways to internships, graduate schools and careers in the context of our renowned liberal arts tradition. Our students are becoming extraordinary.
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