uAspire First One – Bob Karam

By: Chris Loney | Thursday, January 10, 2013

Finances are the #1 barrier that keeps high-potential students across our country from continuing their education and earning a degree. As part of the uAspire First One Awards, uAspire will be featuring stories of individuals who are first-generation college graduates. Despite many challenges – often because of the high costs of college – they persevered and earned their college degree. Their stories show why it’s so important that education remains an affordable option to all, and how uAspire is committed to this effort.

The following story is about Bob Karam, Principal at Karam Financial Group in Fall River, MA.

Failure is not an end, but a chance to find a new way to succeed. Bob Karam faced failure as a college student, but he used this as the turning point towards earning a college degree.

When Bob was a kid, he wanted to be an engineer. A friend’s father was an engineer, and that sparked an interest in Bob. He also knew that a college degree in general was important. His father worked his way up the ranks at a textile mill to become a night assistant superintendent. But he would never become the superintendent – other younger candidates, with a college degree in hand, were able to advance ahead of Bob’s father. He insisted that Bob and his brothers would graduate from college. one day.

Bob started college in 1961 studying engineering. But childhood dreams didn’t translate into college success. His science and calculus courses were very difficult, and he failed those. Working 30 hours a week, Bob also couldn’t commit as much time to studying as other students. And Bob was a commuter student – so he spent more time with friends. Soon, Bob simply stopped going to class.

After two years, the registrar at the college told Bob – and his father – that he was to be dropped. Bob’s father broke down, crying. The registrar gave Bob a second chance – he could come back to school the next year, studying business. Bob went back to school, knowing he would never let his father down again.

Bob then excelled in business. The classes were more appealing, and he worked harder. He made the Dean’s list several times. Bob also matured after earning this second chance – he knew that, without a degree, he wouldn’t be able to support his family in the future. Bob graduated in 1967 and felt that, now with a diploma, he meant something to employers. After previously working at a bank as a mail boy, Bob was now seen as management material.

In the 40 years since graduating, Bob has helped transform the University of Massachusetts as an institution that can give others like him the chance to earn a degree. Because for Bob, getting on the ladder – to a meaningful career, to prosperity, to success – takes a college degree. From there, Bob encourages future First Ones to find something that they love, and to get very good at it. Failure may happen along the way, but for Bob, a college degree makes you feel like a different person – someone who can get back up and continue moving forward.


BA, Business Management, Southeastern Massachusetts Technical Institute (1967)


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