uAspire First One – Mayor Thomas Menino

By: Chris Loney | Friday, February 21, 2014

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 Mayor Thomas Menino.

When Mayor Menino was growing up, his father always emphasized the importance of a college education. But the Mayor’s rebuttal was always the same: Harry Truman never went, and he went on to become President of the United States. Despite initial reservations, Mayor Menino enrolled in night classes at Boston College but dropped out shortly thereafter. It wasn’t until 1963 that he earned an associate degree in business management from Chamberlayne Junior College (now known as Mount Ida College).

As a Boston City Councilor in the ‘80s, Mayor Menino truly wanted to understand the problems that were facing the city’s neighborhoods and find meaningful solutions to those problems. Because being a councilor was his only job – unlike many of his colleagues who had second jobs – he had the time to educate himself on the city’s most pressing issues. He would sit with medical experts, police officers, teachers, and social workers to discuss the city’s most prevalent problems as well as strategies to solve them.

But Mayor Menino also realized that some things can only be learned in a classroom. He enrolled at UMass Boston in 1984 and paid his own way through classes until he received his bachelor’s degree in Community Planning – the degree that would later help skyrocket his career. The Mayor and his wife Angela were simultaneously putting their daughter through four years at UMass, giving them both a firsthand understanding of just how difficult it can be for families to afford their educational goals.

Part of the reason Mayor Menino has always made education a priority of his administration is due to his own personal experience, stating that he made the mistake of not attending college right after high school. It wasn’t until later in life that he realized education is the basis of everything one does. He is a strong believer that a college degree is essential today: “Every day you should learn. Once you stop learning, that’s when you stop being successful.”

ABM, Business Management – Mount Ida College (1963)
BA, Community Planning – University of Massachusetts Boston (1988)

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