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Today, the much beloved Silicon Valley executive, investor and mentor Dave Goldberg would have been 50 years old.
After his untimely death in the spring of 2015, his wife Sheryl Sandberg — who is also COO of Facebook — and his family have been trying to come up with an apt memorial to reflect his impact, generosity of spirit and ability to make connections.
So, today, the Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg Family Foundation will announce the Dave Goldberg Scholarship Program, nicknamed the “Goldie Scholars,” which will quickly become a multi-million-dollar effort to let students in need be, well, students.
Using KIPP, a national network of over 200 tuition-free, public charter schools, the program will select 15 students already planning to attend four years of college on scholarship and provide them with annual stipends of $15,000 to pay for a myriad of needs. The goal: To allow those students to focus entirely on their studies and to help remove financial pressure that can hinder their progress.
With the premise that tuition money is not adequate, the idea is to provide KIPP scholarship recipients with unrestricted spending money for everything from books to food to cash to help their families. Perhaps even more important will be to give the students selected the ability to take lower-paying, but career-enhancing summer internships.
“It’s heartbreaking that a young person could work so hard for so long and still have to kiss their dreams of college goodbye because their family is struggling to cover the rent or pay the electric bill,” wrote Sandberg in a Facebook post.
In an interview, Sandberg added that it was critical that the program reflect Goldberg’s legacy. “Dave wanted kids from all backgrounds to have opportunity,” she said. “We were trying to create something he would have loved.”
She noted that after her late husband died, she was struck by how many people reached out to her to tell her Goldberg had helped them in some way. “He really had the kind of impact that few people do and that was what we wanted to continue,” said Sandberg.
Goldberg’s brother Rob added that the idea of making a true networking program was the kind of thing that would endure. “This is as close to an idea to emulate Dave Goldberg the person as we can,” he said. “We don’t want to dwell on his death, but focus on his life.”
In addition to the money, scholars will also be paired with a Goldie Mentor for advice and guidance and have access to the Goldie Connectors network to will help them find substantive internships and jobs.
The criteria for getting the awards is wide-ranging and includes, said Sandberg: “Leadership, resilience, achievement, strength of character including generosity and kindess, independent thinking and an entrepreneurial spirit.”
That pretty much described Goldberg, as I wrote right after he died:
The accolades about Dave — no one who knew him called him David, and he was often called Goldie — were many, describing the man in glowing terms: Kind; humble; smart; modest; funny; wise. I can confirm — and, trust me, I would tell you if it was not the case — those were all much deserved and not nearly enough to explain what an important role Dave played in the ecosystem of Silicon Valley.
Because Dave was exactly the kind of leader that we need more of here and the kind of quiet conscience critical to transforming the community and its people into the better version of ourselves. We so often fail in doing the right thing and that is why icons of admirable behavior, like Dave, are so important, but — sadly — so lacking.
As it turned out, Goldberg’s college friend Richard Barth is KIPP’s CEO and Barth often turned to Goldberg for help.
“Dave was always there for us. because he believed that where you start did not dictate where you end up,” said Barth, who noted that day-to-day financial pressure has long been a stumbling block for KIPP scholars, even with tuition paid for. “His pay-it-forward spirit makes me happy to think that all these young people will do that too.”
The Goldie Scholars program will be funded entirely by the foundation, which has two other initiatives related to Sandberg’s books on women’s careers (“Lean In”) and recovery from tragedy (“Option B”). If you do the math, it will dole out close to $4 million for four classes of scholars on a four-year college cycle and even more over time.
As a man rich in many things, I think Dave would have liked the idea to take funding from places where money is no object and give it people for whom it really is. Legacy, indeed.