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Legacies

July 16, 2010

 

In honor of her memory, Nancy (Forster) Mantzikos and Sun Jen Yung chose to start a legacy for her fellow Columbia classmate by establishing the Dolores Arton (Class of 1988) Memorial Scholarship Fund (www.doloresartonscholarship.com) The endowed, need-based scholarship is given to a first or second-year MBA student at Columbia Business School who demonstrates, as Dolores had, a commitment to mentorship and leadership.

 

There were many heroes on the day of the worst attack in American history. You probably never heard about most of the unsung, courageous people who risked their lives to save others on September 11, 2001. And you probably never heard of Dolores Arton, an investment banker who worked at Citigroup in the World Trade Center’s Building #7.

Only 43 years old on the fateful day, Dolores showed extraordinary leadership, evacuating her first year trainees at Citigroup, not leaving until she felt certain that they had left.  She took charge of what had turned into a panicked evacuation and led her co-workers down staircases to safety. 

After Dolores witnessed the collapse of both towers, she spent many days accounting for every single trainee. She then reorganized the program and galvanized trainees to keep working at temporary facilities outside New York City despite their nightmarish memories.

This was not the first moment of sacrifice for Dolores. Over two decades earlier, she had attended college near her family home in order to care for her terminally ill mother and assist in raising her two youngest sisters.  She financed her undergraduate studies at Temple University where she graduated magna cum laude with a BBA in Accounting. Then, she started her career as a CPA with Grant Thornton in Philadelphia, working very long hours and at 25, bought a fixer-upper-home in Philadelphia. Dolores was able to finance half her MBA degree at Columbia Business School after renovating and selling her house.

 Although she was not a natural A student, her high energy level and love of challenges helped Dolores get a degree in 1988 and start her professional life at Paine Webber, where she met Sun Jen Yung, who had also graduated from Columbia Business School.

After Paine Webber, she went to Salomon Smith Barney and later to Citigroup, where Dolores rose to Chief of Staff to the COO of the Global Investment Banking Group, responsible for over 1,500 professionals in 25 offices worldwide. Dolores showed an innate ability to mentor analysts and associates, spending hours listening to their concerns, helping them discover their strengths and directions in life. She urged others to define themselves in ways true to their character, not simply to external measures of success.

In 2003, she joined Founders Equity, a New York-based private equity firm as Principal and CFO. And in November of 2008, Dolores reached out to a fellow Columbia graduate, Nancy Forster, who was considering reentering the paid workforce. Despite her long working hours at Founders, she was happy to offer Nancy her time and wealth of knowledge.

Devoted to the financial world, Dolores didn’t marry but loved animals, taking in stray animals throughout her life and being an active pet therapy volunteer. Not content just taking care of animals, Dolores chose to adopt a child herself. She began a long process to adopt an orphaned Russian girl but a few days before her trip to bring home Aziza, Dolores was struck by a massive cerebral aneurism at the train station, before leaving for work.

The next day, on February 6, 2009, Dolores Arton, only 51 years of age, was dead.

In honor of her memory, Nancy (Forster) Mantzikos and Sun Jen Yung decided to start a legacy for her fellow Columbia classmate by establishing the Dolores Arton (Class of 1988) Memorial Scholarship Fund (www.doloresartonscholarship.com).The endowed, need-based scholarship is given to a first or second-year MBA student from Columbia Business School who demonstrates, as Dolores had, a commitment to mentorship and leadership.

The fund already had $105,000 in commitments towards the $150,000 needed to endow a scholarship before the scholarship event held in June, 2010. Nancy and Sun invited Dolores’ family, friends, and former colleagues and classmates to attend the event, including Dolores’ sister, Beth, and the 12-year-old girl from Russia whom Dolores was planning to adopt. Beth and Tom had completed the adoption of Aziza from Russia in March and brought her home for good. And now, Aziza was planning to honor the woman whose dedication and love helped direct her to freedom and a family.

Legacies are about turning tragedy to love, horror to joy. A twin who helped her colleagues survive 9/11 and thrive despite of it…a loving sister who helped her family and friends find financial freedom…a woman who helped animals and chose to save a poor child alone in Russia…a loving person who chose to give her organs in case of sudden death. Because of the perfect match with Harry Paclawski in Pittsburgh, Dolores’ gift helped keep a person alive and healthy and brought him close to her sisters. And in honoring the memory of her sister, Beth continued the legacy of her sister by bringing a young girl from Russia to find love in a real family.

Last but certainly not least, a young woman’s memory is being honored by offering deserving young men and women a chance to get the kind of education that Dolores had received.

After Harry sent me the information about the fundraising event for the scholarship, I made a donation and emailed “Donor,” the article I wrote about the incredible links between Harry and his kidney donor, Dolores, to both Nancy and Sun. Sun responded, “Thank you so much for your thoughtful donation and truly moving article. Your telling of Dolores’ and Harry’s stories and how they are intertwined is very special. To me, it brings her last act as an organ donor full circle and we really appreciate your gesture to commemorate Dolores as we are through this scholarship.” And Nancy wrote, “There are no words to describe just how appreciative we are of your kindness and support of our efforts to establish a scholarship in Dolores’s memory. Your essay is a beautiful tribute to Dolores and I will be sure to share it with her family, as well as the news of your generosity. You are so right in calling her a hero who selflessly gave to others even upon her passing. We are all in awe of how much Dolores’s and Harry’s lives seemed to be intertwined.”

If you don’t believe that we have a chance to create our own miracles, then you don’t know Dolores or Nancy or Sun or anyone who chooses to honor the memory and legacy of someone cherished.

I feel honored because I never knew about Dolores Arton until Harry, immeasurably grateful, discovered Dolores’s history and met her loving family and then shared his story with me.

Since the event, the fund has raised an additional $12,000, gratitude has been paid forward, and the legacies will live on and on.

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