"This school opened up the world for me"

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A personal story of the importance of financial aid from Dr. Derrick Butler '86
From the Spring 2010 Caller

After hearing the news that the Rummage Sale would retire, Derrick Butler ’86 M.D. shared his story on how financial aid changed his life. Inspired by his life story, we invited him to speak at the Gambol and help the school raise funds for student financial aid. Here are some excerpts from his speech.

I am confident that my life’s work is changing lives and inspiring others. My work is challenging and, many times, fatiguing, but I can wake up every day and possibly make a small positive difference in someone’s life. That is the essence of what Catlin Gabel has given me, and must continue to instill in its students.
 
My journey at Catlin Gabel began with me as a shy, fat kid from the ‘other side of the tracks’ (or in this case, the Willamette River). I was black, not wealthy, from a single-parent household, but hungry for knowledge. Six years later I emerged as a confident, curious, inspired young adult with a desire to explore every corner of the planet. Catlin Gabel allowed me to navigate the world outside of my inner city neighborhood and to realize my own potential for achievement. This school opened up the world for me and gave me the skills and courage to go out and savor it.
 
Financial aid at Catlin is what made all of this possible.
 
Catlin Gabel exposed me to a diversity of races, cultures, religions, and ideas that made a difference in my life by broadening my world view. I believe that my tenure there equally exposed my peers to someone like me, which helped them understand racial and socioeconomic differences—but also realize our sameness as human beings. I think the need for a wide diversity of students is even greater in our world today, a world of global cooperation and increased complexity.
 
I graduated from Catlin Gabel in 1986 to continue my journey of self discovery. I was first on full scholarship at Morehouse College, where Catlin Gabel’s academic rigor gave me the discipline and study skills to graduate second in my class. Then with the Peace Corps to Africa, where I taught science and math, traveled extensively, mastered French (which I first encountered at Catlin Gabel), and truly became a world citizen.
 
Led by my desire for service, my love of people in general, and passion for science, I then pursued my medical degree at the University of California–San Francisco and a public health degree at the University of California–Berkeley. During this period I also first experienced the devastation of the HIV epidemic, which would influence my later career path.
 
Now as a family physician I treat all types of patients, especially underserved populations of color in South Central LA and those who are even more disenfranchised: people living with HIV. I consider myself a doctor, master of public health, HIV specialist, breaker of stereotypes, lifelong seeker of knowledge, student of the world, and servant to humanity. Upon reflection, I see that Catlin Gabel was the foundation for these accomplishments.
 
I hope my humble story will help convince you that Catlin Gabel’s investment in people is what makes this school such a special institution. Greater than any investment on Wall Street, the support you can give for Catlin Gabel’s students will reap so much more in terms of human impact.
 
We must continue to give talented and motivated students the support they need to realize their potential at Catlin Gabel. Please help Catlin Gabel continue to change the world with its amazing graduates. So please, give cheerfully, give heartily, and give with inspiration. Thank you.
 
Derrick helped Catlin Gabel raise the crowd to its feet—and raise $150,000 for student financial aid. We thank him and all those who were moved by his story.
 
Photo: Reversed Lens Photography