For Leslie Adkins, perseverance meant unrelentingly pursuing her passions and talents, no matter how different they may have seemed. In college, she majored in French and French studies — but spoke Spanish and some Italian as well. She also loved to write, was drawn to theater and entertainment and had a developing interest in business and technology. This combination led her to earn a master’s degree in journalism as well as an MBA through The Consortium.
More than just curious, Leslie was often described by those who knew her best as having the “intellectual capacity to explore, engage and master new skills,” says her father, Kedrick Adkins. She fiercely pursued her interests, working hard at everything she pursued — even making it onto the dean’s list in business school. Leslie was always in search of the intersection of her skills, Mr. Adkins says, which she seemed to have found in business and movies.
On top of it all, she was devoted to giving back to those in need.
So, when Leslie passed away suddenly in 2015, it was important to her family to carry on her legacy and her unyielding enthusiasm for personal and professional growth as well as helping others.
“Her story is one of continual growth and evolution — not losing her strong interest in language and writing, but growing in other ways, too,” says Mr. Adkins. “In fact, when she passed away, her next arena of understanding was technology. She had just received a job offer from Amazon, so she was trying to put all of that together.”
In creating the Leslie Elise Adkins Endowed Scholarship — a $1 million endowment — Lynette and Kedrick Adkins strive to carry on Leslie’s legacy by helping fund other promising MBA candidates’ education through The Consortium.
“Leslie felt as though The Consortium served a real purpose in getting students into graduate school. It was important to her to do what she could to help students as well. So, in a way, the scholarship is a continuation of her legacy of mentoring and helping others succeed,” says Mr. Adkins. “If Leslie was alive, I believe she would have been involved in doing something similar.”
As part of continuing her legacy, the scholarship is open to members of The Consortium — those who have not received the full-tuition fellowship. Preference is given but is not exclusive to African American women who share Leslie’s professional interests and passion for giving back.
“When Leslie started business school, one of the things that she noticed was that there were so few African American women in her graduate program. She said that out of the over 100 students, there may have been two or three who were African American women, so that [criterion] was important,” Mr. Adkins says.
Ni Kal Price, who was both a mentor and friend to Leslie during an internship at Paramount Studios, administers the scholarship and works with Mr. Adkins to review applications and select recipients. Some weight is placed on applicants’ choice of school, with preference given to those attending the University of Southern California (USC) Marshall School of Business or Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College — Leslie’s alma maters. However, that is not the deciding factor, says Mr. Adkins.
“What’s more important is that the person demonstrates alignment with Leslie’s personal attributes and interests — her focus on community and serving others, her interest in journalism and her desire to be involved in movies or the theater,” he says. “All of those factor into the selection process.”
Since the scholarship was first awarded in 2018, The Consortium has distributed a total of $63,000 to seven students. In its first year, three students each received $10,000 toward funding their MBA education, and in 2019, $33,000 was awarded to four students in amounts ranging from $3,000 to $10,000.
Mr. Adkins’ hope is that Leslie’s scholarship goes a long way toward helping recipients achieve their goals and that, eventually, they’ll pay it back — by paying it forward.
For now, though, Mr. Adkins says he gets great satisfaction from simply knowing he and his wife are doing their part to carry on Leslie’s memory and ambitions as well as helping others through their support of The Consortium.
“It’s rewarding for us to feel as though we’re continuing her work and her interests. It’s also rewarding to know we are helping other students like Leslie through our support of The Consortium. The organization has such an impact on so many students and plays a vital role in creating the right foundation for their professional growth,” he says. “Leslie had a deep respect, admiration and love for [The Consortium], and we wanted to make sure that we were continuing her statement and her story.”