My name is Emily Mart (née Rodriguez), and I hail from one of the original sets of De La Salle Academy alumni. I enrolled in 1997 when the school was only three years old, and the students hadn’t yet come up with anything more clever than “the top floor of Holy Name School” to call the unique one-floor schoolhouse atop an otherwise occupied building. I remember my first day… my mom had just enough train fare for us to ride the #2 train from the Bronx to 96th street and show me the exit, so I could go up the hill from Broadway and a block over to 97th without crossing any extra streets. With a hug and a kiss, she crossed to the other platform to make it back home on the same fare, and at 11 years old I was on my own. I distinctly recall the fear, the nerves, my racing heart…even looking up at the tall old buildings in awe as I walked to Amsterdam Avenue that first morning, in the gloomy pre-dawn light. But when I reached the top of the never-ending staircase to what would become my second home for the next three years, my heart raced with excitement and triumph this time-I’d made it! And Brother Brian was there, my very first mentor, with the warm hug and bright smile that would greet us every morning; it was like the sun had come out to chase the gloom away.
It wouldn’t be the only time fear came knocking. I almost quit De La Salle that very first semester. I got accepted in large part due to my path skills; but as a slow reader, overwhelmed with the changes and the sheer amount of reading material, I knew I was sure to fail – how could I compete with all these smart kids? I’d never even heard of Romeo or Juliet and what’s iambic pentameter, did people really understand this stuff? It would be Brother Brian and Ms. Bunn who’d meet with my mother and me to talk me off that ledge …assuring me that I wasn’t the only one struggling with something new, and that is was ok to be afraid. They reminded me that I shouldn’t give up because then I couldn’t prove to myself just how good I could really be. I guess they saw something in me that I didn’t know was there yet. I looked into Brother Brian’s concerned eyes as he promised me I would be fine and suddenly the thought of disappointing him broke my heart, and I couldn’t quit. So I cried, but I stayed, and every day I worked hard, and studied harder, and stayed up late to read and read …and I got up early to do it all over again.
By the time I graduated De La Salle in 1990 I’d learned work ethic, confidence, independence, to trust my instincts, and I would speak three languages. I’d learned to accept support when necessary, and had developed skills and a toolkit that I would carry with me for the rest of my academic career and beyond – all packed in my invisible suitcase. That suitcase served me well in high school when I had to make a difficult decision to leave private school. I knew my parents struggled to pay and why couldn’t I excel just as well in public school? It got me through three years at Baruch College when I worked three part-time jobs with a full course load as a Mathematics major – because, yes, I was scared, but knew I could do it. When I stumbled financially and had to quit my 4th year, it’s what brought me back a few years later to complete a Bachelor’s degree in IT and a MAster’s degree in Operations Management from AIU, online at night with a career. All this when recently married and raising a young family (yes, my husband is a wonderfully supportive man and an amazing father, and my parents rock!). As a female, I was so proud to be the first in my family to earn a degree, and to show my kids there really is no such thing as too late. Finally, I had my handy suitcase with me when I later made another scary decision to leave a 5-year career in IT. I was a “big fish in a small pond” working for the CTO at a subsidiary of John Hancock Life Insurance, and I took an entry-level position in Research Publishing at the vast ocean that is Morgan Stanley…
18 months later that subsidiary had gone under, and I was being promoted to a Regional Manager within the same Publishing team, and some years later became a firm officer as a VP in the team. Our team promotes the firm’s strategy to put clients first by providing globally consistent and high-quality services in publishing, translation, and data management, designed to support analyst teams and research initiatives. This year I’ve been given the opportunity to lead as Global Head of Publishing. Is part of me a bit scared about that? Of course! Do I intend to grab this bull by the horns and hold onto dear life? Absolutely! I’ve got my support team with me – my husband, my kids, my family, my mentors, and my trusty suitcase from De La Salle.