Alex Kazerani, A95, is an inventive entrepreneur with a track record of successful ventures. So it’s no surprise that he wanted to do more than fund a scholarship in the traditional way. Instead, he has created a whole new route for alumni to support Tufts students.
With a $300,000 donation, Kazerani and his wife, Moujan, an attorney, have established a pay-it-forward scholarship fund that will not only help the neediest students, but encourage recipients to give back to the fund. While the main goal is to help students through college now, Kazerani hopes that in the long run, the fund will continue to grow and help even more students through contributions from those who benefit from it.
“We want to create a model where we can help students today, when they need it the most, and encourage them to give back when they are able, growing the fund and allowing more qualified students to take advantage of a great education at Tufts,” he says.
The Kazerani Pay-It-Forward Scholarship Fund will ask recipients to contribute what they can, when they can. “I love the honor system,” Kazerani says. “I like the respect, trust, and responsibility that come with it.”
Like all financial aid at Tufts, the Kazerani scholarship is based on need. He is hoping to help the neediest students, such as those from single-parent households or those who are homeless or wards of the state. He’s also interested in assisting students who are active in volunteerism.
Kazerani knows what it’s like to get a helping hand when you need it most. Born in Iran and raised in France and the United States, he saw times when his family was wealthy, and times when they had little. At one point, his parents had a serious talk with him about whether they could afford to keep him at Tufts. Determined to stay, he took on two jobs, including delivering pizza.
After graduation, as he struggled to get his first business off the ground, he rejoiced when his sister, who needed a ride to the airport, handed him $20 for gas. “Guys, we can eat tonight!” he announced to his roommates, knowing that if they limited themselves to half a burger each, they would be able to eat for a few days. Later, his parents were able to lend him $6,000 for his startup. “That made a world of difference,” he says.
Kazerani went on to found, run, and sell a handful of technology businesses. The most recent, EdgeCast Networks, a leading content delivery network, was sold to Verizon in 2013.
He and his wife have used some of the proceeds to contribute to several charities, but Tufts—“among the best years of my life,” Kazerani says—has a special place in his heart. He made lasting friendships at the International House and through his fraternity. His friend Phil Goldsmith, A95 (one of those burger-sharing roommates), would go on to be a business partner in all his corporate ventures, and Jumbo classmate Jeff Stibel, A95, was on the EdgeCast board of directors.
If the scholarship program is successful, Kazerani hopes it will be a step toward addressing the issue of college affordability.
“If it works, it might be the best financial aid structure for students ever,” he says, sounding every bit the visionary. “Let’s shoot for the moon and see how far we get.”