Roger Babson may have been a dedicated businessman during the week, but Sundays were set aside for church services and family suppers. As devoted as he was to this spiritual routine, one of his granddaughters recalls that entrepreneurship was never far from his mind.
Marlene Graf says that these weekend get-togethers included her grandfather “always bringing out a new project he had going.” Once, it was a box filled with faux diamonds. “He was always looking for a new investment, a new invention.”
Those who knew Babson recall a driven man who was both practical and sentimental, who loved his family, was deeply religious, and had a determination to help others succeed.
“Anybody could talk to him,” says Judy Webber Ross, Graf’s older sister, who remembers accompanying her grandfather as he stopped by the campus lunchroom to talk with students and staff. She adds that he encouraged empathy in others. Babson took her to a convalescent home in a building that eventually became part of the campus, one that at the time treated polio patients. “He wanted me to see what life was like for people who had polio.”
Katherine Babson Jr. MBA’77, H’99, was in junior high school when she asked Babson, her grandfather’s second cousin, to contribute an ad for her school magazine. “We had a nice discussion,” she says, “and he gave me a check for the ad. The check had his picture on the left side, and on the right side was a picture of Sir Isaac Newton.”
Babson made an impression on students as well. Jack Dewey ’49, P’80 attended Babson’s weekly Friday talks on campus where Babson offered students guidance on business and investments.
Dewey, who worked for Liberty Mutual and directs the annual scholarship award selection committee for the Class of ’49 Scholarship Fund, says his education included statistics, which he loathed. “When I finally got into management,” he says, “I started using statistics. I found out how valuable they were. So, Roger knew more about it than I did.”
And what would Roger Babson think about the campus today? Those who knew him say he would likely be surprised—but pleased—by the coed campus; stunned to see a pub that bears his name, given his stance on Prohibition; and thrilled at the College’s expanded curriculum and focus on entrepreneurship.
“I think the school has progressed further than probably he ever thought it would,” Dewey says. – Jeannine Stein