Fostering the American Dream
Judith Teller Kaye Supports Scholarships, Mentors Students

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Judith Teller Kaye

Judith Teller Kaye and her three sisters were raised to believe they could accomplish anything – with hard work and a good education. In 1971, Kaye was an unassuming trailblazer, one of 17 women in a class of 400 to graduate from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Armed with an economics degree and the Teller family can-do attitude, Kaye segued into a career with global management consulting firm Accenture that would span 28 years and see her become one of its first female partners. Her sisters, also Ivy League graduates, embarked on similarly successful paths. The family of four girls from a middle class Pennsylvania town all began their professional lives with zero college debt – a financial feat near impossible today.

"I'm personally appalled by the amount of college debt young people are taking on," Kaye said about the escalating cost of higher education and the enormous financial burden assumed by recent graduates. "That's why I'm such a big believer in scholarships. They make a huge difference in a student's future."

Kaye said she is proud of her affiliation with FAU and heartened that she can continue to support the school long after she is gone. She has established an estate gift, an Endowed Professorship of Economics in the College of Business. "Dave and I have many years ahead of us but we think it is wise to plan for the future. During our lifetime, we contribute year after year to scholarships that bring great students to FAU. Our planned gift will help maintain and increase the quality of the faculty for years to come. That's a good feeling."

The couple's relationship with Florida Atlantic University began soon after they moved to Boca Raton from Manhattan, NY. After retiring from Accenture in 2001, Kaye oversaw the State of New Jersey's $450 million technology budget as chief information officer and also served as chief operating officer for Acquire Media. When she left New York for a calmer lifestyle and the warmer Florida climate, Kaye embraced retirement on her own terms.

She became treasurer of the Royal Palm Improvement Association, the homeowners' group for the Royal Palm Yacht and Country Club development in Boca Raton where she lives. There she met Armand Grossman, vice president of the RPIA and a three-time FAU alumnus and former FAU trustee. "Armand recommended me for FAU's Foundation Board which is responsible for the university's fundraising activities and foundation assets. I've served on the Board's finance, nominating, and development committees," she said.

The more time Kaye spent at FAU, the more she liked what she saw. "FAU isn't a traditional university, but often a stepping stone for first generation college students. Many are older and work their way through college, paying class by class, semester by semester. I admire this," she said. Kaye decided to switch her allegiance from the University of Pennsylvania where she had donated for decades to Florida Atlantic University. "Penn gave me a leg up as a middle class kid. I see FAU doing the same for its students. FAU is the kind of university that shapes people and allows them to achieve the American Dream," she said.

Kaye witnessed the University's atypical melding of academics and career when she became involved with the College of Business's annual Business Plan Competition. The competition invites FAU students, alumni and members of the business community to compete for more than $200,000 in cash and prizes.

"Judy has mentored students and through her contributions has helped student start-up companies get their businesses off the ground," said Kimberly Gramm, assistant dean and community relations director of the Adams Center for Entrepreneurship. "Donations like hers provide great hope for aspiring entrepreneurs."

Kaye downplays her involvement and applauds the competing students. "I sit down with them and offer help. As someone interested in business and new ventures, I'm always excited for this event and impressed with the diverse ideas," she said, noting that she has advised a variety of startups from a student rental agency to a company that bakes cholesterol-lowering crackers.

During her years as a College of Business supporter, Kaye has watched the competition grow into a well-respected event. Last year, 215 teams registered with 20 teams advancing to the final rounds. Kaye said she has witnessed a similar transformation in the University. "FAU has grown up from a local university to one that has broader appeal across the state. FAU's success is important to the overall growth of Boca Raton," said Kaye who also contributes to the Christine Lynn College of Nursing and the Center for Holocaust and Human Rights Education.

The fiscal health of her hometown is another cause close to Kaye's heart. Co-founder of Boca Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, she and former school librarian Betty Grinnan educate residents and officials about pressing financial concerns such as increased taxes. The duo advocated successfully for the construction of the town's new library. Kaye is treasurer of Friends of Boca Raton Public library, the library's fundraising arm.

The transplanted Northeasterner said her love of Boca Raton encouraged her 97-year-old father to move there. Formerly an editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, he lives independently and plays weekly blackjack games. "He's the dealer," Kaye laughs with admiration. Kaye and her husband David appreciate the vitality of Boca Raton residents and the vibrant outdoor lifestyle. The avid bike riders who once braved New York City's bustling streets now enjoy cycling the El Rio Trail abutting FAU.

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