My Giving Story: Tre’ Scott ’15
The Duke experience never ends
September 11, 2019 | by Kyle Simmons
When Tre' Scott ’15 left Duke as a wide-eyed graduate he knew what he wanted in a career. But in order to make it real, as easy as it sounds, Tre' needed to write it down.
Tre' created a list of the things he hoped for — and a separate list of the things he did not want — from his first job. He had keen interest in the technology industry and building strategic partnerships. With these and other characteristics, Tre' chiseled a job description out of a mound of big ideas. Then he began Googling for his dream job. To his surprise, it was at Microsoft.
“When I wrote the job down, it didn't say Microsoft,” says Tre'. “But when I found this job, my ability to hear and see it made sense. It was made for me.”
Tre's plan was paying off. After landing the job in Washington, D.C., he soon leveraged the Duke network to stay with the family of John Jesse Villa ’17, a friend from undergrad. John's father, John K. Villa ’70, P’17, and family welcomed Tre' to the area while he looked for his first apartment.
In his first role as a strategist at Microsoft, Tre' hit the ground running fast. He sat in boardrooms with CFOs, COOs and CIOs across the U.S. financial services and public sector industries. He listened closely to the ambitions of their businesses to see if there was a strategic path getting to those ambitions with Microsoft in mind.
Tre' brought with him many of the skills he harnessed directly at Duke. He credits his ability to level with executive decision-makers, who often have competing interests, and steer their focus toward a desired future state to studying at the Sanford School of Public Policy.
Tre's curiosity, navigation of ambiguity and big-picture imagination enabled him to excel quickly. With Tre's passion exciting those around him, his career began to grow. He recently accepted another exciting role as a part of Microsoft's Workplace Analytics Division. Now, Tre focuses on helping Fortune 500 companies make higher-quality decisions based on data analysis, prediction and experimental research.
Before Turning 30
Tre's ability to strategize well also comes from being a life planner, which includes keeping a list of the goals he wants to accomplish before turning 30.
The list has fun achievements like learning to make the perfect latte and getting a motorcycle license. But it has difficult and serious ones, too, like creating an impactful scholarship at Duke. The idea for the scholarship started when Tre' met Joseph Patrick Payne ’87, M.B.A.’91, P’16, P’17 at a Duke reunion event. After hearing the way Tre' talked about the impact of his mother, Payne encouraged him to one day endow a scholarship in her honor.
“That's a lasting impression on me by a Dukie who never went to school with me,” says Tre'. “While Duke gives you an education, the connections are more than just professional. The lifelong fabric of alumni is a support system of friends and family.”
Still early into his career at Microsoft, finding the right financial vehicle to make his gift was important. After speaking with Duke's Gift Planning team, Tre' discovered that the best way to create the scholarship was to name Duke as a beneficiary. He soon became one of the youngest people to make a planned gift to Duke University.
The scholarship he created is the Murry-Marie Catherine-Bell Scholarship Fund. It stands in tall honor of four strong black women who had a tremendous impact on both Tre's development as a young person and in his understanding of the vital role education plays in society. The four women are his mother, two great-aunts and grandmother, who all spent their careers as educators in New Orleans and Jacksonville, Florida.
“It's humbling to keep in mind the privilege that I had to become who I am today, because of the foresight of those who came before me” says Tre'. “My grandmother's father's father wasn't allowed to read in this country. Yet, she went off to college and became a teacher and an educator.
“Between these incredible women, you're talking about 120 years of experience educating thousands of students.”
The number of students they've had an impact on is far-reaching. Many of the students have gone on to benefit from things like financial aid while attending college in America. Having the opportunity to extend this further through time with his scholarship is a blessing and an honor for Tre'.
Tre's scholarship also represents gratitude for the opportunity he was given to come to Duke with support from the Mead Undergraduate Scholarship Fund, the Richard B. and Kathryn C. Lieb Scholarship, and the Meninak Leadership Scholarship Award, which eased the financial burden on him and his family while he attended.
A Widening of Worlds
In addition to his planned gift, Tre' has established the Tre'Ellis Terrell Scott DukeEngage Fund, which provides funding for students seeking to challenge themselves and change their world through Duke's global civic engagement program, DukeEngage.
Tre' participated in DukeEngage earlier than most Duke students. Friends from his living community in Pegram, the arts living experience for first-year students, started talking about the limitless potential for growth and the excitement the program offered. It was still relatively new back then. Tre' and his friends were fascinated.
Then, the rest sort of came about organically. Through connections with Hsiao-mei Ku, a professor of the practice in music and the faculty-in-residence of Pegram, the students turned their focus to China with an independent project in mind. Ku's older brother teaches in the region, and Ku herself is very famous in the music space of China, so the students used Ku's wealth of knowledge as an advisor to make the most of the opportunity.
When Tre' left for DukeEngage, he was only 18. While abroad in a very remote part of southern China, his eyes opened to a world he knew nothing about.
“I had never been out of the country before,” says Tre'. “Let alone, across the world. I didn't tell my mom where I was going until a week or two before.”
He and his fellow engagers created an arts program for Chinese students in the vein of a Western-style classroom. It was open to creative thinking and problem solving, and had less call-and-response. The students loved it and were deeply engaged. What was difficult was doing this without speaking any Mandarin or Cantonese and being one of the few foreigners to ever visit the school.
Saying “Yes!” to this amazing opportunity has made Tre' realize that giving similar life-changing experiences to others is something that resonates with him to his core. Always looking ahead to help others, he also recently joined the DukeEngage National Advisory Board to share his expertise as a program participant.
“DukeEngage is not just a world of service, or a world of civic engagement. It is a lesson in failure and a lesson in ambiguity,” says Tre'. “But it's also a new world.”
In the home of Tre's Chinese host family, the grandmother was the matriarch. She spoiled the grandchildren. The whole family shared dinners and quiet moments as a unit. In these experiences, Tre' remembers realizing that his host family was no different from his own.
“For many of these students, this is the first time they are ever in a new place where they don't speak the language, don't know the culture and are truly foreigners. It's in that difference that you start to notice the similarities.”
With Tre's giving, he wants you to see what he sees: The world is ever-widening and our place in it is as big as the plans we make.