I was a classic over-apologizer growing up: one sorry after the next.

I’d offer the phrase, when, in truth, I meant something else, like “excuse me,”
or, “repeat that, please.”

One day, when I was seven (or maybe eight) my mom decided that enough was enough.

“Stop saying you’re sorry for everything, Reece,” she said. “It’s not cute.”

My mom used her serious voice on selective occasion — only when she really, really meant something. By her tone, I knew that she intended for me to break this penitent habit here, and now.

It wasn’t hard to stop over-apologizing. Perhaps I had to grow out of it.

Nonetheless, I’m thankful that my mom put her foot down that day. My only lingering wish is that she would’ve also told me of the dangers, of saying “thank you” too often.

As I neared the end of my junior year of college, the summer ahead looked unfathomably bleak.

Of the 23 internships to which I had applied, only one had contacted me back with the possibility of an acceptance.

News 12 Brooklyn and the Bronx wanted me to interview who I believe to be the director of the television station’s program for college interns. The only problem was that, for three weeks, she was out sporadically in and out of the office.

One unlucky Vincent Subervi — a Senior Finance Coordinator with the station, according to his Linkedin page — had somehow been delegated the responsibility of calling me every Tuesday to, first, apologize, and then, reschedule a time for next week that we might, well, do it all over again.

After our third week of the dance, I decided to move on.

I had received an e-mail a few days earlier (form the Journalism student listserv) that read of summer internship opportunities at the Times Union newspaper.

The request was for those interested in either layout/design, or video. I had just started exploring the story-telling practice of photography and film with my friend’s Nikon D3100; so I applied to as a video intern.

A day later, Patti Hart, the paper’s Director of Cross Media Business Development (according to her e-mail signature) contacted me an inquiry: “I looked at your resume and clips: would you be more interested in a writing internship?”

Certainly, I was.

Later that week — May 12, exactly — I sat to interview with Jenn Gish, Gary Hahn, and Brianna Snyder of the Features Section. By that Friday, I knew I’d be working as a Times Union summer intern starting June 1st.

The days spent at my desk that summer were long. Yet, none longer than the morning of July 2nd, my second to last day.

Morning was sometimes the busiest, often spent responding to e-mails. But, this being my second to final day, and having finished my feature piece on ten millennial women doing big, entrepreneurial things in the Capital Region before deadline, I took a few extra moments to enjoy my breakfast of bagel and butter, courtesy of the TU’s onsite Professor Java’s.

I sat on the building’s rooftop patio, reflecting on how far I had come from the last few weeks of April, when I had no internship, and thus, no legitimate clips to help me land one.

The air was light and warm; the sun, though present, wasn’t over-bearing.

It seemed that the day itself was happy for me.

About a half-hour later than normal, I sat down at my desk, and opened up my work email. Nothing pressing had come across from the night before.

Momentarily bored, I made a trip to the bathroom.

I delicately decorated the toilet seat with four lines of toilet paper, intending to avoid any chance of the cold shock of skin-to-porcelain contact.

I didn’t really have to go, but I sat anyway, rationalizing that it would be better for me to do nothing in private, than where anyone might inquire.

Deciding to spend the time somewhat productively, I pulled out my iPhone to check my school/personal email.

At 8:31 the previous night, faoawd@albany.edu — the University’s e-mail for financial aid award communication — had sent me an e-mail notifying me of my “2015-16 Financial Aid Award.”

My hands got sweaty, and my stomach jumped with excitement. I thought, “perhaps someone nominated me for a scholarship without telling me.” And then I thought, “Maybe it’s from Coach Brown.”

Before reading, I selected to forward it to my parents. “Just… praise God.” I wrote.

I returned to the original email, which explained that I needed to accept or decline the award by following a provided link.

I paused to flush the toilet paper, pull up my pants, and wash my hands, before returning to my desk and opening the email on my Dell desktop.

But, I was nervous. Indeed, thankful, but much too fidgety.

Again, I left my desk, this time, to call my parents.

“So, it seems that I’ve been offered a scholarship,” I told them once I had successfully orchestrated the three-way call. “It says that it’s an athletic scholarship.”

For a moment, there was only quiet.

“Wow,” my dad finally said. “That’s big. Did Coach Brown say anything to you?”

“Nope,” I answered. “I’m not sure if he’s trying to surprise me,” I offered, overflowing with optimism. “Just praise God,” I said.

“Yes indeed, Peacey,” my mom said. “To God be the glory.”

“Have you accepted it yet?” my dad asked.

I told him that I hadn’t.

“Whoa,” he chuckled. “Go accept it!”

“I just wanted to speak to you all first,” I said.

I walked back to the newsroom with iPhone to my ear, sat at my desk, and followed the instructions to accept the award.

In a matter of a few clicks, I was a scholarship athlete.

“I want to say thank you to Coach Brown,” I told my parents, as I stepped away from my desk again.

“That makes sense,” my dad said. “Do you want us to be on the phone.”

“Yes,” I said. “It’s a ‘thank you’ from all of us.”

I made my way back to the roof, and dialed Coach Brown’s number. He didn’t answer. I considered leaving a message to tell him of my thanks. But I reasoned that I’d save it for real-time communication.

Intending to say goodbye to my parents, I returned to the three-way call.

“He didn’t pick up, but I’m sure he’ll call back,” I told my parents. “I’ll talk to you—,”my phone’s vibration interrupted.

I pulled it away from my cheek to see that Coach Brown was returning my call.

“Hey coach,” I answered.

“Hey Reece,” he answered. “What’s up?”

“Well, coach, I have my mother and father on the line—.”

“Hello coach,” they said, almost in unison.

“How are you all?” he asked.

I was slightly impressed by how far he was taking this surprise scholarship thing. He seemed genuinely unknowing of the reason for which we had called.

Not knowing how, I began: “Well, coach. I checked my email this morning. And I saw that I had been offered an athletic scholarship. I — my family and I just want to say thank you.”

The phone was quiet, as my parents and I waited for his response.

“Uhh,” he sounded. “Reece. I’m not too clear on what you’re talking about.”

Nobody said anything.

My hands started to sweat again.

I explained: “I checked my email this morning, and I had one from the University inviting me to accept my financial aid award. When I followed the link, it said that it was an athletic scholarship worth $22,500.”


“Yeah Reece,” he finally began. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.

My breath began to run from me, and I couldn’t catch it. My underarms were wet.

I knew that there was only one question left to ask, but it still took me a few moments to inquire: “Are you saying that you did not offer me a scholarship?”

“Uhh,” he began. “I’m not sure what happened, but we did not send you—,” he stopped short. “Here: let me ask a few questions, and get to the bottom of this. I’ll give you a call back later today.”

“Okay coach,” I said.

“Thank you.”

Coach Brown did call me back later that day to tell me that the offices of financial aid, and NCAA Compliance had mistakenly sent scholarship offers to every player on the team, as opposed to 15, of the 16 of us. Just as the previous four years, I was not intended to have my schooling paid for.

That night, I logged onto my University finance account.

In the morning, it had showed that I didn’t owe anything for the upcoming school year — including both semesters. But now, it showed the same request for +$20,000 as the previous three years.

In the months since, I’ve investigated the school’s handling of the situation. A friend of mine form back home — who specializes in contract law — told me that I might have  a legitimate claim that the University entered into a binding agreement, and did not uphold.

However, I’ve learned that the NCAA allows for universities to correct such mistakes by simply deleting them; they are allowed to pretend that they never happened.


8 thoughts on “Thanking your way out of a scholarship

  1. Reece! What’s good man? Sorry to hear about that dilemma but you are not alone! I did something similar with a promotion at work. I applied for an internal position on a Wednesday or Thursday afternoon and that same Friday I received a call saying that I was offered the position! I proceeded to “thank” the VP that referred me for the job and little did I know, he had no clue it was already offered to me! I was supposed to go through the interview process and the person I would eventually work for, “should have followed the process correctly”. Apparently he didn’t follow the process and would get a call from the VP that referred me, which also happened to be his boss! Long story short, saying “thanks” too early in your case, may have cost you some free scholarship money and in mine, a quick promotion. I would later get offered the same position after the interview process, but I passed on it for other reasons. These lessons will permeate your adulthood my young fellow and it’s good that your recognizing these tutorials and reflecting on them. Keep on keeping on champ!

    1. I’m sorry to learn of that Coach Chris. Thank you for sharing that. Much love to you brotha’

  2. I have to say that your style of writing is so engaging. You’re definitely going to go far with your writing and photography. *reads all other posts*

  3. Hey Reece,

    Its Dee from UA just wanted to say i love your writting. Keep up the great work!

  4. If this was a singular unfortunate incident, I’d be forgiving and chalk it up to “mistakes happen.” But the constant display of ineptitude, using NYS taxpayer funds, has me outraged.

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