Philanthropist helps father of 2 achieve dream of college degree
For Andre Green, a 30-year-old Jamaican native and father of two, a circuitous 10-year effort to earn a college degree concluded successfully in December at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Thanks to a chance encounter with a stranger who would become a namesake of FGCU’s Daveler and Kauanui School of Entrepreneurship, Green graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship. He stopped out of college in 2014 when a series of unexpected setbacks at another institution left him unable to pay room and board.
He was working as a communications technician at Comcast Corp. when his job had him cross paths in 2018 with Frank Daveler, the Naples philanthropist who donated $4 million to the entrepreneurship school in 2020.
“I can never forget this day,” Green said. “I had a service call to fix an issue Mr. Daveler was having at his residence. When I arrived, Ms. Patty, who was Mr. Daveler’s caretaker, escorted me in and Mr. Daveler proceeded to explain that he could not make outbound phone calls. It took me about five minutes to fix his issue, and he was impressed.”
Daveler asked if Green could assist with another phone that had not worked properly for several years. As Green worked, the two talked about life.
A lifelong entrepreneur and innovator, Daveler had launched and sold more than a dozen companies in aerospace, engineering and manufacturing.
“I told him I had been studying mechanical engineering but had to stop because of financial issues,” Green said. “He asked if I was planning to go back to school. I told him I would love to, but that day seemed to be getting more and more improbable because I owed $30,000 to another school.”
Daveler suggested Green consider switching his major from mechanical engineering and talking to Sandra Kauanui, director of the entrepreneurship program that eventually grew into the current school. Following a two-hour meeting with Kauanui, Green was convinced entrepreneurship was a good fit.
“Afterward, I spoke to Mr. Daveler, and he said whatever it takes, he would give me the chance to attend school,” Green said.
But first Green had to resolve his debt to get his transcripts from his previous college and enroll at FGCU. He was able to negotiate it down to $7,000, which Daveler paid.
“Frank Daveler gave Andre a blank check and said for him to negotiate the debt, and he (Daveler) would pay whatever he needed,” Kauanui said. “Andre worked extremely hard to keep the amount down that Frank had to pay to the other school. I remember how worried he was about spending Frank’s money. Frank called me before he decided to help Andre and asked if I would meet Andre and let him know if I thought it was a good thing to do. After meeting Andre, I told Frank I believed in Andre.”
As a graduate, Green continues to work for Comcast, which he joined in November 2016. In his current position, he installs and troubleshoots residential and commercial services, serves as a field trainer and mentor for new hires and leads a team of 14 technicians.
The Montego Bay-born Green is considering applying to FGCU’s master’s degree program in entrepreneurship. He also has a small real estate venture, Triple A Rentals, and is looking to add to his portfolio and eventually move into commercial properties. Green and his wife, Erline, have two young sons, who watched him receive his degree at commencement.
“I had really given up on my dreams to be a first-generation graduate in my family,” said Green, who came to the U.S. in 2012.
“It was not easy, but I did not do it on my own. From the day I entered this country, I got help,” he said. “I got help from many, including Mr. Daveler and Ms. Patty, who saw something in me that I never saw in myself; my FGCU family that motivated me during times I didn’t think I would make it to the finish line; my friends who gave me words of wisdom and motivation; and my Comcast family, who allowed me to leave work early at times for an exam or an assignment. To all those people, I say a big thank you.”
Kauanui commended Green for juggling school, work and family – and for visiting Daveler at least once a week until his benefactor’s death in November 2020 at 102.
“I believe Andre was one of the last people to see Frank that day and, from what I heard from Frank’s family, Andre spoke to Frank in a very caring way to let him know what an impact he had made in his life,” she said. “I am sure Frank was smiling from heaven as he watched Andre graduate.”