It started when Dr. Frank Hale Jr. saw something special in a bright young African-American man who was considering The Ohio State University for his MBA. Dr. Hale, a noted scholar, teacher, researcher, administrator and civil rights pioneer, recognized the intelligence and drive in that young man and encouraged him to attend Ohio State after he completed his undergraduate studies at Lane College in Tennessee.

That student was Jesse Tyson, who—with additional encouragement from his grandmother—would continue his quest for knowledge and complete his graduate studies at Fisher, earning his MBA in 1976.

Tyson, who grew up the son of sharecroppers in the segregated South, was the first of his family to attend college. Expectations were low for young African-American men in Tyson’s hometown of Jackson, Tennessee, and very few of his peers left the area after high school to pursue higher education and explore their full potential. For Tyson, the Fisher experience was a significant step in a rewarding journey that has allowed him to provide for himself and his family, while serving as an inspiration for today’s generation of Fisher students.

“My family didn’t have the money to send me to school,” Tyson said. “Without scholarships, I would not have gotten my MBA. And if I visualize my life without that degree, I know that I would not have had the opportunities that led me to my career with ExxonMobil. I would not have visited over 100 countries throughout my career, and my children would not have had the opportunities they’ve had. Because of my business education, a cycle of poverty was broken.”

Tyson has led a remarkable career. For 35 years, he worked for ExxonMobil, where he became global aviation director and president of Exxon Mobil’s Inter-America in Belgium. He is currently the CEO of the national Black MBA Association.

Tyson has never lost sight of the people who helped him become the man he is today. In addition to his grandmother and Dr. Hale, Tyson also credits other Fisher faculty members with helping him succeed.

“My career pursuits were not just about providing income but were more about repositioning and reshaping the destiny of my family,” Tyson said. “And there clearly came a point in my life when I knew I was positioned to impact the destiny of other families as well. This required sacrificing time and resources to give back to those who would eventually follow me, but that is what my mentors did for me. When I accepted their assistance, I knew I was signing a reciprocal agreement to continue to ‘pay it forward.’ ”

To honor the impact of Dr. Hale, Tyson established the Jesse J. Tyson MBA Scholarship Fund in 2012. It’s a fitting tribute to Dr. Hale, former vice provost and professor emeritus from 1971-­1988, who engineered many initiatives at The Ohio State University in support of minority students, including the undergraduate Minority Scholars Program. The distribution from the fund supports scholarships to MBA students enrolled at Fisher, with particular attention to underrepresented groups.

And Tyson’s generosity is making a difference for students such as Jairus Meacham.

Meacham, who’s pursuing his MBA from Fisher and his JD from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, received the Jesse J. Tyson MBA Scholarship in 2016. For Meacham, earning the scholarship has allowed him to pursue a dual degree. But the significance of the award—and the generosity of the man behind it—are not lost on Meacham.

“I feel a deep sense of responsibility and privilege all at once,” Meacham said. “I feel that I have been given an amazing privilege and I get to walk through doors that many people would like to walk through. Because of these opportunities, I feel I have a responsibility to help others, to open doors for people in the future and pay forward what has been entrusted to me.”

Meacham, who’s in his third year of the four-year program, hopes to work in an industry where he can use his knowledge of business and legal skills to remove barriers for his employer and create value. It’s a unique skillset that he hopes could benefit small business owners.

Tyson, a resident of Coral Gables, Florida, frequently returns to Fisher as a lecturer and guest speaker. He is a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council and recipient of the 2007 Fisher College of Business International Service Award for outstanding performance in international business as well as the recipient of the 2011 Individual Diversity Award.

In 2014, he earned the Pace Setters Executive Award, Fisher’s highest executive honor. In September 2016, he was named a recipient of an Influential Leaders Award by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business for his service and dedication to diversity and inclusion.