From the UConn Foundation's Our Moment newsletter (September-October 2012)
Ron Roy '65Well before his name appeared on 90 books and before he sold 10 million copies of those books worldwide, a young Ron Roy '65 was sitting in the mess hall of a US Navy ship in the middle of the ocean, completing an application to UConn.
He was accepted, and just a few months later, Roy arrived in Storrs to become the first in his family to attend college. His career would ultimately take him to the best-seller lists of children's literature, and now is circling back to UConn through Roy's creation of a scholarship fund for students studying the craft of writing.
"The household I grew up in had no books. My parents were immigrants who came to America when they were still in their early teens, and they had nothing. We didn't do vacations. We didn't get bedtime stories. However, at one point, our family moved across the street from a library, and I found that I loved books and became an avid reader," he recalls. "So, from that background to then coming to a university, I found I was starving for reading material. I loved UConn, and it made me realize my desire to become a teacher."
It was while reading Charlotte's Web to his elementary school class that he realized the power of the written word on the imagination of children, which prompted another dramatic change in his life. He went home that day with the determination to write books of his own. Five years later, with rejection letters from 23 publishers in Roy's hands, Random House purchased one of his stories, about a boy who comes across a beached whale and, unaware of the massive task ahead, begins to save the whale one bucket of water at a time. Roy sees it as a metaphor of sorts for his life.
"I was very eager about the idea of being published," he says. "So I did a lot of writing and a lot of sending of manuscripts to publishers, and many times I wouldn't even get a response. Like the boy in my story, I had a plan that only I could be naive enough to believe would work, and yet it did."
From that initial book came more offers, and soon he had a publishing contract for The A-to-Z Mysteries, the children's series that ultimately made him a household name. Written over the better part of a decade, the series has now been followed by several others, including Capital Mysteries and Calendar Mysteries.
The decision to give back to UConn came from the realization that he had an opportunity to inspire a passion for writing in a new generation.
"I've been very fortunate that my series have done so well, and I've come to the realization that I'm not going to live forever," he says. "I have more than I need. I could buy a boat or a big house or something, but to me, it's almost un-American not to do something good to make an impact with my success. Through my books, I've helped a lot of kids to learn to read. Through my giving, I'm hopefully helping students who aspire to become writers accomplish what they want to do."
He believes that it's vital for everyone to find that passion, no matter what their situation in life.
"I think it's important for people to know they can do anything they set their heart on doing. Look at the presidents we've had who came from nothing and were determined to do something with their lives," he says. "Kids who think there's nowhere to go have to have hope. There is a place for them, in their passion, and staying in school is the key to that. That's what my scholarship is about."
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