Oklahoma native Piyush Patel graduated from Oklahoma State University and became a science teacher. He went on to impact millions of students with his online computer graphics company, Digital Tutors, before selling the company in 2014. He now owns Conclusion Wines and donates every drop of revenue to Oklahoma non-profit charities.
“I think if you’re blessed, you have to bless others,” he said.
So when Patel was asked to give the College of Education commencement speech, he took the honor a step further and enlisted the help of a university committee to select a student he could surprise.
“I’m looking for somebody who is just a hard worker, who wants to be a teacher. I’ll let you guys figure out the details. Just give me a name,” Patel explained.
During his commencement speech, he asked Danielle Foster to stand.
“Seven minutes ago, I was a total stranger to you and we have yet to meet. I’ve been told that you’re an outstanding student and you’re an incredible hard worker. If I can change your trajectory, you can change the trajectory of hundreds of kids,” Patel said. “Danielle, my wife and I would like to pay off all your student loans, so you can start your career with no constraints.”
Gasps could be heard from the crowd, followed by cheers.
“It was just a crazy, crazy moment and so all I could just mouth was ‘thank you’ to him,” Foster told News 9.
Overwhelmed with gratitude, Foster said it still feels surreal. She is a first generation college student, who had five digits in student loan debt.
Now she can move forward with her mission, without the burden of bills and with more fuel to do even greater things.
“I want to be someone at that high school level that helps instill a love for science in students,” Foster explained.
“This is really one of those things that made me realize that hey, you can make such a big difference in someone’s life and it can be in a moment like that,’ she added.
May 19, Patel was inducted into the OSU College of Education Hall of Fame.