When Anthony Welters attended law school, he spent so many hours at his off-campus jobs that he never truly felt connected to the campus community. Today, as a successful entrepreneur and executive, he helps as many socioeconomically disadvantaged New York University law students as possible in hopes they will have experiences he had to pass up.
Philanthropic gifts from Welters and his wife established an endowment at NYU School of Law, where Welters earned a law degree in 1977 when he was only 22 years old. The endowment currently finances full-tuition scholarships for 30 students at a time — or 10 students per law school class. Another 14 have already graduated, NYU officials say.
Many scholarship recipients are like Welters — first in his family to graduate from college and the first to pursue an advanced degree.
“When I was in school, I never considered the need to work a hardship,” says Welters, executive vice president of UnitedHealth Group. “But, there were lots of opportunities I missed in law school because of the need to work. My wife and I facilitated these (NYU) scholarships so that others could take advantage of the full school experience.”
Growing up in Harlem tenements, Welters was the middle of five children. He and three brothers slept in bunk beds behind a living room curtain, while their sister and parents had their own cramped niches a few feet away.
When Welters was 8 years old, his mother died suddenly from an allergic reaction to a penicillin shot. As a boy he helped his family doing whatever he could for cash tips, such as sweeping floors at a barber shop or shining shoes.
Despite having to drop out of high school to work, Welters’ father considered education a socioeconomic equalizer, something not lost on his third child. “School became important as a means to an end,” Welters recalls.
He held jobs and internships throughout school, sometimes toiling 30 hours a week. Yet he excelled academically to the point he sometimes skipped a grade or graduated ahead of schedule. “Anything I could do to accelerate my agenda, launch a career, I was willing to do,” he explains.
He earned a bachelor’s in economics from Manhattanville College, where he met his wife, Beatrice. After law school, Welters worked for the Securities and Exchange Commission, then later for elected officials and political figures. In the 1980s, he went into business for himself. Some early ventures failed, but he founded a firm that eventually became AmeriChoice Corporation, serving consumers of government health care programs. AmeriChoice is now a part of UnitedHealth.
Welters considers his commitment to helping others a pursuit he enjoys, adding, “If I didn’t, I wouldn’t do it.”
Through their AnBryce Foundation, the Welterses finance other educational initiatives. Also, Anthony Welters presently serves as governing board chairman of the NYU law school and Morehouse School of Medicine. He is a member of the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, an honor recognizing high achievers who come from humble beginnings.
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