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Not all who wander

Not all who wander

Kasey Renee Shaw March 27, 2024

Before UD was “home,” it was the furthest westward that Kevin Tarrant ’79 had ever strayed from his native Long Island. Rejecting an offer to purchase a small woodcraft factory where he worked throughout high school, Tarrant confronted an unfamiliar and frightening future. Fifty years later, Tarrant devotes his time and talents by volunteering for the very institution that helped him navigate through life’s uncharted territories.

“I was an immature kid lacking self-confidence without an idea of where to go or what to do with my life,” Tarrant said. “My grades were awful in high school, I didn’t study, and my world was so small.”

Kevin Tarrant head shotUD was the only college to accept Tarrant, albeit on probation, and his decision to enroll was influenced by his girlfriend’s plans to attend and the university's then-rare social work program.

“It was one of the best decisions I ever made,” Tarrant affirmed. “I came out with the clarity of what I wanted, tons of self-confidence, and I was ready to take big risks.”

Tarrant’s life went through some changes since he graduated, including a career change from social work to a forty-year human resources career that included over a dozen transfers, three different international assignments living in Europe for a decade, and finishing his corporate career as chief human resources officer for Westinghouse Airbrake Co. in Brussels, Belgium.

But even as the decades passed, one constant remained: the vibrant student and alumni community where he cultivated forever friendships and meaningful relationships.

“My college roommates are still my best friends, and so much of who I am is due to them,” explained Tarrant. “UD and [the support of my friends] gave me a purpose in life, to help others, which is the Marianist way — and it’ll be that way for the rest of my life.”

Motivated by gratitude, Tarrant is an active participant in the alumni community. He is among the more than 2,800 volunteer leaders UD seeks as a priority in UD’s comprehensive campaign, We Soar. Previously, he was a community leader for the Denver alumni chapter, which represents 1,200 alumni. Additionally, he recently completed a term as a board member of UD’s Alumni Association and is currently co-chair for the Class of 1979 Reunion.

“[UD] took a chance with me, which worked out for me … and now, they’re taking a chance with other kids that maybe don’t have opportunities that others have, and [those students are] doing amazing things,” Tarrant said.

“So, giving money and time to Dayton is my small way of showing I’m committed for life.”

That’s also why he established the 321 Kiefaber Scholarship, named after the house where he and his best friends “grew up.”

“It’s my way of saying: ‘Hey, this is my brotherhood. If it wasn’t for [them], I wouldn’t be here today, so thank you,’” Tarrant said. “That house meant so much, and this gift acknowledges that the student neighborhood is part of what makes Dayton so unique.”

Tarrant hopes the scholarship will help students who were like him — and especially, students who are not.

“Some people think it’s just giving money for buildings or whatever, but that’s not what’s happening. When I was at UD, I thought we were an open, diverse university … but we were not,” Tarrant said. “Over the last five years, I’m learning — whether it’s from the Black community or others — that not everyone has the same experiences at UD that I had. So, how can we make a difference? How can we ‘open up’ the University?”

Tarrant believes the 321 Kiefaber Scholarship represents more than financial aid; it symbolizes an opportunity to expand access and enrich the university experience for students from all communities and walks of life.

“Take me for instance: I was grounded. I wasn’t getting off the runway. [UD] took me to different continents and flew me around the world. It gave me wings to fly,” Tarrant said. “And that can change someone’s future … that can change the whole world, right?”

A perfect ten