In the Spring of 2011 -- about 5 months before we opened the doors to Nashville Prep -- I received a call from Sujeet Rao, my good friend from law school. He had a few months off between jobs and wanted to spend those months doing something meaningful for the community. He asked if we needed any help getting Nashville Prep launched. I jumped out of my seat and all but packed his bags and booked his flight for him.
That summer, the most crucial in our organization's history, Sujeet took on myriad existential projects for us. He co-led a month-long summer tutoring program, knocked doors, staffed enrollment events, negotiated contracts, stuffed binders, and even recruited teachers (looking at you, Kira Walmer).
There were two days that stand out to me from that summer. One was on July 4th. I worked through that weekend piecing together our month-long summer training program. We were kicking off the training the next day, but I was running out of time to print and arrange everything (a huge task for that much material). Sujeet dropped everything and met me to piece everything together as the fireworks were popping. We made it just in time.
The second day that stands out was August 2nd -- our first day of school. This day was terrifying for our staff, as none of us had launched a school before. It was our first test of whether our expectations were sound and our plan sufficient to the task. Within a few hours of the first day, one of our key staff members had a nervous breakdown and disappeared. We were a small staff (10 people) and couldn't afford a critical staff absence on our most important day. Sujeet, without hesitating, jumped in and assumed that key role and helped that struggling staff member -- over the next few weeks -- manage a healthy transition. The funniest part of that day was the fact that many of our scholars thought Sujeet and I (both Indian-American), were the same person. We were omnipresent in the eyes of students!
Sujeet remains an inspiration to me as a professional and as a person. I recently attended his wedding and was blown away by the amount of close friends he's made over the years. Jamie Hodari -- fellow law classmate and RePublic board member -- captured Sujeet's conscientiousness well in his best man speech when he said that there were probably at least twenty people at the wedding who would consider Sujeet one of their best friends. Team RePublic certainly does.
So, today, on Sujeet's birthday, we are honoring him as our first ever Staff Member Emeritus in recognition of his contributions to the organization. This is a new initiative at RePublic where we are recognizing folks who've left us, but whose contributions live on. We will list their contributions on our staff website and in our eventual permanent headquarters.
Happy birthday, Sujeet!