Lori Alexander (SAR’94,’96)
Lori Alexander was not college material. That’s what people told her, anyway. In the 1980s, she was a 21-year-old single mom in Lowell, Massachusetts. She had a toddler, a mother on welfare, and an absent father. And yet Alexander believed she was college material. She didn’t want to be on public assistance; she planned to take care of her son, Joey. “I was determined to prove people wrong,” she says.
Alexander visited the admissions office at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, where the staff told her something she had never heard before: she was smart. Too smart, in fact, to restrict her college search to one university. The staff encouraged Alexander to apply to BU, a private institution that might offer her financial aid.
The application fee was $50—a sum she couldn’t afford. BU waived the fee and came through with a financial aid package of scholarships and loans that, combined with a job at the Comm Ave CVS, made college possible. “The University took care of me, and helped me believe in myself,” Alexander says.
When landlords refused to rent to her because she had a toddler—they couldn’t guarantee apartments free of lead paint—the BU housing department found her a place to live.
And when she couldn’t get day care and had to take Joey to class, her professors turned a blind eye as he rolled toy cars down the aisle of Sargent’s lecture hall. “All of the teachers were really understanding,” says Alexander, who majored in physical therapy. “They knew my struggle, but never doubted what I was able to do.”
Alexander wasn’t always so sure. “I never missed a class. I sat right up front. I was always on time. I was so afraid every year that I would fail,” she recalls. “But I did it. And I have a great life now.”
That life includes her own clinic: Physical Therapy Zone in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. After years working for large, prestigious clinics—first at the Mayo Clinic and then at Virginia Hospital Center—Alexander struck out on her own in 2008.
“Am I making as much money as those bigger clinics? No. But that wasn’t my goal in physical therapy. And my patients are happy,” Alexander says. And so is she, which she attributes in part to her Sargent education. “Some people thank their parents for everything they have. I thank BU.”
Every year, Alexander expresses her gratitude by contributing to the scholarship fund at Sargent. “It’s a no-brainer to me,” she says.
During her time as a Sargent student, she adds, “all those alumni who were giving helped me. How could I not give back after being given so much? There are probably lots of Loris I need to help.”