Why I Give: Sadler Poe ’67

June 6th, 2013 / Advancement
Sadler Poe

Photo courtesy Sadler Poe '67

Scholarship Honors an Inspiring High School Teacher

Fifty years ago, in a small high school in Rock Hill, South Carolina, an English teacher encouraged a talented student to apply to Princeton. Now that student, Sadler Poe ’67, has created the William Boyce White Jr. Scholarship Fund, to honor the teacher who set him on his path.

“I have always felt I owed a debt to Princeton,” said Poe, who received a scholarship as an undergraduate. “And Billy White was an extraordinary teacher. He is in his 80s now, and he was especially pleased that I was able to do this. It was the best gift I could give him.”

Finding a Home on Campus

Poe came to Princeton for the first time in 1963, the brink of an era of great social change. Martin Luther King Jr. had just made his impassioned “I Have a Dream” speech at a civil rights rally in Washington, D.C. Poe’s roommate introduced him to a student who had been there.

Sadler Poe

Sadler Poe, senior photo, 1967

“Coming from a small town in the segregated South,” he said, “I found an attitude about social issues completely different from anything I’d ever experienced.” Poe was able to see his own background from a perspective that opened his eyes to racial injustice. “Princeton helped me realize that things needed to change,” he said.

Poe also realized that he no longer felt out of place. Instead of being a “slightly odd,” high-achieving student in a high school class of 30, he was one of 822 similarly high-achieving freshmen from 42 states and several foreign countries. For the first time in his academic career, he felt at home.

He majored in history, studying with the distinguished medievalist and former chair of the history department Joseph Strayer and prominent political theorist Paul Sigmund, now professor of politics emeritus. His professors and fellow students taught him what he calls “the most important aspect of a liberal arts education”—critical thinking—which helped prepare him for a successful career in law.

William Boyce White

English teacher William Boyce White Jr. Photo courtesy Sadler Poe ’67

Giving Back

After Princeton, Poe attended the University of Virginia School of Law, earning his LLB in 1971. He devoted his entire professional career to one of Atlanta’s largest law firms, Alston & Bird, where he specialized in corporate finance transactions.

A longtime supporter of Annual Giving, Poe stepped up to answer the call of the Aspire campaign by establishing the White Scholarship. “The gift tied everything together for me,” he said. “I was able to do something for this place that has done so much for me, show my appreciation for a great teacher, and help future Princeton students. I hope this gift will inspire others to replicate the experience.”