Thomas Foussé Pays it Forward

Thomas also credits his wife, Vanusa, for pushing him in philanthropy. Their current philanthropic initiative focuses on financing the education of students in Vanusa's native Brazil.

 Thomas and Vanusa Fousse
It was almost 21 years ago that Thomas Foussé MBA '94 sat in the Duke University chapel listening to the commencement speaker and taking pictures with his parents—the culmination of a great experience at Duke. From the moment Thomas stepped foot on campus, even prior to enrollment, he felt welcomed. For Thomas, Fuqua was an environment amassed with the pure pleasure of an educational experience, a bubble rich with intellect of both students and faculty. According to Thomas, the intellectual capital afforded by an American institution like Fuqua provided a unique experience unrivaled by universities in his native Europe.

Thomas, who resides in London, has stayed actively engaged with Fuqua despite the distance from campus. He is a member of Fuqua's European Regional Advisory Board, often serves as a speaker during Cross Continent and Global Executive MBA residencies in London, and supports the school philanthropically.

Thomas' career has taken him to unexpected places, and he credits Fuqua for opening his horizons and helping him expand his career beyond financial services in France. Fuqua led him to a position at Merrill Lynch, which allowed him to expand into private equity, and later the Carlyle Group where he met financier and philanthropist David Rubenstein '70. In addition to being a Duke alumnus, a steadfast philanthropic supporter of Duke, and Chairman of Duke's Board of Trustees, Rubenstein is also the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, one of the largest private equity firms in the world. With a philanthropic track record like Rubenstein's as an example, it is no surprise that Thomas' philosophy on helping others evolved and expanded.

"Most are good people, but it's about taking that extra step," says Thomas.

"Support of institutions, like Duke and Fuqua, that develop the skills of those seeking to make a positive impact is an important part of building long-term growth and sustainability," says Rubenstein. "I am thrilled that Thomas, as a member of the Carlyle family and fellow Duke alumnus, has built his support of Fuqua and other worthwhile initiatives—support that shows the leadership he is providing our company, his alma mater and the philanthropic world at large."

Thomas considers himself a lucky guy. He has his health, a wonderful family, and a job that he loves with a boss and mentor who has changed the way he lives his life. Although the level of Thomas' generosity was inspired by Rubenstein, his personal call to action came from his hope of helping people better their lives to the point that they don't need his help anymore, whether it be health care, shelter, or education.

"Charities are a way to create something sustainable; they allow their donors to have an impact long after the donor is gone."

For the last two years, Thomas' philanthropic and volunteer focus has been on homeless shelters in London and providing better education in Africa by stewarding funds, visiting schools, and conducting research. His firsthand experience with charities gave him an appreciation and passion for helping those who work in the non-profit sector. He knows not only how hard individuals in this sector work, but also how important the work of highly skilled staff is to various communities. To ensure that those with top business skills and a passion for social change can fulfill their ambitions, Thomas made a commitment of $300,000 to establish an endowment to support Fuqua's Loan Assistance Program in 2013. The Thomas Foussé Loan Assistance Fund will help mitigate the student loan debt of Fuqua alumni who pursue career paths in non-profit and government sectors.

Thomas recalls first learning about Fuqua's Loan Assistance Program from Dean Bill Boulding. "The idea that I could help alleviate the burden of student loans so that a graduate can pursue his or her career path of choice really appealed to me," says Thomas. "By establishing an endowed fund for loan assistance, I can help ensure that graduates are able to pursue careers in social impact and non-profits without concern for the amount of money they make or whether or not they can pay off their student loans."

Despite the fact that Thomas didn't require financial assistance to attend Fuqua, he recognizes the critical role that financial assistance can play for other students in choosing a school and, ultimately, a career path. As a result, Thomas decided to endow the Foussé Family Global Scholarship Fund in 2006 in the amount of $100,000, and the Thomas Foussé Scholarship Fund in 2013 in the amount of $300,000. The former endowment has already distributed more than $50,000 in scholarship assistance for Fuqua students since 2007.

Thomas attests that had he been in a different environment at a different school, things may not have turned out the same. Ultimately, Thomas gives to Fuqua because he wants the money to go to a place that fosters better education and better students to make an impact not only at Fuqua, but also in the world. According to Thomas, Fuqua is special because of its atmosphere and culture—rich in community, accountability, and team work.

Although Thomas has graduated from Fuqua, he continues not only to carry these values with him, but also impart those same values onto others by paying it forward. Thomas sums up his philanthropy quite eloquently:

"At the end of the day, everyone needs to find their own path to how they approach philanthropy, whether it is in the form of time or money. Giving money is easy; it's the people who give time without any recognition that do all of the hard work. Volunteering your time and really getting your hands dirty isn't glamorous, but societies wouldn't function without those people. Nor would they function without the generosity of donors." Thomas fondly recalls his time at Fuqua as "two years of living the dream." A dream that he now gets to pass on to other students through his philanthropy.