'More Than I Thought was Possible'

‘More Than I Thought Was Possible’

Haddix Scholar Tristin Taylor Looks to Pay It Forward

By Glenn Antonucci

Tristin Taylor never dreamed he’d wind up at Creighton.

Truth be told, the University wasn’t even on his radar. Not for the vast majority of his youth, despite spending most of it in the Omaha area.

That changed toward the end of his educa­tion at Omaha North High School.

Carrying a high grade-point average, with a classload heavy in advanced placement courses and an active extracurricular life steeped in football, Taylor got the attention of Christopher Wiley, ARTS’75, a guidance counselor at North.

“He was an outstanding young man,” Wiley says. “Just waiting for someone to help put things together for him.”

Wiley opened Taylor’s eyes not just to the prospect of attending Creighton — his alma mater — but also pushed the idea of taking an uncommon route to the venerable Jesuit university.

Namely, the Omaha North High School Scholarship Program, funded by the Haddix Foun­dation. Through the program, scholarships are awarded each year to a select few North High graduates.

Taylor says he went along with the idea, but he didn’t really know what to make of it. He couldn’t quite grasp attending school at a place like Creighton. It was a journey he hadn’t imagined for himself. Among his friends and teammates who were considering college, Creighton simply wasn’t in downfield view.

But gradually, the idea of aiming for Creighton — on a full ride, no less — began to take hold.

He started talking to his father about it. A career Air Force man, the elder Taylor took a practical stance on the matter.

You have to consider it, he told his son. ­Especially if it’s going to be paid for. His girlfriend’s older brother concurred. “If you can get the Haddix,” he said, “go for it.”

Go for it, he did. With encouragement from Wiley, Taylor gained acceptance to Creighton and earned one of the coveted Haddix scholarships.

He remembers when he received the double good news in the mail. His mother — also an Air Force veteran — “was ecstatic,” he says.

It wasn’t a particularly smooth transition to Creighton’s campus for Taylor, however. During his first two weeks, he wondered if he’d ever fit in. Faculty members were accommodating, he says, but doubt had crept in.

“I thought, ‘This is way different from North,’ ” he says. “ ‘I don’t know if I’m comfort­able here.’ ”

Soon, however, he got to know some of the other freshmen on his floor in Gallagher Hall. “Motivated friends,” he calls them, pursuing big goals. A different landscape than that from which he’d come.

He then joined a fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon. “That extended my group of friends a lot,” Taylor says.

And they were motivated, too.

“They embodied everything I wanted to be,” he says. “They were going to be investment bankers, things like that. They rub off on you. They pushed me to consider grad school, pushed me to achieve more than I thought was possible.”

And that, he says, was all made possible because someone believed in him.

“For the Haddixes to devote this much of their resources to me, it’s meant a lot,” Taylor says. “Someone invested in me. That’s some­thing I can’t waste. And it’s made me think more highly of myself.”

Now a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, studying economics and pre-law, Taylor has some advice for the Haddix scholars who will follow in his footsteps.

“Take advantage of the opportunity,” he says. “You don’t realize it right now, but this gift means somebody believes in you. And it will make you aim higher than you did before.”

Taylor’s aim is to attend law school, become a corporate attorney and, eventually, set up a practice in Omaha to provide legal help in the North Omaha community.

“I look at George Haddix, and I think, ‘I can’t wait to be where you’re at.’ I think that’s kind of his goal, too. To pay it forward.”