‘Keep an open mind about what’s possible’: Hamilton native who rose from poor Badin student donates $1M to college

Former Hamilton resident Eric Broyles now lives in the Washington, D.C., area, but he’s so fond of the University of Cincinnati and its Blue Ash campus that he donated a record $1 million to the campus.

His gift goes to the Eric C. Broyles Student Success Scholarship Fund, which will help UC Blue Ash students who plan to pursue bachelor’s degrees at UC’s Uptown campus.

Broyles, now 50, far exceeded expectations at UC, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1992. The student who finished near the bottom of the Class of 1987 at Badin High School rose to the top at UC, with help from mentors and two key scholarships that gave him confidence he could do it.

While attending UC Blue Ash in his first year, “I probably worked 45-50 hours a week,” on top the studies, he said. He sold garage doors, and one summer installed them. While he worked there, AE Door founder Bill Weber insisted on seeing his report cards.

He was so successful in college despite the grueling schedule that he graduated summa cum laude, delivered UC’s 1992 valedictory speech and was recognized as the most outstanding business student in that class.

When he was in school, “my church, Israel Baptist Church (in Hamilton), gave me a $500 scholarship, and it was really helpful to me in my first year,” he said. He later got a scholarship from the Kroger Co. for $5,000, “and those were very pivotal gifts for me, just for encouragement, and it gave me the ability to focus more on my studies, as opposed to just surviving.”

So now he’s giving back financially to young people like he was. He mentors students in the Washington area and here during quarterly visits to Blue Ash.

“I was given mentorship, training, coaching and support by a number of people,” Broyles said. “I think it would be selfish of me not to continue in the very tradition that propelled me to my current status in life.”

He earned a law degree from the University of Virginia and became a corporate attorney for 10 years. Broyles now owns and invests in several companies in the professional services, health-care and real-estate areas, mostly with successful entrepreneurs he helped in their companies’ early stages. He also is on the Board of Trustees for the UC Foundation.

“UC Blue Ash played such a significant role in me being where I currently am that I’m committed to supporting that institution,” he said. The campus is especially helpful for students like him who struggled in high school and aren’t immediately ready for four-year college, he said.

UC President Neville G. Pinto said of Broyles: “He understands the importance of scholarships, and his generosity will help many students pursue their dreams and achieve academic and personal success.”

The son of the late Howard Broyles Sr., a 37-year employee of Armco Steel (later AK Steel), and Clara Broyles has a sister, Regina Wilkinson, and several other relatives in Hamilton. Samy Broyles, executive director of the Booker T. Washington Community Center, is a cousin.

His recommendation to Butler County students today who may not have had great academic success: “I would advise them to keep an open mind and explore all of their options. Don’t write off any institution or potential opportunity…. Keep an open mind about what’s possible. I would say that about all aspects of your life.”

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