From Magnetic Resonators To Ziploc Bags

The first one at the office on this crisp spring morning, Roskam leads his guests through a dimly lit maze of brown partitions, through cubby-hole offices where most of the day-to-day work is conducted by EAL staff. Roskam’s office is smallish, little different from the rest.

Muffled voices outside Roskam’s closed door indicate that office workers are gearing up for the day’s duties. Letters will be sent in an effort to gain increased college participation. Full-and part-time employees will pore over inventory and mailing lists, and vie for precious time on the office’s one computer. Workers will follow leads on needed merchandise. There could be a few successes: New schools may agree to participate, for example. And there may be some failures: A corporate contact or two will undoubtedly be too busy to consider making a donation. “If you want to go after something,” reflects Roskam, “you just keep plugging and you keep plugging and you keep plugging.”

To call Swede Roskam determined borders on understatement. His son, Peter, EAL’s executive director, says, “Dad will call my answering machine at three o’clock in the morning and leave a message. He’ll ask, ‘What do you think of this or that idea?’ ” This dogged persistence has led to some significant breakthroughs for Roskam and his staff: Time magazine has given them thousands of dollars’ worth of free advertising; Dow Chemical has recently covered the high cost of an EAL public-service television spot; and there are, of course, the countless donations of goods from major corporations, including something as sophisticated as a nuclear magnetic resonator to items as ordinary as Ziploc storage bags.

Reflecting On Success

When Swede Roskam ...

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