Paying It Forward


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In the midst of the snowy winter of 1980, Professor Vasco de Jesus Rodrigues ’83 began his undergraduate education in Providence. Despite the New England weather, the Johnson & Wales community warmly welcomed the international student from Brazil. “My professors were dedicated to providing for intellectual and professional enrichment in a perfect setting for personal growth,” he recalls. “Such a nurturing environment prepared me to face ever-new challenges on a daily basis, leading me to attain quite a few remarkable achievements as a foreign student.”

Rodrigues seized the academic and professional opportunities at Johnson & Wales. A regular on the Dean’s List, he founded a soccer team for the College of Business and was elected president of the International Club. He interned in the Rhode Island House of Representatives and with Senator Claiborne Pell in his Washington, D.C., office.

Giving back is a way of thanking my professors and JWU staff for their support. Without them, success would have never knocked at my door. Vasco de Jesus Rodrigues ’83
Vasco de Jesus Rodrigues ’83 and Senator Claiborne Pell

After earning an associate and a bachelor’s degree from the College of Business, Rodrigues set his sights on the world stage. He would go on to earn a master’s degree, a bachelor’s degree in law and a doctorate in international law. He joined numerous professional societies, including the American Society of International Law, the American Bar Association, the Scott Polar Institute at the University of Cambridge (UK), the Sao Paulo Press Union and the Sao Paolo Nurses Union — to name a few.

He became a professor of international law in 1998 in his native Brazil, and served as an independent consultant to the United Nations in 2003. He has been recognized around the globe for his education and advocacy work, including the 2019 Pamela Young Lifetime Achievement Award for his service to the Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, a simulation of a fictional dispute between countries before the International Court of Justice.

In October 2019, he returned to the place that helped chart his trajectory as a scholar, teacher, volunteer and philanthropist. “Being able to set foot once again at my beloved campus was such a joyful experience,” says Rodrigues. Always one to embrace the next generation, he graciously contributed $5,000 to benefit Wildcats in their areas of greatest need. “Giving back,” Rodrigues explains, “is a way of thanking my professors and JWU staff for their support. Without them, success would have never knocked at my door.”

As our resourceful students continue to solve problems, serve our communities and innovate during an uncharted time of global crisis, you too can support their immediate needs by making a gift of any amount to the JWU Emergency Fund.


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