College Friends

Paul & Leslie Ridley-Tree “How can anyone expect leaders to emerge from the various communities unless they’re given the advantage of a first-rate education?”

When you fly on a 747, an almost infinite number of things have to function perfectly—from the giant engines to the tiniest rivets. The miracle of flight depends on quality control and decisions made by qualified, capable people. Recognizing the human quotient in any operation allowed Paul Ridley-Tree to create one of the world’s most successful aeronautics companies: Pacific Air Industries supplies parts to nearly every major airline. But Paul, and his thoroughly energizing wife Leslie, have taken their insistence on quality—and preparing quality people—into many arenas beyond business. The arts and countless drug abuse and social programs have benefitted from the Ridley-Tree’s determination to make a better world. And they have touched many lives taking shape at SMC with their endowment of a $500,000 scholarship fund. But it begs the question: Why, given their status and success, do they concern themselves with the lives of those who have far less?

“Dignity is the foundation of our value system,” responds Leslie. “How can you not wish a life of accomplishment for all other people, providing they’re willing to work for it? We believe in tithing, and doing the work ourselves, in the hope that others will follow.” Adds Paul, “I’ve spoken with a lot of exciting people at SMC—those who go out to recruit youngsters and bring them into a place where they can improve their lives. In a lot of cases,” he continues, “they’re allowing good families with little money the opportunity to send their children to school. Not every school can afford to do this.”

“And not every school has the zest and focus that make it possible,” adds Leslie. “But I think that young people at the college are really getting the message that if your life has been hard, if you don’t make it the first time, just keep working at it. There are loads of good people that SMC is helping along the way,” she continues. “And we must believe in the college ourselves: we’ve got two grandchildren who’ve been through the program at SMC. And they have nothing but good to say about it.”

Read more stories from present and past years in the SMC Student Spotlight Archive.