Lifting Others a World Away
PROVO, Utah – Jul 19, 2021 – In 1984, a young Colby Wright watched the BYU football team win the national championship after beating the University of Michigan in the Holiday Bowl. Watching the team’s improbable run to the top proved to be an inspiring catalyst in Wright’s life as he later attended BYU. Years later, Wright is now back at BYU as a professor of finance at the BYU Marriott School of Business, though not because of his love for the football team, but because of the exceptional students he works with on a regular basis. He is also grateful for the character principles BYU Marriott is built on, which he strives to live by running a nonprofit for higher education in the Philippines.
After being awed by BYU football’s national championship run, Wright knew he wanted to attend BYU. He would eventually graduate from BYU Marriott in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Not long after graduation, Wright started to think more seriously about the direction in which he wanted his life to go. Upon reflecting on his interests, Wright felt a switch of emphasis would better suit his desires and future career path, so he furthered his education by studying finance, an area he had enjoyed while taking accounting classes. He graduated with a PhD in the finance field from Florida State University in 2007.
After receiving his PhD, Wright accepted a job teaching finance at Central Michigan University, and while he loved his time there, he jumped at the opportunity to return to Provo in 2012. Wright says teaching the finance students at BYU Marriott has been a blessing. “One of the reasons returning to BYU appealed to me was the chance to come back and work with some of the most motivated, brightest, best, and devoted students,” Wright explains. “I think the world of these individuals.”
Wright believes the collective sum of strengths at BYU and BYU Marriott are what make the school unique, including what he describes as students’ commitment to developing in all areas of life. “When you add up all the variables, BYU Marriott has a confluence of highly unique factors,” Wright says. “The school has an incredible student body who try to live their lives the right way.”
In addition to watching his students make their marks in the classroom, Wright also strives to live his own life according to the values he holds dear. Along with his family and a few former church missionary companions, he runs the Philippines Collegiate and Vocational Fund, a nonprofit that helps impoverished Filipino youth receive higher education. Wright and his wife, Misty, both served miss ions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Philippines. The inspiration for the nonprofit came after the couple took their family to the country and visited one of Wright’s former mission areas, Bagac, Bataan, nearly thirty years after he had been a missionary in the city.
“I thought, give an area thirty years, and the place is going to grow and strengthen,” Wright says. “I was completely mistaken; the area still struggles with intense poverty.” The local Latter-day Saint congregation leader in the city told Wright about the hardships families experienced in Bagac. One such situation was a single mother of four who made money shelling cashews. Her eldest child moved to Manila to start earning additional income for the family shortly before the mother was diagnosed with brain cancer. The mother joined her son in Manila for cancer treatment she could not afford, leaving three teenage daughters to live alone at home. Disaster followed the family further as a flood soon washed their house away.
The heartbreak of hearing this and other stories led Wright to talk to some of his missionary companions about the ongoing issues in Bagac. After these conversations, Wright and his wife were inspired to start a nonprofit to help the families in the area. “We came home, and I told my wife, ‘I lived in that town, I know these people, and they are suffering. If we come home from that trip, and all we do is think, ‘Oh, that's too bad,’ I am not sure we can truly look ourselves in the mirror and call ourselves Christians,’” Wright remembered saying.
After brainstorming, Wright and his wife decided to focus their nonprofit on higher education so impoverished youth in Bagac can find better jobs and break the poverty cycle while providing for their families. Wright says his wife was a huge help in the creation of the nonprofit, as she used the skills she learned from her BYU Marriott MPA degree to help start the organizational side of their venture.
Wright feels thankful for his experiences working with BYU Marriott students and his ability to make a difference for people half a world away. While not a member of the BYU football team, Wright hopes that his work in the classroom and the Philippines will inspire his students and others, just as he was inspired as a child. “I hope when people find out about our nonprofit, they think to themselves, ‘I see Colby trying to do some good in the world and trying to do what Jesus did. Maybe I could do something too.’”
Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Mike Miller