Scholarship founded in memory of grad student

Friends, classmates hope to raise $25,000 by end of the year for memorial fund

UTD business alumni are honoring a cherished classmate who died on Jun. 7 in a boating accident at Grapevine Lake, just two weeks after completing his MBA.

Professors and peers described Ruben “Ben” Mesa as memorable for his booming laughter and commitment to causes he cared about.

Mesa’s death came as a shock to those around him.

“It just wasn’t the same after he wasn’t there,” Jeff Steele, a former classmate and friend, said. “He was one of those people (whose) personality drove the class.”

The cohort that he was a part of created The Ruben Mesa Memorial Scholarship — which has raised over $8,000 in its first two weeks — to commemorate their classmate.

The scholarship will be open to full-time graduate or undergraduate students with at least 10 years of professional experience and is expected to launch in the spring of 2017.

The scholarship committee hopes to reach its goal of raising $25,000 by Dec. 31.

Pamela Foster Brady — who was also one of Mesa’s professors — recalled an instance in which the MBA cohort was preparing for a study trip to Istanbul. News reports suddenly emerged indicating the possibility of political strife in surrounding regions before the trip.

“Students were very anxious, so we had a class meeting to ease their concerns,” she said. “Then Ben stood up. He said, ‘Pamela, have you already booked your tickets?’ And I said ‘Yes, Ben, we have,’ and he said, ‘That does it, I’m going.’”

Mesa then grabbed his backpack and left the meeting. Half the class followed him.

“That just kind of gives you a picture of his own leadership style,” she said.

Mesa’s leadership tendencies also extended to his family. He left behind a fiancée, JoAnne Blanchette, and two sons, Zachary and Aiden.

Blanchette said Mesa always did his best to spend time with his loved ones.

“Ben really was bigger than life,” Blanchette  said. “His presence just brought so much. His sons were his world. Every day he made sure to call his old friends just to touch base and make sure they were okay.”

While Mesa was very successful in his accounting career, it was never the main focus in his life.

“He made all the little things in life matter,” Blanchette said. “In today’s society when we see individuals there’s always an ulterior motive. Ben always proved real with his integrity and honor. He genuinely wanted the best for people. He was an honorable man, a family man.”

As far as the community impact, Mesa’s death has rekindled old friendships.

“When things like this happen, you need a way to get grief out of the way,” Steele said. “Usually after graduating, people go in their different directions … but if anything, it brought (the cohort) back together.”

Whether as a student, professional or father, those who were around Mesa said he brought value to the lives of others.

“To me, untapped potential best describes Ben,” Foster Brady said. “He was a special guy and I think it was a reality check for our cohort to love life while you’re here.”

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