In the spring of 1961, when Nick Cervera and his best friend Al Sansone arrived in Troy, Alabama, to study at then-Troy State Teachers College, they found a very different world than the home left behind in Brooklyn, New York.
Cervera jokes that when they arrived at Troy’s only blinking traffic light they thought perhaps they had arrived at the outskirts of town. They drove on, only to find themselves in the middle of nowhere.
“Turns out we were right in the middle of town,” Cererva said with a laugh.
Before making the trip down to Alabama inside Al’s 1952 Oldsmobile, Cervera recalls good times growing up in the Big Apple, including watching the Giants play or taking the subway to Madison Square Garden to watch the Rangers. But before long, many of Cervera’s friends from Brooklyn were finding themselves in trouble, including prison. Looking for a better path, Cervera and Al began researching colleges out of state, and were recommended TROY by a friend who had come to Alabama to play college basketball.
Although they’d never heard of Troy, and barely knew where Alabama was, the friends soon made the long drive down Highway 29, to what was then called Troy State Teachers College. In Troy they found not only a change of pace, Cervera said, but a changed life.
“I look at this institution as being my salvation, on this earth anyway,” Cervera said.
Cervera completed his undergraduate degree and went on to law school in Birmingham, but soon enough his path brought him back to TROY, first as an assistant business professor and later as the University’s attorney. In all he’s worked at TROY for more than 50 years, and has witnessed changes both great and small. But the one constant has been Cervera’s desire to give back to the University he credits with changing his life.
“I really feel like I owe something to this institution,” Cervera said. “Whatever I’ve accomplished in life, it is greatly attributable to [TROY].”
In addition to being a committed donor to Athletics, Cervera has endowed five scholarships, all named in honor of family and friends: the Rose Marie Cervera Endowed Scholarship, the Rose Patalano Endowed Scholarship, the Joseph and Josephine Cervera Endowed Scholarship, the Richard Frank Cervera Endowed Scholarship and the Chi Yon Kim “Ms. Kimmy” Endowed Scholarship.
“They are all named in honor of people that meant a lot to me, including my parents and my brother,” he said.
The scholarships are a legacy that not only honors loved ones, but helps a future generation of students experience the life-changing power of a TROY degree.
“For me, I just feel like when someone has given to you, you give back,” Cervera said. “That’s what I want to be.”