Building on a Strong Foundation
Chris Lai sees life as a journey—not one destination, but many, and so much to discover and share along the way.
Lai began Vanderbilt as an undergraduate in engineering, but soon switched to Peabody, where he completed the Human and Organizational Development program in hopes of pursuing a career in athletics training.
“Peabody was the perfect fit for me,” said the Wisconsin native, who participated in the rugby and rowing teams, in addition to working as a student athletic trainer. Building on his Peabody experience, he earned a master’s degree in health, physical education and recreation at Murray State University, followed by a job as an intern trainer for the New York Jets.
“It was a great experience, but I couldn’t see a future in it—it felt too limiting,” Lai says. But that realization didn’t concern Lai.
“HOD gave me the opportunity to explore my strengths and weaknesses and develop my skills to go in any direction I wanted to,” he explains. “I used those skills to evaluate where
I was and where I wanted to go, and realized that the next step was getting an MBA.”
He did just that at the University of New Hampshire and then quickly climbed the ranks at State Street, a financial services provider. He now oversees an internal software platform and credits his formative years at Peabody for his rewarding career in finance.
“The program prepared me for a solid future—it really transformed me into who I am today,” he says. “That’s what’s really great about HOD—it gives you the skills to succeed in life, no matter where it takes you.”
Lai has served as president of the Vanderbilt alumni chapter in Boston in hopes of giving back to the place where his career path began. “My time at Vanderbilt was meaningful,” he says. “And I wanted to share in the camaraderie and reach out to those coming along after me.”
The desire to give back was instilled in Lai by his parents, Helen and Joseph, who established the Lai Family Foundation Scholarship in 2002 to benefit Peabody undergraduates with a proven financial need.
“My parents taught my brother and me that education is the one thing that no one can take away from you. You can lose all your money but no one can take away what you have learned,” he says.
“We want others to have the opportunity we had: to get a quality education.”