A Seat at the Table

From their time on the Black Student Forum as BC undergraduates to their volunteer and philanthropic leadership on the AAAC, CWBC, Reunion committees, and more, Tanji ’86 and Bob ’88 Marshall, P’17 remain steadfast in advocating for Eagles of color.

Tanji ’86 and Bob ’88 Marshall, P’17

“That’s when it clicked,” recalls Bob, of the time when tragedy struck in his first year as an RA at Boston College. Overwhelmed and grieving the death of one of his residents, he was surprised to see the University’s Director of Housing Bob Capalbo join him in the hospital waiting room. “The love and support me and my residents received has impacted me for the rest of my life,” he says, his voice slow and measured.

As president of BC’s chapter of the NAACP, Bob took note of the personal nature of University Leadership’s response to the crisis. “When we got back to the dorm, [University President] Father [Donald] Monan was walking the floor, consoling students. The assistant director of housing talked to students in my room, Father Jack Dineen was floating around. Father [William B.] Neenan stopped me to see ‘how the boys were holding up.’”

For Bob, that tragic incident clarified something he and his wife, Tanji, have carried into their work, service, and philanthropy ever since: every student deserves that kind of care and investment.

After graduating from Boston College, Bob and Tanji each moved back to their hometown of Hackensack, New Jersey, and founded Project Uplift, a community-based small business dedicated to tutoring and mentoring the children of working parents on Saturday mornings.

“To me, that’s when we started living out what BC teaches—about being men and women for others,” Bob says. “Not that it crossed our minds at the time. We just saw a need and moved to fill it, and the community—from the parents to the school system and the Board of Education—had our back.” 

“When we’re making decisions,” says Tanji, “we need to put an empty chair at the table and ask ourselves, ‘who isn’t sitting here?'”

Even as their Saturday mornings no longer involve wrangling 30-plus children for tutoring sessions, the Marshalls’ passion for equity in education continues to this day. “When we’re making decisions,” says Tanji, “we need to put an empty chair at the table and ask ourselves, ‘who isn’t sitting here?’” 

In 2013, they attended the AHANA Leadership Summit, and soon after were asked to join the executive committee of the newly formed AHANA Alumni Advisory Council (AAAC). Today, Bob is chair of AAAC and a member of the Board of Regents; Tanji is a member of the AAAC and the Council for Women of Boston College (CWBC), and plays an active role in Reunion fundraising. She is also a founding member of the AAAC and previously served on the Executive Committee.

Together, they’ve led the way with their support of financial aid and AHANA scholarships at the Heights. Their goals: advocate on behalf of current and future Eagles of color, strengthen the relationship between BC and AHANA alumni, and “use consistent and ongoing giving to make our voices heard and appreciated,” Tanji says.

“As AHANA alumni, we’ve got to be willing to give our time, talent, and treasure to help BC AHANA students today and in 2030,” says Bob. “If BC has been of no value to us—professionally, educationally, personally—then so be it. But if we said ‘yes’ to one of those things, we have a responsibility to give back.”

Since the formation of the AAAC, Bob and Tanji have been encouraged by the commitment and energy they’ve been able to generate among AHANA alumni, as well as the progress they’ve driven as a group at the University. They’ve seen the giving capacity grow significantly, and the number of AHANA members on the Board of Trustees increased considerably in that time. 

“As a Black man, my presence among BC alumni is important,” Bob says. “Tanji, as a Black woman with a PhD, her presence is important. And as a family at BC—with our daughter, Aerin—our presence is important. When we sit in a room, we have an important perspective to share, and we need to be heard when we do.”

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