Discover more stories in our Alumni Chronicles Magazine!
By Michael Feder
It’s always exciting to see how University of Phoenix (UOPX) alumni use their degrees to pursue their goals and accomplish their dreams. Each alumnus has their own story that took them to a UOPX degree and beyond.
In some cases, “beyond” looks a little unexpected.
Here, we highlight two such stories. First up, we take a deep dive into the story of alumnus Kevin Saucier and how he used his business degree to turn his expansive collection of Titanic relics into a business. Then we visit Byron Davenport, an American expat and TV chef extraordinaire.
Kevin Saucier (Bachelor of Science in Business Management, 2014)
The tragic sinking of the Titanic in 1912 still captures the attention and imagination of many people today. For some, this has become a passion. For Kevin Saucier, it’s both a passion and a business.
Asked why he thought the Titanic disaster stirs public sentiment more than a century later, Saucier says, “It’s a story everyone can relate to. It’s got love, fear, tragedy. … It’s really the perfect story.”
The origins of his collecting interest can be traced back to baseball cards during his childhood in California. In fact, it was while working a job determining the value of sports cards that he saw an opportunity to expand this interest. He noticed someone selling jars of what was purported to be Elvis Presley’s hair. Not only were they selling, but they were making a fortune.
Though he had no interest in getting into the Elvis hair trade, Saucier was interested in doing business with collectors and enthusiasts. When he saw Titanic textile material up for auction, he jumped at the opportunity.
Saucier’s interest in the material was strictly commercial at first. Yet, as the success of his business grew, so too did his passion for the Titanic disaster and the stories of those on board.
“Every serious collector has one person [on the Titanic] that they gravitate toward,” Saucier says. “There’s always one.”
For Saucier, it’s passenger Richard Norris Williams II, a championship tennis player who lost his father as the ship sank. Though he nearly had to undergo an amputation from frostbite, Williams recovered. He went on to win a U.S. Open Tennis Championship within a year, which kicked off a successful sports career.
Saucier with Titanic director James Cameron and explorer Robert Ballard, the man who discovered the Titanic wreckage.
Though Saucier was able to grow his business at a steady rate, he wanted more. He decided to pursue a business degree at University of Phoenix. He had two college-age kids at the time, and part of him wanted to prove to them that he could easily complete his degree. He was mistaken.
“I was working twice as hard as my kids, who were attending a brick-and-mortar university,” Saucier says, laughing. The rigor of the program lit a fire for Saucier, who threw himself into his schoolwork.
At the time, Saucier’s wife was terminally ill with cancer, and there was a good chance she wouldn’t see him receive his diploma. Determined that she see him graduate, he started doubling his classes and “testing out” of general education courses as much as he could. Sadly, she passed in April 2014, two months before his original June graduation date.
When he graduated, it was a feat devoted in large part to her.
Saucier went on to use his degree to grow his business as well as his collection. Even among avid Titanic collectors, Saucier and his collection stand out. It includes chairs from the deck of the ship, sheet music from the ship’s violinist, game boards made from repurposed Titanic driftwood — and that’s just scratching the surface.
Saucier’s collection has been a special exhibit at a number of prestigious locations, such as the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and the National Geographic Museum. Through his success, he’s also been able to meet and discuss the topic with Titanic film director James Cameron and the man who discovered the Titanic wreckage, Robert Ballard.
Saucier’s passion for the Titanic may have driven his business venture, but the Titanic is not his only love. Saucier also purchased the world’s most expensive collectible matchbook (featuring Charles Lindbergh) and is a professional bowler.
His biggest role, however, may be as an example of how education and a good deal of determination can help grow and sustain a passion.
Want to learn more about business degrees at UOPX? Click here for more info!
Byron Davenport (Master of Business Administration, 2010)
Our next UOPX alumnus, Byron Davenport, comes at his work with that same kind of passion and energy. Through his Werito Show International Network (WISN), he helps small restaurants and businesses reach an international audience.
Davenport himself is a chef, a role for which he has a deep-rooted passion. Born in Texas, Davenport promised his mother at an early age to “showcase her love around the world.” Stricken with multiple sclerosis, Davenport’s mother was bedridden for much of his childhood. Still, she instilled a love and positivity that Davenport has carried with him throughout his life and his work.
Spending much of his childhood living in Mexico, he learned how love and positivity could bring people together, despite their differences. Though he was a different race from his neighbors and other students, his positivity made him many friends. It was in Mexico that he learned how to speak Spanish, a skill that would help him in his future work in the Peruvian culinary world.
After a stint in the military where he was deployed around the world, Davenport returned to the United States to look for work. Despite the skills and experience he had built up in the military, as well as his fluency in Spanish, he found his options for employment were limited.
It was then that Davenport began working toward building his education credentials. He earned a bachelor's degree in business before moving to Peru to pursue his passion for cooking. Throughout it all, his positivity and work ethic shined through.
“You’ve got to work hard in this life to get somewhere,” Davenport says.
In culinary school, Davenport developed his idea for a television show that would combine his infectious positivity with a love for cuisine. He had the opportunity to pitch a TV show to a Peruvian television network and sold the executives on the idea of a program that would showcase local restaurants and business to an international audience.
It was important to Davenport to make something that would build bridges between communities and “take away the assumptions that we’re not all the same.”
This idea grew into what it is today: The Werito Show. (The name comes from a nickname given to him by his childhood friends in Mexico.)
Through this program, Davenport connects small restaurants and businesses with potential customers. Restaurants from both the United States and Peru, as well as other Central American and South American countries, have worked with Davenport to get their names out there.
Davenport credits his MBA program at University of Phoenix with a huge part of his success. Through the challenging and rewarding classes and projects, Davenport learned many of the skills he’s used to grow his business. For example, working with a group to complete a project, he learned to collaborate with people from all walks of life.
“You interact with so many people of so many different cultures, so many different steps of life that you wouldn’t necessarily see at a traditional college,” he explains.
Davenport looks ahead to growing his network further, spreading his passion and positivity to others along the way. It’s a recipe that’s brought him plenty of success so far.
Is an MBA your next step? Explore options at University of Phoenix!
Interested in learning more about our alumni? Hear how Dr. Stephen More helps others from Nigeria to Dallas as part of our Alumni Chronicles!
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