The friendship of a student and a donor

Filed Under: EARTH Stories
Date: September 27th, 2019

EARTH University is an educational space where capable young leaders from across the globe learn how to work together to generate lasting social change. For the past 30 years, EARTH has witnessed the formation of world-class friendships between people who champion its mission.

One bond involves EARTH student Edwin Rodríguez (’19, Costa Rica) and donor Mark McGahan, member of the EARTH University Foundation Board of Trustees.

Edwin Rodríguez

Edwin Rodríguez (Promoción 2019, Costa Rica)

Edwin Rodríguez (’19, Costa Rica)

Edwin Rodríguez is a young leader from Alajuela, Costa Rica, whose passion for farming was inherited from his grandfather and father – both veterans of the agricultural sector. “I really enjoy being in the field, being in contact with farmers and, in general, helping people.

Edwin is an avid mountain biker, practicing endurance and downhill cycling – sports that, similar to his studies, challenge his focus and perseverance every single day.

Edwin first heard about EARTH from Johnny Vásquez – one of his mother’s childhood friends and an early EARTH graduate (’97, Costa Rica). Johnny told Edwin about EARTH’s entrepreneurial focus as well as the experience of his cyclist friend and fellow alum Álvaro Hidalgo (’06, Costa Rica). News of someone with similar passions having excelled at EARTH stoked Edwin’s curiosity and desire to apply.

Mark McGahan

Mark McGahan is a U.S. American entrepreneur living in Atlanta with his wife and three kids. He enjoys practicing yoga, boating, fishing and – just like Edwin – helping others. His first contact with EARTH was thanks to Tim Solso, current president of the EARTH University Board of Directors. In 2013, Solso told McGahan about the meaningful work of the University and why he was committed to supporting its mission.

In 2014, upon being named to the Board of Trustees, McGahan traveled to Costa Rica to deepen his personal connection to EARTH. He so intensely enjoyed the experience of being part of the campus community that he has repeatedly visited. On some trips, he has dedicated his mornings to attending Spanish-language classes and his afternoons to mingling with students – including at work in the field! “I quickly realized just how grateful the students are for the opportunity they have to study in this unique place,” McGahan says. “Everyone is so happy and enthusiastic about taking advantage of their education and doing so not only for their personal development but also for that of their communities.

Friendship and admiration

EARTH students Edwin Rodríguez and Alfredo Vásquez (’19, Costa Rica) and Mark McGahan's family

EARTH students Edwin Rodríguez and Alfredo Vásquez (’19, Costa Rica) and Mark McGahan’s family

In 2016, Edwin started studying at EARTH thanks to a scholarship from McGahan. During McGahan’s visits to campus, the two would meet for coffee, conversing about their likes and future plans – and thus begin a sincere and thriving friendship. From that moment, they have not stopped exchanging letters and emails. “Mark is an excellent person. He is very interested in me, my family and the projects I have. Moreover, his proactivity is admirable.” Edwin says. “He always wants to help others.

Their affection and closeness with each other’s families is one of the factors that most unites them. Before traveling to Thailand in his third year for an international internship, Edwin accepted an invitation to visit McGahan and his family. Both agree that this experience helped their relationship grow even stronger.
[Edwin’s] warmth made us want him to visit us again. He is a fantastic and polite young person who is grateful for the opportunity to study at EARTH,” McGahan says. “I am very proud of Edwin. He has done excellent work in his studies.

Thanks to the unending friendship of this estadounidense (U.S. American) and his generous gifts to the University, Edwin will achieve his dream of graduating as an agricultural scientist in just a few months. He will create change through sustainable solutions that improve conditions for the people of rural communities.

When you support EARTH, you contribute directly to making change through the students, who will utilize their education to carry out important and sustainable change in our society, community and world,” McGahan says. “EARTH University students are unique in their commitment to leading the change. It is they who will be the vanguards of innovation.

Gifts made to the University enable us to recruit the most-promising young leaders to study at EARTH, regardless of their gender, origin, nationality or ability to pay.

For more information about making a gift, click here, send an email to or call +1 404-995-1230.

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