Stepping up to the Plate
The mortarboard isnt the only hat Northwestern alumni have been known to wear. Through their roles as volunteer leaders, they wear the hats of advisers, recruiters, event planners and fundraisers, making important contributions to the University.
Their contributions come in the form of hours spent visiting and interviewing prospective students, organizing regional club events, opening their homes for alumni get-togethers, planning class reunions, advising the deans of their schools and assisting the Northwestern Alumni Association with its programs in many other ways.
Mark Ledogar (S89) didnt hesitate to volunteer for the NAA. "Northwestern is very much a part of the fabric of who I am," he says. "It feels natural to give back to the University and help out in any way I can."
From the NAAs perspective, such assistance is a precious commodity. "You just cant put a price on the talent and the enormous value our volunteers bring to the University," says Catherine Stembridge (GS00), NAA executive director.
Both on and off campus, hundreds of alumni volunteers actively work with the NAA as the organization expands its programs and extends its reach to alumni around the globe. Many of them, like Ledogar, have been involved for years, first by taking on simple tasks and progressing to leadership positions within the NAA.
Ledogars call to serve came shortly after graduation, when David Zarefsky (S68, GS69, 74), then dean of the School of Speech, recruited him for the schools alumni advisory board. That led to involvement in the alumni admissions council and then to the NAA, where Ledogar has been serving for the past six years. Currently he is secretary to the NAAs board of directors and also lends his professional expertise in marketing and communications strategy to the NAA awards celebration by coordinating the staging and audiovisual productionof the presentations.
What keeps Ledogar involved is the ongoing opportunity to learn how University and volunteer organizations are run from alumni leaders he admires both personally and professionally. "Its not every day that you can interact with people who are as intellectually stimulating, creative and accomplished as these individuals are," he says. "To pass up an opportunity like that would be a great loss to me."
Newer volunteers like Jeff McCullock (WCAS98) and Quan Mac Gerville-Reache (S98) of the San Diego Young Alumni Club also network and develop their professional skills through their NAA participation. They became active last spring after attending an NU Club of San Diego dinner featuring Northwestern President Henry S. Bienen. With financial support from the local alumni club and administrative help from the alumni relations staff, McCullock organized the areas first young alumni event, a trip to a San Diego Padres baseball game in August, while Gerville-Reache coordinated the clubs new student welcome in the same month.
"Sometimes when I get involved with a new organization, I jump in and feel lost," says McCullock. "But I felt comfortable with the NAA because I had so much help and knew what to expect."
That help comes in a number of ways. The NAA also provides alumni leaders, regardless of their experience level, guidance from their counterparts in other parts of the country at its annual leadership conferences on the Evanston campus in the fall (postponed this year because of the disruption caused by the World Trade Center attack) and in other parts of the country during the winter.
The NAA also provides online advice and resources to assist with club startups and event planning as well as personal guidance from members of the alumni relations department staff.
The combination of personal and online support is making it possible for 50th reunion co-chairs Ray Evans (SESP52) and Jerri Kreiger Fowler (S52) to organize the class of 1952s reunion both from their homes in the Chicago suburbs, where they live half the year, and from their out-of-state residences.
Evans, a former president of the NU Club of Chicago, co-chair of his 35th class reunion and board member of the John Evans Club, says his desire to stay involved with Northwestern just comes naturally. "What keeps me coming back is the pride I have for the University Im proud to represent the school and give back for the education and success Ive received."