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NAA Ushers in New Leaders

The Northwestern Alumni Association’s new president, Alan Wolfson (McC80), plans to focus his term on membership and mentoring.


As an industrial engineering major, Alan Wolfson (McC80) learned to see the world through the systems in which it operates. As an entrepreneur and alumni leader, he learned the value of building partnerships. Now as the NAA’s 2006–08 president, he’ll be combining those experiences to maximize the benefits of alumni participation.

Wolfson officially began his new role in October at the NAA’s annual meeting, held this year as part of the NAA Leadership Symposium. Wolfson, whose NAA service includes terms as treasurer, president of the NU Club of South Florida and co-chair of his 25th class reunion, says he has learned a valuable lesson from his NAA leadership experiences. “If you have a good idea, the passion to see it through, and you take the time to build partnerships, you can effect change in the NAA.”

A Florida native and resident of Golden Beach, Wolfson was first introduced to Northwestern when he competed in a debate tournament on campus as a high school student. He has fond memories of seeing his first snowfall while on campus, working in food service at Shepard Residential College and advising students as a Bobb Hall resident assistant.

He earned an undergraduate degree in industrial engineering from Northwestern and an MBA from the University of Chicago. He currently heads TradeSource, a Hallandale Beach, Fla.-based company that arranges corporate barter transactions. He founded TradeSource in 1993. Wolfson says he’ll be drawing upon his educational and entrepreneurial experience in his current term.

“Engineering teaches that if you don’t measure your inputs and outputs, you don’t have a sustainable organization,” Wolfson explains. “The Northwestern Alumni Association needs to continue to generate growing, measurable, sustainable results, and I am confident that we will.”

Wolfson credits immediate past president Rich Dean (EB69) and his predecessors for fulfilling the organization’s 1996 strategic plan that restructured the NAA board, increased awareness of the NAA and its activities, strengthened the partnership between the alumni and the University and established target rates of alumni participation.

“The NAA has matured tremendously as a result of Rich’s leadership and the vision of those who served before him,” Wolfson said. “Not only have they built strong alliances between alumni, students, faculty and University administration, but they’ve also guided the organization through dramatic changes in programming and technology that have extended the NAA’s reach further than ever before.”

To build on those achievements, Wolfson says he would like the NAA to examine its membership base and provide services to alumni to meet their individual needs and interests at each point in their lives.

Bringing new volunteers to the association is another goal. Dean says Wolfson is just the person to make that happen. “Having observed Alan over the years as a club leader and an NAA officer, I’ve found that he’s a splendid mentor. He’s been great at bringing newly involved alumni into our fold and keeping them active.”

Last year, as co-chair of his class’s 25th reunion, Wolfson demonstrated his leadership style and his commitment to alumni support of the University by guiding a committee that surpassed its reunion attendance and gift goals. (The class raised a total of $1.4 million.)

David Dahlberg (WCAS80), like many 25th reunion committee members, hadn’t known Wolfson as an undergraduate, but the two soon became friends during monthly planning conference calls. “He’s an awesome networker and someone who’s willing to shake the tree a bit to find a better way to do things,” Dahlberg says.

JoEllen Bendall (J80), another 25th reunion committee member and an NAA director at large, says Wolfson’s relaxed nature and sense of humor will serve him well in his new leadership role. “Alan’s very inclusive,” she explains. “He sees the value in getting new people involved and puts great trust in their abilities.”

He now serves with fellow NAA officers Leslie Donavan (L82), president-elect; Charles Katzenmeyer (WCAS85, KSM89), David Eckert (McC77) and Dave Beach (WCAS61), vice presidents; Scot Marcotte (McC90), treasurer; and Alexis H. Sarkisian (C71), secretary.

Alan Wolfson, left, at the 2005 Fall Reunion Weekend with 25th reunion committee member David Dahlberg and NAA executive director and associate vice president of alumni relations and development Cathy Stembridge (GC00)
Alan Wolfson, left, at the 2005 Fall Reunion Weekend with 25th reunion committee member David Dahlberg and NAA executive director and associate vice president of alumni relations and development Cathy Stembridge (GC00) Photo by Andrew Campbell
Alan Wolfson
Alan Wolfson Photo by Franklin Habit