On Thursday evening, April 23, 2015, the Alumni Board convened its spring meeting with an informal reception, welcome, and brief review of the schedule. Following dinner, Mary Neagoy ’83, chair of the Presidential Search Committee and Tom Courtice, search consultant from AGB Search, engaged the members in a discussion of three questions:
- What are the essential elements of Wooster than we need to preserve and perhaps elevate,
- What are the opportunities and challenges for the College going forward, and
- What are the attributes we seek in our next leader
This was one of a number of stakeholder discussions intended to inform the creation of a Prospectus that will be the primary vehicle for letting the world know about the search. The same questions are being asked in an email survey seeking input from the larger alumni body. Although it would be premature to share specifics, I think it is safe to say that the Alumni Board left this conversation feeling very positive about both the direction and eventual outcome of the search process.
Friday morning was given over to working on one of the Board’s primary focuses, the encouragement and extension of alumni engagement. Heidi McCormick ’86, director of alumni relations, reviewed a project undertaken for the College by students from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University and then had the Board engage in an exercise to critique and refine several mission statements intended to define the direction and stimulate potential activities to pursue. Heidi also reviewed some of the findings and questions generated by a Peer Review of the College’s alumni relations operation done by CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education), the leading association of advancement professionals, which will serve as directional prompts in the Board’s activities going forward. Laurie Houck, vice president for development and alumni relations, was also in attendance and added her encouragement for the Board’s continued efforts. The morning ended with reports on and discussions of three ongoing initiatives in which the Board is engaged – “Show Me Your I.S.,” connecting alumni more purposefully with the activities of APEX (Advising, Planning , Experiential Learning), and a student-Board member pairing program.
Following lunchtime roundtable discussions of peer-to-peer fundraising led by Keith DiDonado, associate vice president for development, Board members were given the afternoon to involve themselves in the Senior Research Symposium, the unique and very impressive display of our students’ capstone achievements. The Board reconvened for a reception with a group of faculty and staff, followed by an informal Coccia House pizza dinner and attendance at a concert by the Wooster Singers concert, the Black Arts Festival, or both!
Saturday morning began with a brief session with the Alumni Trustees, joined by Bill Longbrake, chair of the Board of Trustees, reporting and answering questions about the activities of the Trustees. This was followed by a time with President Grant Cornwell where he shared a couple of media pieces which put Wooster and our approach to liberal arts education in a very positive light – one from AAC&U’s Centennial video of exemplar programs where Wooster is the only residential liberal arts college featured and the other a clip of a researcher from Gallup which validate the approach Wooster has been taking for over 60 years – and responded to questions.
As you have heard, this will be President Grant Cornwell’s last semester at Wooster. He will leave the College better than it was when he joined by many metrics, including number of applications, diversity of students, marketing of the I.S. experience, strategic planning, and fundraising. He also brought many intangible positive qualities, one being the ability to tackle difficult but imperative topics such as inclusivity on campus. Although he will be missed, the upside is that the College is going to attract amazing presidential candidates due to its current dynamic and healthy position. The Alumni Board presented him with an historical print of the University of Wooster and thanked him and his wife, Peg, for their many contributions.
The business meeting of the Alumni Board heard and acted on reports from our two standing committees – Nominating and Distinguished Alumni Award – and briefly discussed future meetings along with actions and activities to be to be undertaken prior to our fall meeting.
A final dinner at The Wooster Inn culminated the weekend and provided the opportunity to recognize the service of eight people leaving the Board after this meeting. Margaux Day ’06, Susan Hartt ’70, Jamie Haskins ’85, Derek Longbrake ’96 and Courtney Young ’96 concluded three-year terms; Sandeep Bhatia ’89 and Ken Shafer ’75 completing six years as Alumni Trustees; and David Gilliss ’80 ending his term as past president. All of these dedicated people have made significant and memorable contributions to both the Alumni Association and the College.
It should also be noted that at several points in the weekend the Alumni Board joined with over 100 other alumni attending the Black Alumni Reunion. This outstanding event, entitled Reflect Rejoice Renew, was coordinated by the Black Alumni Council and its president, Karl Penn ’90.
As president of the Alumni Association I plan to update you on our Alumni Board meetings. Until next time, know that it is my pleasure to serve as the president. If there is anything your Association can do for you, or if there is something we can do better, please reach out to me or one of the members of the Alumni Board.
A. Steven Graff ’68
College of Wooster Alumni Association