News & Publications
The College Magazine - Fall 2008
ALUMNI ASSOCIATION NEWS
From the Director of Alumni Relations
Jo Ann Mattson, Director of Alumni Relations
It's been a busy couple of months in Alumni Land, and if we're running around, it's because you've been especially active—and believe me, we're not complaining! St. John's alumni came out in unprecedented numbers to support the college's capital campaign. When Jeff Bishop (HA96) told us in 2006 that the goal was $125 million—by far the most ambitious goal the college had ever attempted—I don't think anyone believed we would reach it without a miracle. It turned out that the miracle was you. With the inspirational challenge from Ron Fielding (A70), we alumni helped the college to not only meet that goal, but to exceed it by more than $9 million! Thank you!
Alumni participation in the campaign really caused the college to sit up and take notice of you, the only permanent members of our community, and it prompted us to ask the question: how can we work with the Alumni Association to make our programs better for you? I'm very grateful that a small team of alumni, led by Ray Cave (class of 1948), has begun working together with an outside consultant to tackle this very question. The group is called the Alumni Task Force, convened by our presidents, Christopher Nelson (SF70) in Annapolis and Michael Peters in Santa Fe. Other members of the Task Force are Dave Heimann (A87, vice chair), Jason Walsh (A85), Steve Thomas (SF74) Patricia Sollars, (A81), Phelosha Collaros (SF00), Brett Heavner (A89) Matt Calise (A00), Pam Carter, (SFGI08), Jo Ann Mattson (A87), and the college's vice presidents for advancement, Barbara Goyette (A73) and Jim Osterholt.
The Task Force met for the first time on October 23. If there had been an opening question it would have been, "How can the college better serve its alumni and how can our alumni better serve the college?" We barely scratched the surface in attempting to answer that question after four hours of discussion. And we all have homework due by the next meeting on November 13: to research alumni programs at other comparable colleges. We're all really excited about the impact the committee's work will have on the future of alumni relations at St. John's.
Another new development on the alumni front is the amazing growth of activities in alumni chapters and groups. To keep up with the expanding endeavors of our chapter leaders, the college has hired a new part-time employee in the Alumni Office. Torii Campbell joined the Annapolis team, although she will be working with alumni groups across the country, as coordinator of regional chapters and groups. You can look forward to Torii helping your chapter plan parties, seminars, and other activities, as well as work to get the word out about these events to the broader alumni community. Feel free to send her an e-mail to introduce yourself. She'd be happy to hear from you at email@example.com. Thank you to all the chapter presidents whose efforts with alumni have made this position a necessity.
Finally, I need to say a word about the current alumni directory project managed by Harris Connect. First, a little history: up until eight years ago the Alumni Association used a significant portion of the money they received from your alumni dues to pay for an alumni directory that was delivered free of charge to all alumni. Contact and employment information was gathered from alumni every five years, and the college used this information to update its database. About seven years ago, the Alumni Association decided to support the college's online alumni community. But unless we continue to solicit your most recent contact and career information we will not have an up-to-date database.
Harris Connect is the company we've always used for this project; indeed, Harris is pretty much the only game in town when it comes to producing print directories. Their arrangement is that they will gather the data for us for free and offer you a directory for sale. I understand it costs as little as $80 for the book and as much as $120 for the book and CD. I appreciate all of you contacting Harris and giving your time to update our records, but I'm concerned about the reports I've heard about some aggressive sales representatives on the Harris end. I'm sorry about this, and I'm working with Harris to resolve it. Please don't feel an obligation to buy the book. It is expensive, although a treasure for alumni, with photos and personal stories—more like a yearbook than a phonebook. Again, it's very important for the Admissions, Career Services, and the Advancement offices to have your most current information, so we are all very grateful for your participation.
The Harris directory is not intended to replace our online Alumni community (which is still free). It's an excellent resource for staying in touch with your classmates, sharing your news and photos, career networking, and finding Johnnies wherever you go. Find out more at: http://alumni.stjohnscollege.edu/.
Thanks to all of you who attended Homecoming in Annapolis and Santa Fe! We'll talk more about that in the next issue of The College.
Keep in touch,
Jo Ann Mattson (A87)
Director of Alumni Relations
It's Always Homecoming for the Annapolis Chapter
"There are Memories Here"
Beth Martin Gammon helped to rejuvenate the Annapolis chapter by organizing monthly seminars.
Like most women, Annapolis chapter president Beth Martin Gammon (A94) juggles career and family with one or more other passions. In Gammon's case, it's St. John's College, where she has reinvigorated the Annapolis chapter of the Alumni Association. Her husband, Alex (A94), is one of her biggest supporters, but they can't attend chapter meetings together. "We take shifts to take care of our two-year-old so one of us can attend the monthly chapter seminar gatherings," she says.
When Gammon joined the Annapolis chapter in 2001, the chapter had been inactive. With assistance from the Alumni office, she built a network and began sending postcard announcements about chapter seminars. Alumni are on the invitation list; spouses and friends are usually welcome. A core group of regulars attends the monthly seminars, held in the private dining room in Randall Hall. This dedicated group includes Paula Binder (class of 1959), Melvin Bender (AGI05), Jerome May (AGI92), Joan Vinson (AGI81), Valerie Garvin (A96), Charles Green (AGI02), and retired tutor George Doskow and his wife, Minna (AGI71).
"We had 15 participants for the first seminar in 2002," Gammon says. "It was a great start. We typically have about 12 to 20 participants, but there are certain readings, such as Shakespeare, that draw a specific crowd."
Typically, participants include both undergraduate and graduate alumni who range in age from 20 to 80. "There is a wide range of life perspectives in the mix," says Gammon. "I find the different lenses to be fascinating and welcome the chance to revisit Program readings now that I have had more life experience. But we're all still Johnnies, still approaching the readings in the same way."
Last spring, the group read and discussed Thucydides over three seminars. In September they went more modern, with The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford. Madame Bovary was planned for October. "We do a mix of literature from the Program and some philosophy," says Gammon. Gammon acknowledges that her family's busy lifestyle helps drive the chapter's reading list. "When I have more time we'll do more philosophy," she explains. "Right now, with a two-year-old, I don't have enough time to prepare those readings!"
In the future, Gammon hopes to work with her fellow volunteers to launch an occasional social event, such as an evening gathering at the Boathouse. For now, socializing is informal, as attendees stroll over to a nearby restaurant after seminar. "We're lucky to have the familiar turf of the campus," Gammon says. "We don't have the challenge of convincing people to come to an unknown place. There are memories here."
By Patricia Dempsey