• The Talbots Bag and Other Tales: Swapping Notes on the Alumni Volunteer Life at Class Officers Weekend 2006

    Thursday, September 28, 2006
    News Type

The Class Officers Association 2006 Officers of the Year

Class of the Year (26 Years Out and Older)
Class of 1959

Honorable Mention (26 Years Out and Older)
Class of 1953

Class of the Year (25 Years Out and Younger)
Class of 2005

Honorable Mention (25 Years Out and Younger)
Class of 1996

Special Recognition

Class of 1939 Birthday Card Program

Class of 1972 Hurricane Katrina Aid

Class of 1982 Innovative Executive Committee Meetings

Class of 1989 Reaching Out to Classmates Initiative

Class of 2002 Class Dues Incentive Program

President of the Year (26 Years Out and Older)
Stanley “Chris” Cundey Jr. '59

President of the Year (25 Years Out and Younger)
Kimberly Koontz Haring ‘96

Treasurer of the Year (26 Years Out and Older)
Ray Becker '59

Treasurer of the Year (25 Years Out and Younger)
Kimberlee Booker Schmid '85

The William H. Scherman Awards

Newsletter Editor of the Year
Michelle Sweetser '99

Newsletter Editors of the Year (25 Years Out and Younger)
Maxine Goldstein '02 & Kate Pasciucco '02

Secretary of the Year
Ken Reich '60

Webmaster of the Year
C. Morgan Brown '05

The Donald Clark Smith '53 Award in Recognition of an Outstanding Mini-Reunion Program
Class of 2005

Gift Planning Chairs of the Year
William Hart Judd Jr. '34 & Bernice Squires Cohen W'34

One class treasurer who lives in Shanghai admitted to being awake, emailing, at 3 am and having his books so well organized that he knows who paid class dues in which month and with which credit card. A class president disclosed that she scouts out the profiles on inCircle, the Dartmouth online alumni community, to spot potential volunteers. A class vice president sang the praises of the interactive international alumni map on the Class of 2005 Web site.

Let others wax poetic about bleeding green: the 226 class leaders who met in Hanover for Class Officers Weekend, September 15-17, were more interested in discussing the nuts and bolts of Dartmouth alumni passion, that is, how to keep far-flung alumni connected to one another and to Dartmouth.

Organized by the Class Officers Association Executive Committee, under the guidance of president Sam Ostrow '67 and president-elect Mary Conway '82, this year's meeting was called “Going Global: Building Class Officer Leadership around the World.” Notwithstanding frequent comments on the need to look far and wide in recruiting volunteers and use tools such as Listserv and conference calls (which, by the way, the Office of Alumni Relations can help officers arrange), most conversations revolved around the perennial basics of building a volunteer community.

For every Jim Adler '60, who has served his class for about forty years—and this year as president helped steer his class to four records in Dartmouth College Fund contributions—there are many others for whom alumni leadership is new territory.

news22Vice president Kevin Findlan '99 said he's starting to see a shift in what's important to his class volunteers to the stewardship of the class's legacy to the College. “We want to see tangible results,” he said, “not just in the form of reunions or other events, but in terms of impact on the College. So we've started to look more at class projects; for example, this year for the first time, we're funding a Tucker Foundation fellowship for a current student.”

“I'm always thinking about the Class of '76 officers and whether particular strategies will work given the dynamics of the group,” said Judy Burrows Csatari '76, who this summer embarked on a co-presidency with Andy Gettinger '76.

“Our previous president had finished her term,” said Csatari, “and I was on the Nominating Committee for the next one, but no one was interested. I approached Andy at our reunion in June, and asked if he'd do it. He said, ‘I'll do it if you'll do it with me.'”

Sharing leadership roles was a popular topic, surfacing in Katie Harrison '90's discussion of recruiting volunteers and in volunteer management forums.

“There are pluses and minuses to co-roles,” said Michelle Sweetser '99, newly elected president and former longtime class newsletter editor. “Newsletter editing lends itself to sharing, as does the work of class event planners. When our event planners in various cities work in pairs to set up events, it makes the work more fun.”

The downside, noted class treasurer Jeff Fine '99, can be that “you end up spending too much time talking.” And some roles, such as treasurer, are difficult to split up.

Fellow treasurer David Plekenpol '82 serves his class as practically a one-man accounting firm—from China. “I've always wanted to serve my class,” he told his fellow officers, “but when I was asked in the past, I'd say, ‘I can't do it; I'm living in Scotland.' Well, now I'm living in Shanghai, and I'm the class treasurer.

“My post began at a brunch at our 20th reunion, when Mary Conway, our president, asked if I'd consider taking on the job. The next thing I knew, she was coming around the corner with a Talbots bag filled with about 20 years of class dues receipts.”

In short order, Plekenpol, who is a vice president of business development with Alcatel China, put the whole lot into Quicken, set up PayPal on the class Web site, and got his records into an Excel sheet that he coordinated with his Google email address list. “When people send their dues, I always email or call to say thanks, and ask how the family is,” he noted. “It's surprising how many people write back. It's great to have this engagement with your classmates."

Being attentive with small kindnesses. Showing tangible results. Tapping potential volunteers at high-energy times like reunions. Taking advantage of technology and the services of the Alumni Relations Office. These and other themes dominated the conversations of these dedicated Dartmouth alumni.

“But what's the secret ingredient?” asked Adler. “Passion. When you let others see your passion, they'll be willing to follow your lead and tolerate the mistakes you'll inevitably make.”

What constitutes passion isn't the same in everyone, Adler reminded the officers. “Passion can be a raging bonfire,” he said, “or a very small, white-hot flame. You can hear passion in a clap of thunder, or you can hear it in a whisper.”

No two ways about it—that's pure poetry.