Posts filed under ‘Alumni Association’
When we dropped in on Rich Bundy’s Old Main office in January, the university’s new vice president for development and alumni relations was still unpacking boxes. He laughed when we asked if he felt “settled in,” but given his background, Bundy ’93, ’96g is better positioned than most to adapt quickly to his new role.
The son of longtime Blue Band director O. Richard Bundy ’70, ’87g, Rich began his career in Penn State’s annual giving office before leaving to gain extensive fundraising experience at Michigan State, Iowa State, and Vermont, where he served as president and CEO of the University of Vermont Foundation. He returns to his hometown and alma mater in time for the start of a new fundraising campaign, A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence. An avid marathoner, he understands well the need to hit the ground running.
It’s been 20 years since you last worked on campus. How different does this place feel?
I was coming back to State College on a regular basis, but it had been a long time since I actually just walked across the campus. And this place has grown—the Millennium Science Complex was an intramural field when I was an undergraduate. So the place has grown in ways that are really impressive, and the campus is beautiful in a way that I don’t remember. It always was a beautiful campus, and maybe there’s a little nostalgia there, but I just think this is an exciting time to be at Penn State. There’s a robust sense of all the things that make Penn State a top-notch institution.
You know as well as anyone the size of the shoes you have to fill in replacing Rod Kirsch. What lessons or insight do you take from his tenure here?
Rod is one of very few people in the country who’ve led multiple billion-dollar-plus campaigns on the same campus. I think his longevity in the role is really what we aspire to in the advancement profession. So much of our work is based on relationships that we build and maintain. To have that kind of tenure is extraordinary, and Rod exemplified service and leadership in a way that I think is really meaningful and aspirational.
Most Penn Staters hear your name and automatically think of your father, who retired in 2015 after more than 30 years with the Blue Band. I’m guessing you don’t mind that connection.
Certainly being linked to my father is a plus. Very much like Rod, I think my father is just one of the good guys. You’d be hard-pressed to get a bad word out of my father about anybody or anything. He was a humble, dedicated leader who aspired to be the best at what he did, so that the Blue Band could be the best at what it did. I think there’s an important lesson there, and I hope I can be like him as I lead the development and alumni relations teams to even greater accomplishments.
You arrive just as the university is gearing up for another major fundraising campaign. How do you see your experiences leading campaigns at Vermont and Iowa State helping you in that role here?
I have a network at Penn State that I’ve developed over my lifetime, so I think the learning curve will not be as steep for me coming in. I think I can marry the experiences I’ve had at other schools with a knowledge of the traditions that make Penn State great. We’ll have to do some things differently to be successful in this campaign, but that’s not a repudiation of the past—we want to respect tradition while recognizing that Penn State is forever evolving and growing.
Regarding the campaign, what are your top priorities right now?
Communicating to our stakeholders how this campaign will be different from past campaigns here—particularly that this is a shorter campaign singularly focused on achieving the objectives laid out in the institution’s strategic plan. That’s very exciting, and part of what made the job attractive beyond the emotional connection I have to Penn State. Not many universities have undertaken campaigns that are that directly linked to their long-term strategic plans, or are that focused in duration. A five-year campaign means that some of the normal trappings of quiet phases—like opportunities to really build your infrastructure before you go public—that’s not going to happen. We’ve got to create a sense of urgency. Penn State has a great tradition of really robust volunteer leadership in its campaigns, and we just need to get that structure in place.
The Alumni Association also falls under your leadership. What are your thoughts on the work we’re doing?
I think the Alumni Association is often the friendly face inviting our stakeholders into the institution. I really see it as a solemn responsibility of people who are in our line of work to be stewards of the lifelong relationship that alumni have with their institution, and the Alumni Association helps to bring rigor and thoughtfulness to that lifetime of engagement.
That said, I think that the traditional role of alumni associations is going through a profound change. The key piece of that change, particularly with our youngest alumni, is that they no longer need us to be the connecters to their classmates, or to other members of the alumni community. They can do that themselves, through LinkedIn, through Facebook, Twitter, you name it. I think the challenge for alumni organizations is to identify what the new value added opportunities are and aggressively pursue those opportunities—for example, how we can partner with career services, and make sure that Penn Staters everywhere have access to career opportunities, career counseling, those sorts of things? That’s one example of many where I think we can continue to provide great benefits to our alumni community.
It’s a huge challenge. And layer on top of that, we have students now who are graduating with enormous debt, so their economic connection to the institution is strained. We have students on 24 campuses, some of whom never step foot on University Park. I worked out at a gym in Burlington, Vermont, with a Penn State alum who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in plastics engineering from Behrend; he’s never once been in State College, he’s never seen a Penn State football game. So his Penn State is not the same as my Penn State. But they’re both Penn State. So I think we’ve got that challenge as well. And then you layer on top of that just demographic difference—the millennial generation feels very differently about big organizations than Generation X does. So we have to tailor our communications and our message and everything that we do with some understanding of how that’s going to be received.
Lastly, I know you’re a marathon runner. As you arrive at the start of a five-year campaign, I’m wondering if your hobby provides a useful analogy for your work.
Yeah, I think it does. There’s a saying in the marathon community that you can’t win the race in the first mile, but you can lose it. I think there’s some synergy to what we do in campaigns: I’d rather start slow and maintain a solid, steadily increasing pace than start really, really fast and crash and burn at the end of the campaign. We want our fundraising to be sustainable over the long term.
Ryan Jones, deputy editor
For 15 hours every week, I am a Penn State student who is reluctantly wrapping up my senior year majoring in public relations, looking for ways to sneak in an extra semester without my parents noticing.
For 13 hours every week, I am an intern with the Penn State Alumni Association’s strategic communications team, where I help create content for AlumnInsider and the association’s social media accounts.
And for 46 hours during THON Weekend 2017, I’ll represent my THON organization, FOTO, on the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center.
When I think about why I want to dance, I realize there is no one answer—but that really, I owe a lot to THON. It has changed not only how I see the world, but also how I see my role within it, and that is because of the children and families who have shared their stories and their lives with me. My aspiration to do work that betters the lives of children has, through my time with THON, transformed into a desire, into a need, into a promise I’ve made with myself.
Standing for 46 hours is a really, really long time—my dad still doesn’t understand how it is “a thing,” he says—but it’s something I feel I can give back. And even when my feet start hurting, and I’m so delirious that I start imagining I’m having conversations with band members from One Direction, I’ll stand strong, because that is what these kids have taught me.
I expect my 46 hours dancing in THON to reflect my four years with FOTO. There will be lots of laughs and some tears. There will be hard work, random food cravings at random times, and an overwhelming supply of support and love. And most importantly, there will be kids who, for an entire weekend, have the opportunity to just be kids.
Kendall Brodie, strategic communications intern
Twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day. To honor those fallen soldiers, a pair of Penn State alums held an event in which those in attendance participated in the 22 Push-up Challenge.
Ron ’58 and Joy Neal Feigles ’58 invited former All-American linebacker Bruce Bannon ’72 to a committee meeting for the 9/11 Heroes Run, which takes place in several locations and was founded in their hometown of Doylestown, Pa. Prior to the meeting, the Feigles, Bannon, and several other members of the Heroes Run committee went onto the Feigles’ front lawn and did 22 push-ups.
The Feigles were made aware of the challenge – which is growing in popularity on social media and has its participants do 22 push-ups for 22 days with the hopes of raising awareness for the military’s suicide rate – by one of their friends. More information on the 22 Push-up Challenge can be found on 22Kill.com.
Bill DiFilippo, online editor
Heading into the final water jump of the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 1952 Summer Olympics, Horace Ashenfelter noticed that the water pit was getting “messy.”
So Ashenfelter ’49, ’55 H&HD decided to let his main opponent, Russia’s Vladimir Kazantsev, into the water first, hoping it would cause him to slip up.
It was a risky move, as it required slowing down and giving his opponent a small lead, but when they got to the jump, it paid off. Kazantsev stumbled, Ashenfelter passed him, and the American sprinted to the gold medal with a world-record time of 8:45.4.
Looking back on the race recently from their home in Glen Ridge, N.J., Ashenfelter’s wife of 71 years, Lillian, said he was never much of a sprinter—but down the final stretch of the race, she had never seen him run faster in his life.
Ashenfelter’s gambit showed a savvy you’d expect from a veteran steeplechase runner, not someone who estimates that he ran the race only seven times in his life. Twenty-nine years old at the time, he worked for the FBI during the day and trained during his downtime; even so, he was still one of the best American runners. He had been a three-time All-American at Penn State, and in the years since graduating, Ashenfelter traveled all over the country and competed for the New York Athletic Club. His training consisted of running for, at most, two hours a day. He would sometimes train for the steeplechase by jumping over a hurdle that he stashed in a bush at the park near his home in New Jersey.
And while he wasn’t the most experienced steeplechaser, he knew that’s what he wanted to do in Helsinki. Ashenfelter had the option to run either the steeplechase or the 10,000 meters; he decided on the former and set an Olympic record in prelims. Two days later at the finals, Ashenfelter lopped nearly six seconds off of his time and set the world record.
Lillian recalls a chorus of “Ash-en-fel-ter” ringing through the crowd in Helsinki, as those in attendance desperately wanted the American to beat the Russian. Despite that, and despite the fact that he won the gold, Ashenfelter compared this win to winning a race back when he was in high school.
“That’s what you should do,” Ashenfelter said. “You’re supposed to win.”
Bill DiFilippo, online editor
There may come a day where we write about Ava Terosky as a Penn State alumna who is revered for her work in software engineering or photography.
For now, Ava—the 9-year-old daughter of two alums, Jeff ’95 and Aimee LaPointe Terosky ’95—is one of the best young chefs in America. She recently won a cooking contest which gave her the opportunity to go to the White House and have lunch with Michelle Obama and 55 other chefs between the ages of 8 and 12.
Her winning dishes were a spinach and mushroom omelette and a fruit and yogurt parfait, both shaped like dogs in honor of the Obama family’s two Portuguese water dogs. Part of the inspiration for the way she presented her dishes came from the food she prepares for her younger sister, a picky eater who is more compelled to eat Ava’s cooking when it looks like an animal.
When asked if she was surprised by the fact that her dish won, Ava (who also recently cooked with famed Philly chef Marc Vetri) told Billy Penn “I knew I was going to win, I just knew it.”
Bill DiFilippo, online editor
Ty Burrell is one of the many big names in Finding Dory, the sequel to 2003’s Finding Nemo. Burrell ’97g provides the voice for a beluga whale named Bailey who is convinced that he cannot use echolocation after hitting his head.
As is the norm for a movie this big (so far, it has made nearly $650 million worldwide), Burrell made a number of media appearances prior to its release where he discussed various aspects of his character’s role. During one appearance on The Talk, Burrell explained how he had an idea for what Bailey should sound like, which was shot down after one take.
In an interview that Burrell gave to ABC Radio, he explained how he was excited to join this project. Burrell knew that he was about to get a phone call from Pixar regarding Finding Dory, so when the call came, he picked up the phone and answered “Yes, I’ll do it. Who is this?”
Bill DiFilippo, online editor