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 our latest issue, we sat in on Michael Green’s class at Penn State Hershey that teaches medical students about the power of comics. But it’s not the only initiative in which Penn State is using graphic narratives to help raise understanding and empathy around difficult health issues.
Although a handful of universities like Rutgers and Ohio State have published books about the comic culture and cartoonists, the Penn State Press has dedicated an entire series to the graphic medicine genre. English professor Susan Merrill Squier, who has been teaching comics to grad students since 2011, co-edits the series with physician and artist Ian Williams. The first book, published in 2015, was Graphic Medicine Manifesto, a volume of scholarly essays and visual narratives that is as much an intro to “comics in medicine” as a declaration for its place in this world.
In just under two years, Penn State Press has published at least seven other graphic memoirs, on subjects from caring for a mother with Alzheimer’s (Aliceheimer’s) to parenting a daughter with Down Syndrome (Hole in the Heart). One book getting a lot of press right now is My Degeneration by Alaskan cartoonist Peter Dunlap-Shohl about his daily struggle with Parkinson’s. Says Publishers Weekly: “The narrative covers the fear and determination that make up [his] daily life, from the terror of suddenly unable to walk to the triumph of still being able to dress himself.”
People are reading—and sending pitches—from around the world. Squier recalls how one customer bought Graphic Medicine Manifesto for a brother with incurable throat and jaw cancer: “[His brother] had basically all the treatment he could have, but was now just trying to find a way to live with the situation. And he was blown away by the possibility to express what he was really feeling and not able to get out yet.”
Squier and Green are also part of an international committee that organizes an annual global conference on graphic medicine. Says Green: “We’ve brought together communities of artists and scholars and physicians and teachers and patients, all around this common interest in comics in medicine.”
Got a case of the winter blahs? Blue-White weekend can’t get here fast enough? Our latest issue might just have the cure for what ails you: Saquon Barkley coming right off the cover! Our March/April 2017 issue features a look back at an incredible season of Nittany Lion football highlighted by comebacks, big plays, and big players—like Barkley—who took fans on a wild ride to the Big Ten championship and the Rose Bowl. The photo spread begins on p. 26.
The new issue, arriving in mailboxes soon, also features comics, but it’s probably not what you think. In “Truth Between the Lines” (p. 37), we take you into the classroom at Penn State Hershey, where fourth-year med students reflect on the experience of becoming a doctor through an unusual practice—writing and drawing their own graphic narratives. You’ll find some of their work on our pages, too.
And you’ll get a glimpse into the life of Gary Eberle ’67, who turned a passion for wine into his life’s work, only to have his thriving California winery snatched away—before ultimately getting it back. “The Boar Endures” (p. 44) is a story of perseverance and the importance of savoring success.
More from the issue: a profile on Alex Patin, a Penn State junior who has developed a set of headphones that can read brainwaves to create playlists that match your mood; and John Hanrahan ’91, an All-American wrestler during the 1980s who’s still at it today—and recently won a world championship.
What do you think about the new issue? Let us know by commenting below or emailing us at email@example.com.
B.J. Reyes, associate 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
Alia Gant, a diversity resident librarian with the Penn State Libraries, had never shared her story in public. Being a lifelong, plus-size woman in a society obsessed with thinness is tough, to say the least, and the experiences—many of them hurtful—Gant has endured over the years are not easy to recount.
But Gant was inspired to come forward and share her story Wednesday as a “human book” at Pattee and Paterno Library. She was one of a number of people who took part in Penn State’s first Human Library project, a global initiative that originated in Copenhagen, Denmark, and uses dialogue and human interaction to counter stereotypes and preconceived notions that people have about others.
Typically, readers will “check out” a Human Library “book” for a one-on-one “read.” But Megan Gilpin, outreach coordinator for Library Learning Services, who spearheaded the effort at Penn State, felt that small, 45-minute storytelling sessions with no more than 10 people attending at a time, would be more conducive to encouraging the free flow of words, thoughts, and experiences between storytellers and their audiences.
That format appealed to Gant and encouraged her to participate in the project. “I really liked the setting—it was intimate in a way that allowed people to trust each other with their experiences in a safe space,” she said.
Allison Subasic ’09g, former director of Penn State’s LGBTQA Resource Center, felt the same way. “I’m a shy person,” said Subasic, who spoke candidly to a small group about her difficult childhood, her family, and being dyslexic. “This was good for me.”
Even experienced storytellers like Brian Davis (above), an undergrad majoring in African-American studies, criminology, and sociology who has spoken before large gatherings and given TED talks on his former life as a gang member in Philadelphia, favor the Human Book format. “I feel like I’m able to breathe and tell my story more intimately,” Davis said. “We all have certain prejudices, no matter what we think, but by sharing stories and listening to stories, I believe those prejudices do dissipate.”
Gilpin first heard about the Human Library project at a librarian’s conference last May and thought it would be perfect for Penn State. The event, part of the All In campaign launched last October to promote and commit to diversity and inclusion, featured 14 storytellers sharing often difficult-to-tell stories on race, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation, among others.
“We wanted people to hear someone else’s stories and recognize that others have had barriers,” Gilpin said. “We wanted stories to be told in settings where people could ask questions, where everyone is reciprocal and everyone can learn something new about someone else.”
The Human Library concept has spread to more than 70 countries since its inception in 2000. Gilpin hopes it will be repeated at Penn State on a regular basis.
Savita Iyer, senior editor
Our Jan./Feb. 2017 issue features a story on the Craighead siblings, a trio of Penn Staters whose lives’ work stemmed from a dedication to nature. One project of the two Craighead brothers—Frank ’39 and John ’39—was a 12-year study of grizzly bears at Yellowstone National Park. According to the official Craighead Institute website, the duo “developed field techniques to attach the collars and track the movements of the bears.”
During one encounter, the mix of drugs they used to sedate the bear wore off before they could collect all of their data, which led to an especially scary run-in with the animal. There is video of the incident, which you can watch here. It illustrates both the dangers of their research and how close they got to the animals they studied.
Bill DiFilippo, online editor