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Who Made the Difference for You?

Student Phonathon callers asked alumni to name names among the faculty. Here’s what you had to say…

This past fall, I had this idea for my Phonathon callers. When they called our Graduates of the Last Decade, the callers did the usual: updated their contact information, reminisced, provided campus news, asked them for a contribution to the Annual Fund to support current students… and then we asked a simple question: “Who from the faculty and staff has made a positive and lasting impact on you?”

The callers reported back some consistent qualitative information. Some GOLDs were surprised. Why were we asking? What was the catch? No catch! It’s been a little while since you’ve left campus. Now that you’re out there, outside of Collegeville, who pops into your mind first as being someone with whom you’ve stayed in touch, think of with fondness, influenced your current circumstance in life, or perhaps whom you simply miss? Nope! You don’t have to make a contribution to the Annual Fund to tell us your thoughts. We simply want to know.

Once GOLDs were put at ease, they opened up. If I had to guess, I would have suspected that only a handful of popular faculty or staff members would be named, not because I’m particularly cynical, but because I believe we often underestimate the number of people who touch our lives and make a positive difference. As you might have guessed, I was totally wrong. It wasn’t just a handful.

Our student worker in the office, a junior named Christine who studies biochemistry and molecular biology and will, I’m certain, be caring for my kids in her pediatric practice one day, compiled a list of faculty and staff members along with the alumni who nominated them throughout the semester. We finished our Phonathon season strongly, raising over $130,000 in pledges and credit card commitments. Every dime goes back to supporting our current students in some way, but that’s a topic for a different article.

Campus cleared out for winter break, and I clicked open the spreadsheet. Dozens of GOLDs let us know that more than 90 members of the faculty and staff had made a positive and lasting impact on their lives.

“Went above and beyond.”

“Helped with my career path and cared about my life.”

“Has been a great support, even after Ursinus.”

“Pushed me to think out of the box and through different perspectives.”

I sent an email to these members of our faculty and staff while they were knee-deep in grading exams, letting them know which alumni had named them when we asked the question. Many faculty members responded with pleasure, like this one:

“Thanks so much for sharing this.  So often we send our students off at graduation and don’t hear any more from them.  I’ve had periodic exchanges [with this student since graduation but] am glad to know he has valued our relationship.”

It reminded me why we do the work that we do. We’re teaching, preparing lesson plans, running reports, planning educational programs and leadership development activities, raising money, and recruiting students. Through it all, we’re also making connections, impacting lives, and forming lifelong relationships with one another. How often do we take the time to tell those who influenced us along the way that they matter? Not nearly enough, in my opinion. A simple activity to engage our recent alumni turned into a greater exercise in mutual gratitude and admiration among former students and their teachers. Consider the many strings connecting you to this place you called home only a few years ago and pay it forward with a note to say “Hi! You matter!” to the people who made a difference.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned since arriving in Collegeville, it’s that connections are invaluable. The next generation of Bears is creating them right now. When the phone rings from Ursinus, I hope you’ll answer it. It’s a current UC Bear calling, waiting to learn about you and your connections.  


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Written by:
Jenna Antoniewicz,
Assistant Director of Annual Giving

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