More than 440 Presidents' Club members - representing the college's most generous benefactors - filled the Starlight Roof at the Waldorf-Astoria for the 1996 dinner meeting. President Neil Grabois is at the podium.
by James Leach
"There is much to celebrate at Colgate these days," President Neil Grabois told the April 23 dinner meeting of the Presidents' Club. "I know, because I've been on the road with Campaign Colgate, celebrating."
In resurrecting a dinner meeting that had been an annual feature of the Presidents' Club until 1992, the college created an opportunity for its most generous donors to take part in celebrating the results of their gifts to Colgate, and more than 440 turned out for the occasion. "The night had the enthusiasm of past Presidents' Club dinners," said one longtime member, echoing sentiments expressed by many who attended.
The annual dinner had been shelved when a poll showed a preference for regional Presidents' Club events, but it was clear from the outset of this year's dinner that the members were eager to renew their traditional celebration. The Starlight Roof of the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City provided the perfect setting.
Friends and classmates reconnected throughout the reception before, and the energy from those reunions carried over to dinner. Presidents' Club chairman and master of ceremonies Jim Elrod '76 introduced the evening's program, beginning with recognition of outgoing chair Ron Taylor '63, who guided the club to a record $18,931,823 in gifts for Colgate during his two-year tenure.
In introducing Brian Little '64, who for the past two years has chaired Campaign Colgate (and in May became chair of Colgate's board of trustees), Elrod fixed his sights on the December 1997 closing date for the Campaign. Elrod told the members of the Presidents' Club: "In less than two years, when all the numbers are tallied, the Presidents' Club as a whole will have committed well over $100 million during the campaign. One of the major reasons behind this tremendous share of the total has been the involvement of the campaign chair in every aspect of this effort, from major gifts to soliciting new Presidents' Club members."
Little reported on the Cam-paign's success, which by April had surpassed $87 million toward its goal of $130 million. "We've raised more than $40 million over the past 18 months," he said, "and have now surpassed the very successful Campaign for Colgate, which raised $85.1 million over a five-year period in the 1980s. Your gifts as members of the Presidents' Club are helping our campaign and Colgate fulfill its promise of leadership for future generations of students."
The keynote address at Presidents' Club dinners has always been a report from the president about the state of the college. This year, President Grabois told that story through a series of anecdotes about the successes of students and faculty.
"What we are about fundamentally," he said, "both Colgate and this Presidents' Club as an integral part of the college, is people."
The Presidents' Club dinner is always a time for making new friends and renewing old acquaintances as Spence Colwell '41, Marilyn Kirk '94 and Eric Von Stroh '95 did at April's gathering.
Grabois described recent events that he said "speak to the opportunities that
your gifts make possible. There are some remarkable people in these stories.
Your support has enabled them to do wonderful things."|
He quoted Michelle Alexandre '96, a student from Haiti, Phi Beta Kappa, Dana Scholar and Watson Fellowship winner who was to become valedictorian, saying, "Great teachers have influenced me and great people have guided me." Grabois told the donors, "Your support enabled Michelle to have those experiences."
Of Andrea Basztura '96 and Jed Rubin '96, winners of the first Jack Mitchell Scholar/Athlete Awards, Grabois said, "Your gifts make possible the small classes and excellent faculty that mean so much to students like Andrea and Jed."
He described the work of Phil Aba '97, whose efforts to create a dance club on campus demonstrate that "the entrepreneurial spirit continues to thrive at Colgate. The pluck of students like Phil, fueled with your support, makes Colgate the lively, exciting place we treasure."
He explained how Deb Lutner '96 has made her dream of joining the Peace Corps come true and said, "Deb demonstrates the confidence and initiative that develops in students in an environment that has the resources and talent to encourage personal growth."
Grabois cited Cordell Nwokeji '96, a biology major, son of Nigerian parents, who has been accepted to medical school. "At last week's scholarship luncheon, as he looked back on his Colgate experience, Cordell said it was all possible because the college -- with your support -- had provided him financial aid."
He told the donors that their support made it possible for Colgate to attract "one of the finest faculties teaching at any liberal arts college anywhere," and said that "through their professional activities and relationships, the faculty you support create countless opportunities that will benefit students today and in the future."
In his final thank-you of the evening, Grabois said: "You equip these talented young people with the resources to grow and excel, and their success imbues them with a confidence that makes them leaders, each in his or her own chosen way. Their achievements should make you enormously proud. You've enabled them to pursue excellence in a way that defines Colgate."