The Colgate Scene ON-LINE


Presidents' Club Dinner

Say this for Colgate people: they know what to celebrate, where, and how.

It is tradition for the college's most generous donors to gather at a Presidents' Club dinner in New York City to take stock of the year and look ahead to the challenges that remain. This year that gathering took place in late April at the Waldorf-Astoria's Grand Ballroom. And thanks in part to a restructuring of requirements that encouraged more young alumni to become members, there was a record turnout.

“A gathering of Colgate people is the very definition of a party,” said President Neil Grabois. “But there is more than good cheer and fond memories involved. We are connected by our common experiences, by the days of our youth, and by a belief in learning.”

At receptions before and after the dinner (including a post-Waldorf celebration at the Typhoon Brewery hosted by its alumni owners) generations of Presidents' Club members mingled and spirits ran high. Bill Faverzani '92 characterized the sentiments of many of the newer members. “I've just joined the club,” he said , “so this is my first dinner. But it definitely will not be my last.” Like some of his contemporaries seated near the back of the ballroom for the dinner, Faverzani looked forward to moving up, both in the level of his support and seating location, as the years progress.

Presidents' Club chair Jim Elrod '76 was master of ceremonies for the evening. John Golden '66, chairman of Campaign Colgate, thanked Elrod for his leadership of the club over the past two years and presented him with a gift from the membership. “From the number of new members, to the success of events like this, to the many new and talented volunteers who have been recruited, Jim Elrod has been a driving force behind the growth of this club,” Golden said.

Golden also reported on the status of Campaign Colgate. Sparked by a $12 million challenge fund established by 13 donors, said Golden, new gifts and pledges of $34 million since the last Presidents' Club dinner had moved the campaign total past $121 million with seven months remaining.

Of the prospects for reaching the Campaign's $130 million goal, Golden said: “I don't like to make predications, so I won't project what our final total will be. But I will say that in my mind it is no longer a question of our meeting the goal, it is a question of by what amount we can exceed it.”

Concluding, Golden said the Campaign was “not about raising dollars, but about meeting pressing needs. That is what pushes us to do more.”

In his report to the membership, President Grabois recounted highlights from the year, and then personalized the results of Presidents' Club support through stories of students and faculty. Colgate's Alumni of Color had gathered for their first reunion in ten years, said Grabois, feeling “a kinship and a richness of experience that they want to pass along to the students who followed them to campus.” He said their contributions have been both personal and financial, creating scholarships and book funds and special incentives, while at the same time offering encouragement and wisdom to the students who have succeeded them.

Grabois reported on alumni speakers who had visited the campus, including Jim Manzi '73, who spoke about the interface of information technology and education; AlliedSignal chairman and CEO Larry Bossidy '57, who spoke about opportunities in business; Kim Edwards '81 who read from her stories; Katie Redford '90, who described her work for human rights in Burma; and Christina Rupp '74, who involved students in refurbishing her sculpture outside Dana Arts Center.

Grabois recalled other distinguished visitors: former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and author and social commentator Cornel West had both filled Cotterell Court, he reminded the gathering. Another audience had filled the Chapel for the Syracuse Symphony's world premiere performance of a composition by alumnus and faculty member Dexter Morrill '60. And the Emerson String Quartet was in residence through the generosity of the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation.

“If the jobs and fellowships offered to our students are a measure of how Colgate is regarded in the world,” Grabois said, “we are doing quite well.” He cited four winners of Fulbright fellowships among the Class of '97, and a Watson Fellowship that will support a year of travel and research for Amy Allocco '97. “And there have been more recruiters on campus interviewing students for jobs than at any time in Colgate's history,” he added.

Grabois recounted athletic achievements as well, both on the field and off, citing four league championships for women's fall teams, but also acknowledging that the Patriot League had “weathered a crisis through a spirit of compromise and goodwill among its members.”

The balance of Grabois' remarks centered on stories about students and faculty: Matt DeMonte '99 is a resident assistant in Drake Hall; Jen Hughes '97 captained the soccer team then went on to a job at Goldman Sachs; Stacey Davis '97 graduated to a career as a teacher; Germano Coker '98 left Colgate only to come back, more eager to learn; Jack Bell '98 went on a Russia study group, then met Mikhail Gorbachev in Starr Rink; Rachel Lutwik '97 began a baby-sitting service for local families who couldn't afford to have someone watch their kids; Professor Peter Balakian was embarking on a nationwide tour reading from his new memoir; Professor Ellen Kraly is a geographer and university citizen who applies her skills where they are needed most; and the understated coach Dick Biddle engineered a dramatic reversal for a football team that had been 0-11 a year before.

“There is much to celebrate at Colgate,” said the President, “and so much of what we celebrate is made possible by the support of people in this room.” JL