The Colgate Scene
September 2005

People on the go

Lillian Cho '92 [Photos by Timothy D. Sofranko]

Lillian Cho '92 always planned on a career working with arts groups. She probably didn't expect to be working with 200 of them at once, though.

Cho, the executive director of the Asian American Arts Alliance (A4) in New York, works with museums, theaters, dance companies, and almost 200 other groups that create, present, and produce arts and culture ranging from the traditional to the cutting edge.

"I go to a lot of meetings," she joked.

The Alliance is dedicated to increasing financial and other resources for Asian American arts and cultural groups based in New York City. Cho, an art and art history major at Colgate, volunteered for the organization during college and was a temporary worker there shortly after graduating. But more than eight years ago, Cho's career had been headed down a slightly different path -- until the previous A4 director, who was leaving, contacted Cho and encouraged her to apply for the soon-to-be-vacant position.

"It really fit because it connected my experience in the arts with my personal interest in working with a multi-ethnic Asian cultural community," she said.

With more than eight years with Cho at the helm, the organization is seeing major accomplishments. Its re-granting program is growing, it boasts a new program that is part of a national initiative to support individual artists of color, and it is actively involved in helping to build a cultural space in Chinatown. Though not a granting body itself, A4 has aided small groups with grants totaling more than half a million dollars. When a theater or other organization receives even just $1,000 with the help of A4, Cho feels a sense of accomplishment.

"It really gives them a leg up, and you feel like you've made an impact," she said.

Cho played an integral role in financially stabilizing the not-for-profit and helped to establish the A4 website. Now, the alliance and its members are preparing for the future even more comprehensively.

"We just came out of our own strategic planning initiative, which has us concentrating on increasing funds and visibility for our constituents," Cho said. "Part of our work is about educating people on what's out there. The challenge is grabbing attention, when people are so busy."

Cho and her husband, Mark V. Chung '90, have recently become busier themselves -- the couple welcomed baby girl Meena this year. Where this newest phase of her life will lead, Cho said she's not sure.

"I don't know what's next, really," she admitted. "But I hope it'll be as stimulating as it has been up until now."
— Vicki L. Wilson

Liz Stookey Sunde '87

"I am so happy about where I've landed," said Liz Stookey Sunde '87.

Where is a small town in Vermont's Upper Valley, but Sunde is talking about more than GPS points. Her work consulting with nonprofits is going well. Husband Paul works in admissions at nearby Dartmouth, and sons Macintyre and Finnian are flourishing. Her full life is completed by her role as the executive director of Public Domain Foundation, Inc., created by her father, Noel Paul Stookey, to receive and distribute the royalties of his "The Wedding Song" to charities.

The song began as a prayer given at his partner Peter Yarrow's wedding. Knowing a hit when he hears one, Yarrow urged his fellow troubadour (yes, of the folk group Peter, Paul, and Mary) to turn the blessing into a song. The trio never recorded it, but Stookey did on his solo album Paul and, changing forever ceremonies of holy matrimony. Becoming popular on the radio as well, "The Wedding Song" also made the billboard charts in 1971.

"My father believes the song was divinely inspired -- that he was the scribe, not the author -- and therefore can't receive the proceeds," explained Sunde. The song has generated nearly $2 million that has been distributed by Stookey through Public Domain to children and family services around the world.

Following her graduation from Colgate, Sunde worked in college admissions, and later returned to school to craft a hybrid masters program in social work, education, and business.

"I want to help nonprofits run themselves better," she said. She worked for the United Way of New York City, then with a fundraising software firm introducing multiple nonprofits to an electronic approach to fundraising. "I traveled around and worked with so many different groups; it was great training for an independent consulting practice."

Life with a baby in a 500-square-foot New York apartment propelled the Sunde family to Vermont, where she established Elizabeth Sunde Consulting. The firm does public relations and fundraising for affordable housing, project development, and grant writing for a school district, and works with a diverse array of clients including a chamber of commerce as well as arts, environmental, and health groups.

In 1997 Sunde became executive director of Public Domain, and she has maintained the simple nature of the foundation while introducing some changes. The most dramatic is Music to Life, a songwriting contest that encourages artists whose compositions speak to social or political issues. The contest has grown from 140 entries in its first year to more than 270 in its second. Ten finalists are chosen, with the top three being awarded funds that will go to the charities of their choice. Sunde is currently working on the foundation's third contest, wrapping up in 2006.

As Stookey told Dirty Linen magazine, "The encouragement of the Music to Life contest is to remind the songwriters that there is a world of hurt out there, and music is a great way to achieve a community perception of what needs to be done to alleviate that."

Sunde is intent on creating an endowment that could be her father's living legacy and dreams of influencing the Grammys to establish a category honoring songs of social significance so vital to her family, Peter, Paul, and Mary, and all those who participate in Music to Life.

It is all part of a good and full life. "I am so where I want to be," she said.
— John D. Hubbard '72

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