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alumni news

Office ties Seven alumni share a NYC office
Campaign giving spurs big momentum Updates on gifts and groups
Alumni get new strategic leader Judy Roberts Kunisch '69 is new alumni prez
Draft notices Hall of Fame inductees announced
China diaries '08ers blog about teaching in China
Sports fan reunion Golf and tennis benefit draws big crowd
Club connection New York, N.Y.


Campaign giving spurs big momentum

Annual Fund sets new dollar record
Skidmore’s alumni, parents, students, and friends combined forces in 2007–08 to reach a new high in Annual Fund gifts: $6.4 million. In the past four years, Annual Fund totals haven’t just inched up to new highs; they’ve jumped dramatically, from $4.2 million in 2004 to this year’s $6.4 million record.

Several efforts within the Annual Fund met with especially notable success. Skidmore parents and families continued their strong tradition (the envy of many peer colleges) by ex­ceeding the $1 million mark. In fact, the families of this year’s graduating seniors contrib­uted a remarkable $750,000—enough to en­dow a scholarship and more—while their students broke every previous senior-class giving record, racking up a 94 percent participation rate, 110 Friends of the Presidents–level donors, and a total gift of $9,288.

The always-important reunion-giving initiatives also made a splash. For the second year in a row, giving by members of reunion classes surpassed $6 million. This year’s stars included the 60th-, 50th-, and 45th-reunion classes—alumni from 1948, 1958, and 1963—whose giving totaled more than $1 million in each class. Reunion gifts supported several funding priorities including the Annual Fund, scholarship aid, the Arthur Zankel Music Center, and the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery. The number of 1963ers who donated at the Friends of the Presidents level broke the previous FOP record for a 45th-reunion class, and the ‘48ers set a new dollar record for a 60th-reunion class. “I was touched by the generosity of so many,” says Susie Hecht Goldstein ’58, class FOP chair. She adds, “It has occurred to me that what I am, I owe in large part to Skidmore. The best I can do—and try to convince others to do—is to help Skidmore shape the knowledge and values of future generations, as it did for me.”

As Goldstein and other leaders are aware, this year’s triumphs are tempered by a dip in the percentage of participating alumni. Skidmore’s advancement staff is already working with volunteers to boost participation this year. “The future health of Skidmore depends on solid participation at every level,” says Tracy Barlok, campaign director. She adds, “A gift of any size signifies—not just to us, but to college-ranking guides, grant-making foundations, and a range of potential supporters—a vote of confidence in the college’s mission to engage and educate the next generation of leaders in the creative thinking and problem-solving skills that are crucial in our increasingly complicated world.” Goals for this year’s Annual Fund are $6.7 million and 36 percent (9,250 donors).

Council of 100 is on the move
Every leader needs counsel—and councils. A new and influential one for Skidmore President Philip Glotzbach is the Council of 100. Now in its third year, the group continues to line up lead members who are some of the college’s most committed alumni.

The council’s central mission is to advise Glotzbach and his staff on how best to implement the college’s strategic initiatives. At the same time, the council serves as a place to groom a new generation of leaders for a range of advisory councils, committees, and even the board of trustees. Over the past two years, the Council of 100 has discussed a number of pressing college issues, ranging from financial aid and admissions efforts to new academic programming in the sciences, and made recommendations to the president and his cabinet of vice presidents and deans. And they’re having an impact, says Glotzbach: “These ambassadors are serving the college with the guidance and support necessary to help drive future institutional decisions and make a real difference for Skidmore.”

The idea to form the council came from the trustees as they considered the future of their own board and other college advisory groups. Then-trustee John Howley ’80 was tapped as the council’s first chair and served for two years. He saw its mission this way: “Skidmore is defined by its sense of community. The Council of 100 embraces some of our most passionate alums and brings them closer into that community.”

Today the group is working with its new chair, trustee Michele Dunkerley ’80, and an executive committee that includes Howley, Ken Freirich ’90, Jed Garfield ’85, Vicary Graham ’82, and Nancy Hamilton ’77. Dunkerley says she’s impressed with “this smart, interesting group of alumni, each with his or her own track record of success.” As chair she hopes to open up “the two-way street; alumni who participate in Skidmore’s future are strengthening their connections with it, and Skidmore is benefiting from their insights.” She herself is eager “to learn more about the college and to be influential in writing its next chapter.”

Scholarship gifts a high priority
Among the main goals of the current campaign, scholarship aid is receiving lots of attention lately. Several pivotal gifts have arrived, but many more are actively being sought. Of the $200 million total campaign goal, $50 million is earmarked for scholarship aid; to date, nearly $35 million has been raised for scholarships.

For the campaign’s director, Tracy Barlok, that goal is central to Skidmore’s founding vision and continuing mission. She says, “Throughout its history, Skidmore College has focused on providing a life-changing education, and it has always done its best to assist those who otherwise couldn’t afford to en­roll.” Today Skidmore is gamely competing with some of the best liberal arts colleges to attract top applicants. But as costs rise, Barlok notes, “many of these very talented applicants, who often re­ceive several offers of admission, must base their college choice on the financial aid available.” Indeed, Skidmore perennially loses some admitted candidates to colleges that can provide more aid. Barlok says that’s why “Skidmore’s commitment to excellence and access is a critical component of the campaign.”

Luckily, scholarship aid is a popularcause for donors, especially those who benefited from scholarships when they were students. One favorite approach is to name the scholarship for a friend or family member. “An endowed scholarship fund is a wonderful way to honor the legacy of someone who has been influential in your life,” says Mary Solomons, director of donor relations. She and her staff currently oversee more than 150 scholarship funds—and the number is growing.

One example is Joan Firmery ’57, whose Elsa and Arthur Firmery Scholarship, in memory of her parents, was given to its first student in 2007–08. Having watched higher-education costs “rising out of sight,” she was concerned that “students from a middle-class background similar to my own couldn’t afford Skidmore.” After her mother died in 2003, she says, “endowing the scholarship seemed a fitting way to use part of my inheritance to thank and honor my parents, who both valued education.” She adds, “I loved my teaching career, which Skidmore helped prepare me for, so it was logical for me to give back to the institution that gave me my beginning.”

Cindy Nicklis Neumann ’70 also gave a memorial scholarship, named for her father. She says, “My dad’s success in life was in large part due to his generosity and compassion. He always supported his alma mater, Yale, and the United Negro College Fund. His example was really the impetus to my establishing this scholarship. I feel that it honors his values and helps them live on.” Grateful for the “personalized experience of a small, selective college,” which she en­joyed as a Skidmore student, she says, “I wanted to help make such an education possible for others.” And the gift arrangement made that possible: “I have always been a supporter of the Annual Fund, but this was a special opportunity to make a designated gift that would have a measurable impact on a student’s education.”

A helping hand sixty years ago is what inspired Bob Dehlendorf to be­come a scholarship donor, honoring his late wife, Pat Landis Dehlendorf ’53. In Pat’s junior year, he recalls, her father lost his job and could no longer pay her tuition, “but out of nowhere came a scholarship that allowed her to graduate with a major in retailing, her first love.” After Pat died in 1971, Dianne Snow Brennan ’53 and husband Jack joined Bob in starting an endowed scholarship fund in her name, “to help any student to continue who is faced with a similar problem.” It was the campaign that re­ently inspired Bob to add to the fund so that it generates more aid for a student each year. He concludes, “It goes to show that there is more to college than marks, making friends, and graduating. There are also pure acts of human-to-human kindness, Skidmore-style.” —SR