Alumni from around the country gathered at The Nittany Lion Inn in early November to honor their own with the Penn State Alumni Association’s version of the Oscars, Emmys and Grammys.
Four individuals and 21 groups were honored for their outstanding work with one of 13 Volunteer Awards. The Volunteer Awards are an opportunity to recognize exemplary service on behalf of Penn State by alumni and affiliate groups who have contributed their time, leadership and talent.
Following are details of each award winner.
Philip Philip Mitchell Alumni Service Award
Tim Reese ’02 was president of the Penn State Alumni Association’s San Diego Chapter from 2006–2009 and is currently a chapter board member. Reese also serves as an admissions volunteer, belongs to the Golden Lion Society and Nittany Lion Club, and is involved with the LionsROAR program. Reese is also active in community organizations including Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America and Coastal Kindness. Reese is a strong supporter of the San Diego Chapter’s scholarship effort and pledged the $1,000 he received as part of this award to the chapter’s scholarship fund.
Andrew Jackson ’74, ’04g is a cornerstone of the Penn State community and a lifelong supporter of diversity at Penn State, working tirelessly to connect and engage alumni. Jackson has served as president and social chair with the Forum on Black Affairs and was a guest speaker for the Black Male Leadership Symposium, among others. Jackson has helped the University's mission of fostering diversity by serving on diversity committees in the College of Education and the Penn State Alumni Association. He’s also served as a board member for the Alumni Blue Band Affiliate Program Group (APG) and the Interfaith Community Coalition Against Prejudice and Violence.
Recent Alumnus Award
Ninad Pendharkar ’03, ’07g graduated from Penn Statein 2003, then continued onto medical school at the Penn State College of Medicine and is currently a dermatology resident at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center. As a medical student, Pendharkar helped establish the Blue & White Society at Penn State Hershey, wrote the constitution, personally recruited many of his classmates to join and served as its first president. Pendharkar is now the group’s resident advisor. He was also involved in creating an alumni mentorship program for medical students.
Volunteer of the Year Award
Edie Kreider ’73 was recognized for her 19 years as a Penn State alumni volunteer with the Dayton Chapter in Ohio. During that time, she has served as a board member, newsletter editor, treasurer, football trip organizer, membership chair and Student Sendoff host, among others. The local chapter recently recognized her efforts with the 2008 Dayton Chapter President’s Award. Beyond Penn State, Kreider has been active in the community, volunteering for Habitat For Humanity, Think TV and the Beavercreek Public Schools.
Three groups were recognized for their social media and Web site upgrades: Greater Boston Chapter, San Diego Chapter and the Triangle (N.C.) Chapter.
The Greater Boston Chapter significantly enhanced its Web presence with the launch of its new Web site at www.psuboston.org. The flexible, user-friendly site allows for merchandise sales, has e-newsletter capabilities, and other features to connect alumni. The chapter has already seen results with increased volunteer recruitment and member retention and a 65 percent growth in football viewing party attendance.
The San Diego Chapter is recognized for its wide variety of communication tools to meet the needs of members with the electronic medium they’re most comfortable using. The chapter’s Facebook page has grown to nearly 500 members, and they have more than 40 LinkedIn connections. Their MySpace community is also growing, and they are just starting to tweet. The chapter now has an e-mail subscription list of more than 450 addresses and has seen greater attendance at and involvement in chapter activities.
The Triangle Chapter, centered in the Raleigh, N.C. area, developed a cost-effective communications strategy designed to take full advantage of cutting-edge media technologies including blogs, Facebook, Ning and Twitter. The centerpiece of the chapter’s strategy is the chapter blog, which allows for quick and efficient communications, especially since it has RSS feed capability, alerting members to new posts. The Triangle Chapter also takes advantage of an e-mail marketing tool that allows them to monitor and track user activity.
Fellowship and Networking Award
The Minnesota Chapter and the School of Forest Resources Alumni Program Group (APG) were both recognized with this award. The Minnesota Chapter has adopted a multi-pronged approach that includes communications, events and education. Chapter members and alumni are connected electronically through a Listserv, Facebook, LinkedIn and a hard-copy newsletter. They also connect through Happy Hour events, TV Tailgate Viewing Parties, community service, a Big Ten Alumni Softball Tournament and a Penn State Minnesota Annual Night Out on the Town.
The School of Forest Resources APG celebrated 100 years of forestry education at Penn State with a yearlong series of events. The centerpiece of the centennial was a weekend celebration that included a reception and centennial tree planting ceremony, numerous campus tours and activities at the Forest Resources Building, a banquet and other activities. The school published a book A Century of Forest Resources Education at Penn State and produced a DVD on the history of Penn State’s forestry education. The School of Forest Resources’ alumni, faculty, staff, and friends also gathered at a special Centennial Tailgate before the Iowa football game this fall. Nearly 500 alumni, friends and faculty participated in the Centennial activities.
Joint Activities Award
This award recognizes the collaborative efforts of two or more alumni affiliate groups. Five groups were honored for organizing two special events.
The Dance Marathon Alumni Interest Group, New York City Chapter, and Northern New Jersey Chapter combined forces to produce the “Hope Gala 2009,” an elegant event in Manhattan last January (see the story on upcoming THON galas in this issue of AlumnInsider) in support of THON. More than 350 alumni and friends danced “For the Kids” and bought auction items. Former Food Network/HGTV star and Penn State alum Jill Cordes ’92 hosted the evening, The gala raised more than $10,000 for THON and The Four Diamonds Fund.
The Joint Activities Award also went to two groups—the Vermont Chapter and Syracuse Chapter—that connected through their participation in the 2007 Homecoming Parade. Following the parade, they began working together to host the 2008 Penn State versus Syracuse Friday night alumni mixer. More than 150 people attended the event with alumni from as far away as Florida and Virginia. The Vermont and Syracuse bond continues, with the chapters exchanging ideas and networking regularly.
Two groups were recognized for impressive growth in their membership rolls. The Greater Pittsburgh Chapter, winning for the second year in a row, nearly tripled its membership from 246 to 715 members last year and added another 200 members this year. Greater Pittsburgh accomplished this through mass-targeted mailings of more than 3,000 pieces throughout the year, 37 events ranging from football watching parties to family-oriented outings, and publicity from working on their local PBS station pledge drive and attending the Senior Sendoff at University Park.
The Los Angeles Chapter built and maintained membership by sending a personalized letter to all new and renewing members, including a packet of “extras” that includes a Penn State bumper sticker and current football schedule, along with contact and Web site information.
National Service Project Award
The Chester County Chapter was recognized for exemplary public service for providing 200 hours of work that saved the National Park Service approximately $16,000. Twenty-five chapter members worked to clean up and help with restoration efforts of Knox’s Quarters at the Valley Forge National Park. In the past five years, Chester County Chapter members have helped to rehab 15 historically significant buildings. Their efforts have saved the Valley Forge National Park nearly a half million dollars to date.
New/Innovative Event or Program Award
Two groups were recognized for a new event or program. The Annapolis Chapter celebrated summer with its first-ever crab feast last year. The event featured all-you-can-eat crabs, a silent auction, and a visit from Penn State Defensive Line Coach Larry Johnson. The silent auction benefitted the chapter’s scholarship fund—which now stands at about $30,000.
The Philadelphia Chapter reached out in a new way—by connecting with elementary students to introduce them to Penn State and the idea that college is within their reach. The chapter adopted a third-grade class at the First Philadelphia Charter School for Literacy, a city school with a diverse student body. Two major highlights of the year were the students’ day visit to the Penn State Abington campus and an overnight visit to University Park. The chapter raised more than $6,000 to underwrite the trips.
Professional Development Award
Two groups were honored for outstanding professional development programs or events. The Penn State Mechanical Engineering Society Alumni Program Group established a mentoring program with 50 alumni mentors paired with undergraduate mechanical engineering students. The department hosted a kick-off event and mid-year luncheon that allowed for additional personal interactions between mentors and students. The program has attracted national attention from other schools looking to start similar mentoring programs.
The other group honored—the Professional Women’s Network of Metro Washington, D.C.—updated its strategic plan to include a goal of increasing student interaction. As a result, they hosted a networking reception for students in the College of Health and Human Development’s Women’s Leadership Initiative. The event provided opportunities for the students to discuss career development and network with women in various stages of their careers.
The Alumni Blue Band Alumni Program Group and the Gulf Coast Chapter from Florida were recognized in this category. The Alumni Blue Band APG was instrumental in raising money for production of the documentary, “Making the Blue Band,” which follows eight hopefuls through the extensive audition process for the Blue Band. The group raised $10,000 from Blue Band alumni with targeted appeals and e-mail follow up. The Gulf Coast Chapter hosted three speaker luncheons, a scholarship breakfast, a holiday party, educational programs and Big Ten events and 13 football watching parties in support of the chapter’s $55,000 endowed scholarship fund. The chapter also worked to support local charities.
Student Interaction Award
Two chapters were recognized in this category. The Centre County Chapter was recognized for its ongoing involvement in Penn State’s “Spend a Summer Day” program, which helps prospective students and their families see the campus, meet representatives from various colleges, and learn about the admissions process. For “Spend a Summer Day,” chapter members served as hosts of the multi-day event, staffing more than 80 percent of the volunteer host jobs and greeting thousands of prospective students and their families.
The Greater Chicago Chapter was recognized for hosting numerous events that promoted student interaction. In addition to recruiting students at more than 80 college fairs and hosting picnics and sendoffs, the chapter continued new connections by giving Penn State parents free membership in the chapter and compiling a directory so they could stay connected with each other. By significantly adding to its endowment—now at $67,000—the chapter was able to award $10,000 in student scholarships.
For more information on Penn State Alumni Association’s recognition programs and selection criteria click here.