Volume 17 • Issue 2

Alumni News & Notes

The Association of Southwestern University Alumni: This is Our Time

“I love Southwestern, but I do not know how to get involved.”

This common refrain made the Alumni Self-Study Commission aware that they needed to define new ways in which the University could engage alumni. The 15-member Commission was appointed by President Jake B. Schrum ’68 in 2001 to evaluate the University’s alumni programs and make recommendations about how they could be improved. The commission found that although many alumni cared deeply about Southwestern, they rarely visited campus, attended events or served in volunteer roles. The reasons for their passing interest ranged from “I’ve never been asked to do anything” to “I live outside of Texas” to “The only time the University contacts me is to ask me for money.”

All of that is changing. January marked the beginning of a new era for the Association of Southwestern University Alumni (ASUA). After a thorough self-study and several years putting the structural pieces in place, the ASUA is positioned to involve not only more alumni, but also to engage them in ways they value.

“We know that Southwestern alumni are living rich and full lives. If we want them to spend one of their most valuable commodities—time—on Southwestern, then we must make it worth it,” says Georgianne Hewett ’90, associate vice president for alumni relations.

The 15-member Alumni Council leads the reconstituted ASUA. Council members assume specific responsibilities for programs designed to engage alumni. A larger Alumni Assembly will serve as the governing body of the ASUA with delegates representing the interests of alumni through positions defined by class year, local associations and interest groups. The term of service for council positions and assembly delegates is two years.

The first president to serve the ASUA is Joe Seeber ’63. “My goal is to build the ASUA into as strong an organization as we can. We are the product of this great institution, and therefore, its greatest resource,” he says. Since assuming office, Seeber has adopted a personal mission of meeting and visiting one-on-one with as many alumni as possible. “Most alumni attribute their best Southwestern experiences to connections with faculty or longtime friends. That’s why the Alumni Council is going to focus on helping alumni re-connect through their existing relationships.”

In addition to positions created through the new governance structure, the ASUA plans to connect alumni in three ways:

  • Through the place where they live.
  • Through the time they attended Southwestern.
  • Through the interests that are important to them.

Toward this end, the ASUA has already launched local associations in Houston and Washington, D.C., with plans to launch another in Dallas later this year. It has committed to a reunion program that invites classes to hold reunions every five years, and is in the process of inviting alumni groups with mutual interests to formally affiliate with the ASUA. The requirements for these groups are minimal and the benefits are plentiful, including the right to select a delegate to serve on the alumni assembly. Any group of alumni that already exists or would like to form and wants to affiliate formally may find an application on www.sugrads.org.

To help alumni discover how they might like to be engaged with the University, the Office of Alumni Relations has set up a link on www.sugrads.org titled “Get Involved.” Hewett explains, “Life circumstances change quickly. We have tried to create enough and varied opportunities for an alumnus/a to determine ‘this is the right role for me right now.’”

Momentum is building. To ensure that all alumni know that they are welcome on campus and that the ASUA is interested in their involvement, Seeber invites them to stop by a hospitality house, which will be open throughout Homecoming and Reunion Weekend, Nov. 3-5, 2006. Seeber is aware that his two-year term will pass quickly, and with a clear vision of the possibilities, he is driven by a sense of urgency to connect alumni quickly. “This is our time.”

Hurricane Update

Pinsky Speaks

In the wake of devastation from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, Southwestern remains loyal to its core purpose of “fostering a liberal arts community whose values and actions encourage contributions toward the well-being of humanity.” In this update, an alumni couple and a current parent share their stories of strength and their deepened connection to Southwestern.

The Perez Family

Southwestern University parent Rosamaria Perez had lived in Beaumont, Texas, since she was eight years old. She had lived through other hurricanes, yet, she had experienced nothing like Rita. “I knew that the hurricane was out there,” she says. “I had a job though. So I was not leaving town before a mandatory evacuation was called.” When the mandatory evacuation came, Perez and her son, Zachary, packed the truck. “Usually we would go to a friend’s house in Dallas, but this time she had no room,” she continues. “My sister-in-law suggested calling Southwestern since my daughter [sophomore Daisy Mayo] was there. I called the school and was so excited that they would take us in. Southwestern welcomed us with open arms. Even the people in the Commons said to us, ‘Make yourselves at home.’” Perez and her family stayed in the Robertson Center along with other hurricane evacuees. The Perez family was among the last to remain at Southwestern after Hurricane Rita.

Ultimately, Perez and her family could not return to their home. “Our house is beyond repair,” she explains. She was able to save only a few items from the hurricane damage. “I placed our pictures in Rubbermaid totes and took them with me to Georgetown. Mold is growing on everything, though. We are trying to air out our clothes, but we lost all our furniture.” Yet, says Perez, “We get by one day at a time.”

The Bryant Family

Though out of town when it hit, New Orleans residents Molly Moran Bryant ’96 and Dr. Dave Bryant ’95 experienced the severe personal impact of Hurricane Katrina. Dave, a physician, talked his way onto a supply helicopter that took him back into New Orleans after the storm. “I did my emergency medicine residency at Charity Hospital and, on a good day, it was a controlled disaster, so I felt prepared for what I did,” he explains. He worked at an aid station in the Superdome, caring for close to 20,000 people, even delivering a baby by flashlight. The threat of riots eventually forced a helicopter evacuation of the medical team from the Superdome. After the evacuation, Dave went back to his work at Charity Hospital in Houma, La.

While Dave was in New Orleans, Molly stayed in Dallas with her family. A third-grade teacher at the all-girls Academy of Sacred Heart in New Orleans, she spent her first two weeks in Dallas serving as a liaison between schools there and Sacred Heart families. Most of her students, though, had evacuated to Houston after the storm. “I just wanted the girls to return to a schedule,” she says. “We explored so many options, but ultimately Sacred Heart asked me to go to Houston and teach, since 125 students moved there.” Molly lived with the parents of her sister-in-law (Suzanne Ramsey Moran ’93), Russell ’66 and Ann Carter Ramsey ’67. “What was most amazing was that some children lost everything and some had very little loss. How well kids adjusted depended on how their families dealt with everything, not on how much they lost. I learned more from the 8 and 9-year-olds than they probably learned from me,” Molly notes.

Since the hurricane, the Bryants have moved to Texas. Dave says, “It was a difficult decision, especially after we evacuated the patients from my hospital during Hurricane Rita. I loved working for the Charity system, treating people that no one else wants to help. But our house was not livable for quite a while because of a natural gas line break underneath it. The months after the storms were difficult,” he says. “Molly taught in Houston while I worked in New Orleans. We saw each other maybe twice a month. We were blessed, though. We have a lot of friends who lost everything.” Dave now works in the emergency department at Methodist Dallas Medical Center and Molly is a long-term substitute at the Episcopal School of Dallas. Through everything, they have taken lessons from Hurricane Katrina. Dave explains, “You have to be self-reliant. You can’t wait on others to take on things that need to be done.” And, Molly offers, “We witnessed a whole lot of miracles. Families took care of families. I feel blessed to see that side of humanity.”

Pinsky Speaks