It was 2003 when I first looked up the Wharton Club of New York to learn more about our alumni chapter in New York City. I signed up to attend a volunteer orientation event, and it was held at one of Kenny Beck’s furniture showrooms. I remember that there were lots of comfy office chairs for all of us! My enlightened self-interest then was to get back in touch with faculty on-campus as I was working on a business plan for my own startup, Dove Street Style, with fellow alum and husband, Jason Jaslow, W’95, EAS’95. It turned out that WCNY did not have an alumni university relations committee, and when Kenny called me the next day and asked if I’d start and chair such a committee, I took the call!
As Chair of the new University Relations Committee, I worked directly with the Wharton MBA Admissions Office to source locations and gather alumni to speak at MBA candidate recruiting events. After successfully serving two years in that committee, Kenny reached out to me and asked if I’d step up to serve as Vice President of Programming. In 2004, this division oversaw three committees: Speaker Series, University Relations, and Social and Special Events. I passed the torch of Chair of the University Relations Committee to Gilles Guillon, WG’04 — that’s when I learned that maintaining a deep bench helps make the transition a lot easier!
During the next seven years, from 2004 to 2011, Programming’s most notable accomplishment was reviving the Joseph Wharton Awards Dinner. This project was of special interest to Kenny. It was neat to learn that the dinner was regarded as the Academy Awards of business in the 1970s! It was truly a privilege to be among the initial group of volunteers to specify the vision and fiscally prudent parameters within which we wanted to revive the dinner — to fulfill its mission of engaging senior alumni, while supporting the Wharton brand.
In 2011, Kenny once again asked if I would take the call and manage the Business Development Division of WCNY, as the volunteer leading that division was leaving the country for work. Jennifer Gregoriou, W’78, who served many years as a fantastic Chair of the Speaker Series Committee, had been super dedicated and reliable, and shown grace in communicating sometimes difficult news to members, such as “sorry, no refunds.” I, in turn, asked Jennifer if she’d step up into the Vice President of Programming role, and she said “Yes!” — again, making the transition easy and seamless.
I served as Vice President of the Business Development Division from 2011 to 2017. The division included the Leads Councils (renamed Business Development Groups in 2016), Affinity Groups and Wharton Investment Resource Exchange (WIRE). WIRE consists of the Wharton Alumni Angel Network (WAAN) and the Wharton Investment Network (WIN).
As the groups grew, it became a challenge to build a deep bench of volunteers who had the bandwidth to manage these groups. Thanks to a great suggestion by Chuck Forgang, W’78, the Business Development Division was made more manageable by splitting into two divisions: Business Networking (which includes the Business Development Groups and Affinity Groups), and WIRE (which includes WAAN and WIN). Tony Andreoli, W’97, now serves as Vice President of Business Networking, and Florin Armenciu, WG’13, serves as Vice President of WIRE. I am thankful for all the volunteers who took the call in these important roles to shape and enhance our alumni experience. I’m especially thankful for Chuck Forgang, who continues as Vice President of the Careers Development Division, and will now also serve as Executive Vice President of WCNY, replacing George Bradt, WG’85.
In addition to serving in these operating capacities for WCNY, I also served on the Board of Directors from 2007 on. On the board, I served on the Investment Committee and Board Nomination Committee. When Kenny announced in 2015 that he would step down as President of WCNY, we knew that there would be elections for that leadership role, but somehow, all eyes turned to me. What can I say? I took the call!
Thanks to the visionary leadership of Kenny Beck, WG’87, the foundation for the Wharton Club of New York is strong and stable. As the new President of WCNY, I can build on that foundation and envision a future where we engage with our diverse alumni base and impact more alumni.
In shaping my vision for WCNY’s path ahead, I have sought feedback and advice from many volunteers over the years, including Carol Vinelli, an executive coach whose volunteer contributions to WCNY have been astute and untiring. Diana Davenport, WG’87, who served many years as Vice President of Volunteer Services, and now serves on the Board of Directors, took the time to meticulously go through my written pile of thoughts about the path ahead for WCNY and (tactfully) helped me to better organize and crystallize my ideas.
During my tenure as President of WCNY, I’d like to work on these five areas:
• Engage Wharton alumni holistically — Wharton alumni identities go beyond their professional careers. Our alumni club can do more to provide valuable resources, support and community to Wharton alumni in all walks and stages in life, including those working in nonprofits or staying at home to care for their children or elderly parents, for example.
• Harness the power of technology — We can accomplish more by using technology to enhance our resources and engage more alumni. For example, we will explore hosting online events to engage alumni and speakers who are unable to easily travel to Club events, and using mobile-friendly tools to collaborate with volunteers.
• Help alumni attain leadership positions — We will provide alumni access to continuing education that focuses on advancing professionally and obtaining roles of influence in business, civil society and government. This will increase alumni connections and further enhance the Wharton brand.
• Focus on diversity, equity and inclusiveness — We will take proactive steps to increase the diversity, equity and inclusiveness of Wharton alumni in leadership roles, including C-suite and board roles.
• Make the call — While our motto, “Take the Call” is still the minimum “ask” of any alum, we want to build a future where alumni are proactively making the call to get fellow alumni into C-suite roles, board roles, jobs and business referrals.
To accomplish these goals, we will need alumni to rally around them and help bring this vision to fruition. If any of the above areas tug at your enlightened self-interest, please make the call — serve as a volunteer and take on a leadership role in shaping the future of our alumni club, together!