Alumni Executive Council Virtual Business Meeting

February 27, 2021

President Sue North called the meeting to order at 11:42 am EST.

Alumni Executive Council Logo

Following roll call by Secretary Laura Patrick, a quorum was documented.

Present:  Bates, Baucom, Bickford, Blank, Cassidy, Colton, Colucci, Danielson, DeCamp, Frank, Friedlander, Gilbert, Giles, Gross, Hann, Higgins, Ireland, Kallet, Kelly, Lancaster, Levi, Lloyd, Martin, McGee, McManus, McSweeney, Michaelson, Merrell, North, Patrick, Pollard, Price, Rana, Richman, Russell, D. Ryan, M. Ryan, Wells, Wieland, Wilson, Zonitch

Not Present:  Abernethy, Acuria, Cochran, Egbert, Glass, Hakewill, Hartz, Ireland, Jenkins, Johnson, Santini, Smith, Stern, Sylla, Willis, Woolf

A motion to approve the 24 October 2020 Business Meeting minutes was made by Elizabeth Colucci and seconded by Scott Giles.  All approved.

President’s Report – Sue North

President North talked about three winter highlights for the AEC:
1)    Making great progress on the new endowment fund, Power of Connections.  Hoping to have 100% participation as ALL gifts are important.
2)    Successful programming by the Student Services Committee in helping to provide meals (and a treat) to students having to stay on campus over the holidays.  The effort came together quickly and addressed an immediate need.
3)    Recent “Career Conversations”

The report back from the Board of Trustees meeting focused primarily on the progress of the “Experience St. Lawrence” task force.  Making good headway on nine administrative issues.

Also, efforts are on-going in the following areas:
•    Strategic Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Plan
•    Admissions challenges
•    Fox Center for Academic Opportunity (a wonderful honor for Bill)
•    Announcement of Kate Morris as the 19th President of St. Lawrence

President North also acknowledged the disappointment of students and families in the latest announcement concerning Commencement 2021.  Commencement will be earlier (no “senior week”) and completely virtual.

Sue’s closing remarks focused on the overall COVID-19 situation.  She recently completed vaccination, urged everyone to do so and then stay the course on protocols – “Don’t spike the ball on the 1-yard line!”.

Campus Report – Kim Hissong

Campaign Progress:  Currently pledges and donations bring total to $215 million against goal of $225 million.  Kim mentioned two planned gifts made by trustee donors and families totaling $18 million.  20,000 donors representing 65,000 gifts have made this possible.  This total represents cash and pledges, as well as planned gifts.  Planned gifts represent 20-30% of total.  Currently awaiting responses regarding other large gifts that enable SLU to see a path to the total of $225 million.

Fox Center for Academic Opportunity:  St. Lawrence is seeking both endowed and immediate gifts to be directed toward the Center.  This year’s 1,856-Minute Challenge will be tied to this effort.

COVID Update:  St. Lawrence County is currently in State of Emergency due to increase in cases.  No current cases on campus, three students recovering at home.  Kim noted that Clarkson University had gone fully remote due to an increase in cases on their campus.  The results at SLU are true tribute to the effort and commitment of the whole campus community to staying healthy.  Hoping to move to Phase II around March 8.

Commencement:  The decision for and, announcement of, a virtual commencement scheduled for April 11 was made given current public health conditions and state restrictions on gathering (limit of 50 or less for outdoor gatherings).  Plans could change as these conditions change.  There have been not decisions as yet regarding Commencement for 2020 (8/1), Reunion, or Canaras.  Each will be treated as distinct decisions.

Student Delegate Report – Evelin Gilbert, Tarrah Price, Sohel Rana, Dylan Woolf

Sohel Rana reported on Security & Safety on campus.  Dorms are consistently checked for activity not consistent with the Laurentian Pact.  There is a great deal of community engagement on campus with many student organizations reaching out with programming to support both personal and academic aspects of campus life.  A Laurentian Care Package is scheduled to go out next week.

Evelin Gilbert shared that dining services is experiencing a food shortage due to pandemic and recent storm issues.  This impacts the variety of offerings available at campus dining locations.  Additionally, they are having trouble hiring student workers due to COVID fears as well as academic concerns.

Evelin touched on services offered to address mental health.  The Wellness Center offers yoga, student gift bags have been given out, and clubs/student organizations are holding events to help address “COVID fatigue.”

Tarrah Price reported on athletics.  Both hockey and skiing have been able to participate in competitions.  While other sports cannot, many are continuing to practice.  The track team has been holding intra-squad competitions – the Scarlet vs. Brown. 

With regard to DEI efforts, the athletic department has established the Saints Social Justice Committee which is working to create programming to address issues of diversity and inclusion.  

Tarrah also talked about programming presented by Career Services.  Several industry panels have been offered and well-received as well as successful SLU Connect LIVE.

As the last official meeting to be attended by the student delegates, President North offered a THANK YOU for their service and mentioned that parting gifts would be headed their way.

There was a brief discussion of what can/will be done to continue to support the classes of 2020 and 2021 as we continue to work through the issues created by the pandemic.  The University and AEC committees will work to identify opportunities.

Treasurer’s Report/Finance & Resources Committee – Paul Danielson

Paul Danielson made a brief report as we are just beginning our fiscal year, 1/1/21 – 12/31/21.  Budgeted expenses continue to outpace revenue by approximately $14,000 annually.  With the pandemic actual expenses have been reduced and variable.  YTD expenses have been $200.  Possible reductions in the 2021 budget total $7,700.  The potential overrun would come in closer to $6,300 (vs. $14,000).

Potential increase for future revenue exists in the rollout of an AEC auction and funds generated by the Power of Connections endowment.
Sally McSweeney asked about the reduction in funding for L4L Week.  Kim H. responded that it will look different this year with fewer activities and therefore, reduced spending.

Gary Zonitch and Mike Kallet reported out on the status of the Power of Connections Endowment Fund.  $52,000 out of $145,000 in pledges has been collected.  Because the threshold of $50,000 has been met, Council will be able to offer funds this year.  Gary and Mike continue to work toward 100% participation from AEC members.  Seventeen members yet to make a pledge.  Mike stated that reminders would be sent out and thanked everyone for their participation.  Gary noted that the amount collected will count toward The Campaign for Every Laurentian.
Jennifer McGee asked about a specific link for donating on-line.  Kim to provide.


Admissions – Scott Giles and Sarah Wieland

Sarah began by sharing some of the updates from their last meeting with Florence Hines.  Approximately 80% of prospective students have not been able to visit campus.  Florence expressed her work on ways to scale up council note writing efforts to admitted students as she believes it has a positive impact.  The Admissions committee has been brainstorming ideas for expansion, i.e. enlisting former Admissions Ambassadors and engaged recent grads.  Scott reiterated that this is one of the critical areas on which they have been focused.  The committee is seeking volunteers from council and beyond to write 10+ notes.  Doug Smith asked a question as to how to crowd source.  The question is around how to expand the program in a controlled way that will be of benefit to Admissions efforts as well as engage younger/recent grads.  Sue N. shared that past AEC presidents have all agreed to participate as well.

Advancement – Rob Glass / Carol Lancaster

Carol Lancaster reported that the committee met recently with Joe Keniston and Beth Dixon.  Gifts are trending in a strong direction.  The number of donors is down, but revenue is up.  Current focus on fundraising will be for the Fox Center for Academic Opportunity.  The senior class (2021) launched their efforts for class gifts on 2/1.  12% participation thus far with proceeds to be directed to the Fox Center.  Donations of $10 or more will received a cord to wear at Commencement.

The 1,856-Minute Challenge is coming up.  Council members can help by becoming “advocate” during the two-day period.  Other efforts include an appeal for appreciated stock.  Some alum are making donations when they register for events.

Communications & Marketing – Dave Bickford

Dave provided a list of on-going projects on which the committee is working:
•    Birthday Greetings 
•    AEC “Annual Report”
•    Council presence in St. Lawrence Magazine
•    Social media guidelines
•    Alumni Association involvement and recognition by all alumni
Engagement – Sally McSweeney and Randy Wilson
Randy offered a brief update on the following:
•    AEC Paint & Sip was deemed verry successful.  The committee is now working with Joe and team as to how this format can be offered to other groups.
•    When last together the idea of a campus “Winter Olympics” had been suggested to Joe K.  Students had already started to run with the idea.
•    The committee has started brainstorming around ways to offer support for the classes of 2020 and 2021.
Randy thanked everyone for their ideas – “keep them coming!”  

Membership & Honors – Amy Pollard & Molly Hann

Molly brought up the challenge of identifying, vetting and selecting new council members.  We need a process that is thoughtful, efficient and inclusive.

We have six confirmed new council members joining this spring.  Distribution as follows:
•    Three from Group I
•    One from Group III
•    One from Group IV
•    One from Group V
•    One opening is being vetted for Group IV and one in Group V

M&H is requesting nominations for Student Delegates.  Sohel asked about timing for student applications.  Request for applications will be made in April prior to the end of the semester.  

A link for alumni council nominations can be found on the university website:

Student Services – Elizabeth Colucci and Cheryl Gross

Cheryl thanked everyone for the ideas generated during this morning’s council idea exchange session.  She shared positive updates from Jillian McKernan-Walley and Beth Larrabee on well-attended, well-received Career Conversations sessions. These sessions offered guest speakers and break-out room that offered students the opportunity for networking with various alumni.  Students provided lots of positive feedback.

Career Services has been continuing to offer SLU Connect programming albeit virtually.  These include sessions targeting various industries such as business/finance, healthcare, social media, environment/sustainability, social impact and technology.  Programming will allow for individual discussions and networking opportunities. 

The holiday effort to provide meals and some cheer to those students who had to remain on-campus (most of whom were international students) was a great success.  Students appreciated the notes and cards, loved the gift (blankets/mug/hot chocolate), and gathered around a firepit.  Students knew that these items as well as two meals were provided by the AEC.  It is hoped that this program can continue as part of the regular AEC calendar.

Amanda Brewer will be returning from maternity leave and re-engaging Laurentian Connection efforts.


Auction – Paige Friedlander and Gary Zonitch

Gary thanked the committee members for their efforts.  While the hope is to be able to have the auction on-campus in the fall (Family Weekend), the committee has been brainstorming as to what an auction would look like if fully virtual.  The plan is to review ideas with the officers and share more broadly as appropriate.  Gary shared again that this is a potentially great way to generate additional revenue for AEC.

Affinities & Affiliations – Brian Abernethy and Mike Santini

No report.

Auction – Paige Friedlander and Gary Zonitch

Paige explained that the funds requested in the budget were for a new contract for an auction platform.  It is the same company used as before, but with enhanced capabilities.  The goal of the newly introduced auction would be to raise $6,000.  She asked members to start thinking about ideas for an AEC auction item.  Please send to Gary or Paige.  

Diversity & Inclusion – Sajana Blank

Sajana shared that the university hosted virtual open forums for the SLU community to share details of The Strategic Action Plan for Diversity & Inclusion.  Link to the plan here:

Please watch for upcoming D & I programming.  On March 9, the D&I task force, in partnership with the Office of Laurentian Engagement, is offering a panel discussion with student leaders entitled “Champions for Change”.  Please join as your schedules allow.

Faculty Engagement – Anne McGrath and Stevie Michaelson

Anne talked about the next Strategic Session of our Winter Meeting – “MLK in Conversation with Contemporary Themes and Thinkers” scheduled for March 23rd.  It will be a panel of faculty members with discussions breakouts and Q & A moderated by Kimberly Flint-Hamilton.  (Presented in partnership with the D&I Task Force.)

As has been offered during our last couple of winter meetings, Anne and Stevie are working on arrangements to sit in on classes in various disciplines.  Once faculty members have been identified, sign-up sheets will be e-mailed.

Upcoming “Laurentian Learns” session to be offered on March 31:  “Buzz About Bees: Pollination in Kitchen and Ornamental Gardens" with Dr. Aswini Pai, Associate Professor and Co-Chair of Biology.

New York City Semester – Penn Egbert
No report.

New Business 

•    Chelsea Lloyd presented the trial proposal for an All-AEC Calendar to be maintained on Google Calendar.  This is an opportunity for Officers and Committee / Task Force chairs to post meetings and events relevant to full council.  We will review its use prior to the next business meeting.

•    On behalf of the student delegates, Sohel shared their perspective on the university’s recent decision regarding commencement (virtual celebration to be held the weekend prior to finals week).  The decision was made given current COVID conditions in New York state and existing guidelines/rules. This is disappointing for the seniors and while the reason for a virtual ceremony is understood, seniors are concerned with the timing occurring just before finals.  Students would like to have an opportunity to work together with the administration to come up with a celebration that allows them to spend some time with their friends and classmates, especially given their success in adhering to the Laurentian Pact.  A student petition has been circulating.  It was mentioned that perhaps celebrations could occur within “family units” as outlined in the Laurentian Pact. Samantha Colton suggested that they also look into what other NYS colleges are doing.  Evelyn Gilbert thanked council members for their suggestions.  Tarrah Price acknowledged that the administration has demonstrated empathy and that they are doing everything they can to continue the conversation and work together creatively.  Susan Merrell thanked the student delegates for “sharing their hearts.’


The Alma Mater was sung and the meeting was adjourned at 1:50 pm EST by President Sue North.

Notes submitted by Laura Patrick, Secretary.