The Ties That Bind

Embracing Susquehanna for a Lifetime

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It was mid-January 2009, and I had just returned from visiting Susquehanna alumni and friends in Florida. Among them was Jay Feaster ’84, who in 2004 hoisted the Stanley Cup as general manager of the National Hockey League’s Tampa Bay Lightning. Jay had recently left the team after an ownership change, and when we met, his future was uncertain. I asked, and he agreed to come to Susquehanna and meet with students.

Jay attended Georgetown University Law School after graduating from Susquehanna with a Bachelor of Arts in political science. We decided it would be good to connect him with Michele DeMary, associate professor of political science and prelaw advisor. When I called her, Michele said she would be away from Selinsgrove on sabbatical but she thought her temporary replacement, Seth Mosebey ’03, would welcome a visit from Jay to the American Government class he was teaching. Six weeks later, the visit happened, and Seth, who has a passion for sports, was even more excited than the students to have Jay come to the class.

Seth, who majored in information systems at Susquehanna but ultimately became an attorney, took his first political science class during the fall of 2000. It was his sophomore year and Michele’s first year teaching at SU. “She was one of the two finest teachers I had,” Seth says. In Michele, Seth found a friend, a mentor and a colleague who has spotted opportunities—Seth also coaches SU’s Mock Trial team—that have been good for him and good for Susquehanna.
“I never understood networking, but I’ve come to realize that it’s about maintaining relationships because you want to maintain them,” Seth says. “It’s staying in touch with people you care about … because you want to care.”

Susquehanna Nation—the 15,000 living SU graduates—has hundreds of Seth Mosebeys, each representing a thread of the Susquehanna fabric that weaves the larger Susquehanna tapestry. Seth and others like him grasp the inherent two-way contract that a lifelong connection with the university represents and the three principles on which it relies: value, responsibility and opportunity.

A guest at an alumni event in Boston once said to President L. Jay Lemons: “Your job, like any corporate CEO, is to increase shareholder value. My wife has a Susquehanna degree. My son has a Susquehanna degree. We’re all shareholders.” This simple exchange resonates with many of us who work at the university. Our job is to ensure that graduates see escalating respect for and recognition of a Susquehanna degree. One informal gauge is the number of times we hear alumni who visit campus comment on the high caliber of students they encounter, the improvements made in facilities, and a general sense that “it’s better than when I was here.” And really, that’s how it should be at every institution of higher learning: we aim for continuous improvement.

Alumni increase the value proposition by the various footprints they leave in the world. And we need to know about more of them. Tell us about a promotion, an advanced degree, an award, a citation, a publication, a performance or an appointment. Why? Because we share your examples, your class notes in essence, with prospective students who increasingly seek evidence that Susquehanna prepares world citizens and leaders. It’s why students keep coming here.

Remember that $120,000 investment? It has a lifetime warranty. The Board of Trustees, along with nearly 500 people who work here, are responsible for ensuring Susquehanna’s long-term health and viability. Programs, facilities, resources and information are the critical elements of a bright and hopeful future. Susquehanna should have high representational value in your life: on a résumé, in a conversation or in the media. The last thing you want to say is: “I went to a college that had to close its doors.” Increasingly, these words are being uttered at other institutions.

However, this warranty isn’t absolute. After all, you can’t claim the engine failed if you never maintained it by changing the oil and spark plugs. American private higher education is maintained by contributions from graduates who keep institutional engines humming. Gifts from alumni donors create critical support for faculty and students. Alumni advocates help drive qualified applicants to our doorstep. In short, alumni make a huge difference by taking care of their investment in these important ways. 

Opportunities come from relationships: who you know and who you meet. R.J. Martucci ’06 connected the dots at a Washington, D.C., alumni event in July 2009. An accountant with PriceWaterhouseCoopers, RJ was ready for something different. “I knew Dr. (Jerry) Habegger (the Allen C. Tressler Professor in Accounting) was going to be there, as well as this alumnus from a smaller firm who Dr. Habegger stayed in touch with,” RJ recalls. “I met Doug (Boedecker ’92) that Tuesday evening, e-mailed him my résumé when I got home, and had a call from Personnel at Tate & Tryon at 8:45 Wednesday morning. I interviewed at 11 a.m. Friday and received the offer by noon.” It doesn’t always work that quickly, but it does work.

Networking opportunities like these abound. Frank Marcinek, head men’s basketball coach and associate director of athletics, talks about his program this way: “Our team is always standing on the shoulders of the guys who came before. Our alums have great pride in the program, and it links them to the student-athletes who are here today. When we’re able to bring them all together, it’s meaningful for everyone.”

Becky Bramer ’92 Deitrick, director of alumni relations, says, “If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a hundred times: alumni want to visit with their professors or coaches. The meaningful connections students make with faculty and coaches are deep, and they remain beyond graduation. Faculty and staff continue to be interested in what former students are doing, too. They find tremendous value in sharing information with their current students.”

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