It was a sad day when we had to cancel plans to gather in Chambersburg for Reunion 2020. Once we are able to gather safely again, we will do all we can to make our next Reunion an amazing one.
The Alumnae Association of Wilson College usually conducts its Annual Meeting on the Saturday morning of Reunion weekend. We originally planned to postpone our meeting until our Fall Weekend. We delayed our AAWC Fall Weekend (which we usually hold in September) to coincide with Homecoming, a Board of Trustees meeting, the delayed Commencement of the Class of 2020, and the potential Inauguration of Wilson’s new President, Wesley R. Fugate, Ph.D. Unfortunately, given the restrictions on large gatherings that are still in place because of the pandemic, these in-person events are not possible.
We are considering the option of holding a virtual Annual Meeting, but thanks to so many of you who took advantage of our electronic and mail-in options to cast your votes, we actually have a quorum from the responses. To enable the business of the AAWC to proceed smoothly, we will provisionally regard the slate having been elected by a vote of 69 for, one against, and the Bylaws Amendments to have been approved by a vote of 68 for, two against, based on the 70 votes cast to date.
There are a number of individuals we wanted to recognize in various ways for their service to Wilson College at Reunion 2020. Details of the Awardees are included in a separate article, but I want to congratulate them here: Faculty Award, Kathleen L. Kaminski; Tift College Award, Ellen Van Looy Reed ’53; Distinguished Adult Degree Program Alumnae, Dorothy M. Van Brakle ’06 & ’09: Outstanding Young Alumna Award, Jennifer Robinson Detrisac ’05, and Distinguished Alumnae, Beth Oehrig Lange ’70. We have also designated two individuals as Honorary Alumni and will be recognizing them at a future date: Donald F. Bletz, Former President and Faculty Emeritus, and Amy M. Ensley, Director of the Hankey Center for the History of Women’s Education. To thank A. Richard Kneedler for his service to Wilson as its interim president, we have donated a bench, which has been placed near the Veterinary Education Center in his honor. We have also made a Legacy Scholarship Award to Pierce Thompson Pfeiffer, ’21.
I have to begin this Report with an expression of thanks on behalf of the AAWC to Marybeth Famulare, our director of alumni relations, for her support during the normal times and for her flexibility and creativity as our realities changed this past March. She and Katie Shank ’19, the alumni relations associate, have done fine jobs of finding ways to reach out to and engage alums, even as we are not able to gather and meet on campus.
The Alumni Relations Office is focused on building relationships, maintaining rapport and creating lifelong connections between Wilson College and its alums. Please keep informed about upcoming events, updates and volunteer opportunities. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and share photos and news, and be sure we have your current contact information. Even when we are all remote, Marybeth and Katie are doing a great job of keeping us connected.
The AAWC Board of Directors was able to meet in person twice this year, at our Fall Weekend and Winter Retreat, and once virtually in June. We always look for opportunities to meet and engage with current students and were especially pleased to host a reception at our winter gathering to allow board members to meet Dr. Fugate and his husband, Cody Ward.
I invite all alums to consider participating in the AAWC as a board member, as it is an extremely rewarding activity. We do our business through committees. We have an Engagement Committee, focused on outreach to all alums, a Heritage Committee focused on connecting alums to the College and honoring its history, a Student Connections Committee focused on building links between current students and alums, a Recognition and Stewardship Committee that selects AAWC award recipients, Tours and Travel Committee, and a Nominating Committee that works to identify qualified and committed alums to join the board. We would be delighted to discuss board membership with any interested alum.
Beyond our meetings, there were a number of activities involving alums and the AAWC over the year.
Seven alums represented Wilson College at college presidential inaugurations across the country.
We granted several internship requests in the total amount of $500.00.
The Silver Lining Fund provides relief to students when an emergency occurs. The total allocated from this fund this year was $1,135.00. We provide cash or gift cards to individual students, as well as donate $100 per month during the school year (September to April) to Sarah’s Cupboard, the on-campus food pantry. We also encourage alums to mail non-perishable food items to the Cupboard. Due to health and safety precautions, campus is closed to visitors at this time. For local alums, please contact Alumni Relations at 717-262-2010 to coordinate a food donation drop-off at the Alumni House.
We had a successful year with our Tours & Travel last year, but have had to hold this aside for most of 2020. We did have three travelers and earned $853.50 from their travel before the shut-down.
The Aunt Sarah/Uncle Wilson Program has 145 volunteers involved this year, with a total of 120 active pairings. If you would like to get involved in this initiative to connect alums to current students, you can sign up on the Alumni Relations page on the Wilson website.
With funds raised through our link with Smile.Amazon.com, we were able to help with the cost of alum/student engagement opportunities, including the hosting of a Food for Finals event at the end of fall semester. If you are an Amazon shopper, please use its Smile program and designate the AAWC as your charity.
When the world pivoted to remote interaction back in March, Wilson was not able to hold its traditional Accepted Students events. Twenty-three local alums volunteered to write note cards to 150 accepted students who live within one hour of campus. Six of our young alums participated in a Zoom panel to share some of their experiences with these prospective students.
In May, the College hosted an online Conferral of Degrees on Facebook, and many alums participated and/or attended virtually. The AAWC sent postcards to each of the students receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees, congratulating them on their graduation and welcoming them to the AAWC.
We had planned to launch the book “The College That Refused to Die: The Untold Story of Wilson College from 1979-1989–A Doc- umentary History” at Reunion 2020. Dr. Mary-Linda Merriam Armacost finished it just as everything was shutting down, and we are still getting it formatted and prepared for printing. Purchase details will follow as the launch gets closer.
I am pleased to confirm that 47 percent of the members of the Board of Trustees at this time are alums of Wilson College, fully in compliance with the board’s commitment to the AAWC.
The Wilson College Board of Trustees had an eventful year. After selecting A. Richard Kneedler to serve as interim president after the resignation of Barbara Mistick, it began a very collaborative process of identifying the 20th President of Wilson College, concluding with the election of Dr. Wesley R. Fugate as our new president, who began his service in January 2020. There was a wonderful gala to celebrate the Sesquicentennial in October 2019, and the Veterinary Education Center was dedicated that weekend. Dr. Mary-Linda Merriam Armacost (honorary ’91) was designated as President Emerita.
As the pandemic began, right before spring break, the College began developing contingency plans in case we had to pivot to remote learning. A few days later, we not only had to pivot to delivering remote instruction, but we had to move operations off campus to do so. The faculty and those who supported this new reality did an outstanding job of making this pivot and continuing the education process for our students. At this time, the College is developing contingency plans for the various scenarios that might exist when classes are scheduled to begin again in September.
The financial impact of this pandemic on Wilson cannot be minimized. With extra costs, we face reduced revenue from tuition, room and board. Wilson faces great challenges ahead as a consequence of the pandemic with excellent leadership. Dr. Fugate and his cabinet are making thoughtful efforts to maximize Wilson’s opportunities under the various relief arrangements and paying very careful attention to expenses. However, we still need to deliver an excellent product–a quality Wilson education.
Once again, as we did back in 1979, Wilson’s alums must step up, as our help and support is desperately needed at this time. If you are able, please make a donation (or an extra donation) to the Wilson Fund, and lend your voice to share the word with others about the remarkable story that is Wilson.
Thank you all for your interest in and support of Wilson College. Please stay safe and healthy. I look forward to a time when we can all gather together again on our beautiful campus.
Lynne E. DiStasio ’74