by Lynne E. DiStasio ’74
Once again, I begin my report with an expression of gratitude to all of the women and men who remain engaged with and connected to Wilson College through their roles as alumnae and alumni. Whether you attended Wilson right out of (or even before you left) high school or at some later point in your life’s journey, she made an impact on you, and I hope you will look for ways to make an impact on her. Wilson’s small size and beautiful semi-rural
location, in particular, were probably contributors to the impact Wilson had on you, but they are also things that make it vulnerable now.
The College needs you now as much as it ever has. You have heard about the We Rise: United for Wilson’s Future campaign, officially launched at Reunion 2023. I hope that all alums will contribute as much as they can to this critical initiative at this precarious moment in Wilson’s storied history.
Yes, money is vitally important, but alums have many other ways to support and promote Wilson that are equally vital. You can look for opportunities to refer potential students to Wilson. You can also participate in a note-writing campaign in late winter/ early spring to contact accepted students and encourage them to enroll at Wilson. We sent 675 such letters this year.
Of course, there are numerous opportunities to help and connect you to current students. The popular Aunt Sarah/Uncle Wilson program matches alums and current students. We have 84 active pairings now, with 37 alums waiting to be paired with students. During Commencement Weekend, we host a Ring It Forward ceremony, at which class rings donated by alums are presented to students or others who would otherwise not have rings. We passed along four rings in May, bringing the total of rings passed forward to 54. If you have a ring that you would like to contribute now or in the future, there is a form to donate on the Wilson website.
Internships are an important part of a college education these days, and alums can help sponsoring internships by identifying or where they work. You can also help by hosting or helping a Wilson intern going to work near where you live, and of course, by contributing to the AAWC’s Internship Fund. That fund enables the AAWC to provide financial support to students to participating in an internship. We provided $500 to support a student in her internship this year.
Alums are staunch supporters of Sarah’s Cupboard, Wilson’s food pantry, whether by bringing bags of foodstuffs to campus, dispatching an occasional order from Amazon, or through their support of
the AAWC’s Silver Lining Fund, which contributed $200 in gift cards from a local grocery store to students in need of items not available through the pantry.
Wilson also offers many ways for alums not in the immediate Chambersburg area to connect with goings-on at the College. Perhaps prime among these would be President Wes Fugate and Vice President Angela Zimmann’s visits to meet with alums around the country. If they are coming to a city near you, please make every effort to meet them!
On a more passive basis, Wilson has streamed special lectures and panels, Convocation, Commencement, Common Hour presentations, Christmas Vespers, and events at Student Research Day. The Alumni Relations team organized four of the very popular Travel Tuesdays Zoom calls last year, as well as eight Summer Lectures delivered by faculty and staff. As alums, you are invited and encouraged to join in as many of these as you wish. If you would like to present a program yourself, possibly about a trip you took, a book you wrote, or some other aspect of your life that you think others would find interesting, please reach out to Katie Shank to express your interest.
Finally, there are ways to support the College more directly. When Wilson is invited to send a representative to the inauguration of another college president, and a Wilson official is not available, the College often reaches out to her local alums to ask them to attend on her behalf, and this past year, four alums did so. There are many opportunities to volunteer on campus for those who live close to Chambersburg. Several regulars volunteer for projects at the Hankey Center, and local alums often help out at the Alumni Relations Office with things like mailings and preparing welcome bags. More physically active volunteer opportunities have included painting and gardening projects.
We have also been blessed at Wilson with alums who have taken on leadership roles at the College. At its last meeting, the Board of Trustees bid farewell to long-serving chair Barbara L. Tenney ’67, M.D., while voting in new chair Jennifer N. Banzhof ’94. We saw our former Director of Alumni Relations Marybeth Famulare ’17 Hon. take on a new role in Institutional Advancement, and we welcomed the new Director of Alumni Engagement and the Annual Fund Katie Shank ’19, ’21M, ’22M. We are grateful to all for their diligent service.
We invite all alums to join in the various things we offer, whatever best fits the time, talent, and/or treasure you have available to share. But don’t feel constrained by what we do now! If you see a need, opportunity, or something you would like to do to help, speak up! Keep Wilson in your heart, and if at all possible, come to visit. Keep that strong connection to this remarkable institution we all love.