Alumni Directors: Past and Present
Past Westminster alumni officials recently shared experiences from their time working with the College’s graduates. Many of their remarks helped enhance the story “Traditon – With a Twist” in the Fall 2011 issue of Leadership magazine. There wasn’t room in print for some outstanding insights, so they’re shared with you here.
Asking about staffers’ favorite stories yielded some fantastic tales. Jim Flink (’83) recalled his favorite anecdote: “Riding over the mountains with Jim Darling and his wife in their ancient checkered cab to Borrego Springs, Calif. Jack Marshall and Harvey and Eve Saunders were pale with horror as Mr. Darling drove. Harrowing and hilarious at the same time. We survived!”
Pat Kirby’s story struck a different note. “An alum, who I had dismissed from college during Short Term for setting a bulletin board on fire in Westminster Hall, called to make an appointment with me. When he walked into my office, I had no idea of his agenda, and was hoping he was not there to hurt me! After a few words, it became obvious. He told me the bulletin board incident was the last time he had drunk alcohol and that he had turned his life around over the last decade, with marriage, kids and a good job. And he genuinely thanked me for confronting him with his irresponsible behavior. (And he did transfer a course back to Westminster to earn his Westminster degree!)”
Jack Marshall will never forget Alumni Weekend in 1959, when an '09 alum from Cuba threw his arms around on of the columns and wept. The alum said, "If it had not been for those missionaires and Westminster College, I would probably be picking sugar cane in Cuba today."
Officials’ greatest Westminster achievements also ran the gamut. Pat described his experience putting together the first alumni listserv newsletter and documenting alumni gatherings. “Going from being ‘technically disadvantaged’ to an ‘online expert’ because of my Alumni List Serve Letters – thanks only to the technical skills of Sergei Kosakovsky Pond (’96)! I was also proud of increasing the number of alumni events all over the country. I went everywhere alumni invited me to host an event. … I always took pictures of our gatherings and then placed the pictures in our alumni publications. This was really the beginning of my ‘photography career’ at Westminster!”
Kris Lensmeyer recalled another Westminster first, the Blue Jay Across the USA Summer Road Trip – “a summer road trip to engage alumni, students, parents, friends, prospective families, etc., with the Westminster family. This is the third year for the road trip. ... It has been an amazing experience for the four-student road crew as well as the people they visit around the country.”
Rising to the Challenge
Of course, there were obstacles along the way. Jim overcame them with help from others at Westminster. “Not everyone welcomed change, and there was plenty of that. I succeeded a legend, in Tyke Yates. He was well loved, deservedly so, so there were some bumps. Jack Marshall was a huge help, as were Tom Thomas, Bruce Brookby, Jerry Kennett, Jim Schmuck and others. And Harvey Saunders was very supportive of his youthful Alumni Director.”
And Kris, pictured right along with Phil Reynolds had a one-of-a-kind challenge to meet when she took the reins as Alumni Director. “Westminster was an all-male institution until 1979, and when I started, some alumni did not even realize that we had female students on campus. Having a name like Kris, many alumni addressed their letters/information to me as Mr. Kris Lensmeyer.”
Although each alumni official has a unique experience from his or her time serving Westminster, all share similar hopes for the College’s lasting effects on its graduates.
Phil Reynolds (’61) finds joy in the “outstanding alumni of Westminster and their great achievements, not just for themselves but for all humanity and our country. ...Although many significant changes have been made to the campus, and the student body may be larger, it is still the College that opeend the door of opportunity to all of us who attended.”
Melanie Barger, the new alumni director pictured left, wants alumni to "feel pride that their institution is continuing to excel in providing a quality education and preparing students for success in their fields, famillies, and communities." She wants alumni to feel "excited for the future generations of Westminster students."
And Jim Fink (’83) summed it up — “I want Westminster alumni to recognize how special a college it is: Truly exceptional, and a place where new leaders are cultivated each year.”