I live in Florida, graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1975 with a degree in government and for the past five years have come to campus for almost 400 total days, volunteering my time to coach students around service initiatives and career development. I have not been alone — many of my class of 1975 classmates, other alumni and our friends and families have been on a remarkable five-year ride with you that we call Staying Connected: Together Serving Others.
Staying Connected has been an all-volunteer and self-funded initiative. Since I chose to put my career on hold at the end of 2010 and later sell my home to be able to continue funding a large part of SC, a few caring alumni and students have suggested various 12-step programs for me to overcome my addiction to working with students from the College. I am often asked if it was “worth it”.
For sure. No doubt. College students have enriched my life.
If you have never heard of Staying Connected, you are not alone either, but you may have been a part of it without realizing it. When we started SC we chose a grass roots approach, to communicate our programs primarily through personal connections and personal invites instead of through mass advertising.
So, if you ever participated in the annual Active Citizen’s Conference led by the Office of Community Engagement or took the Public Service class where you proposed your own non-profit organizations; if you ever did a Campus Kitchens shift or packed meals with Students for Stop Hunger Now; if you participated in 3 Day Startup or digitalized photos and scrapbooks in the Pappy Fehr projects; if you are one of many hundreds who had a mock interview with me or my classmates, you have been a part of Staying Connected.
And we are grateful.
We commissioned four College students to create paintings and another to write a poem about Staying Connected “as seen through the eyes of a William and Mary student.” You can see them on Youtube or “live” on Oct. 22 (8 – 10 p.m.) when we’ve rented out the Daily Grind for an open house to thank you, young alumni and staff who have partnered with us in SC. Come by and you’ll also get to see a large poster version of “The Quilt.” It was created by the women of Stith (Bryan Complex) in 1976, depicting life on campus in the days when the College hosted the Presidential Debate between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford.
Since we started this student/alumni engagement gig at our 35th Reunion in 2010, most of the students we’ve worked with are now alumni themselves. I have witnessed that awesome College undergrads become awesome College adults and alumni.
We are grateful for that, too.
Go to the Homecoming parade Friday afternoon. Look for the red corvette with the politically incorrect Tribe Feathers banner on its hood. Give a shout-out to your supporters from the class of 1975. Halloween is soon upon us — if I wanted to scare you I’d suggest that you are getting a glimpse of what you may look like in 40 years, but I won’t go there. Meanwhile, I’ll try to educate my classmates on what a TWAMP is, how a Triathlon replaced our streaking and how fun the Raft Debate is.
Thanks. Best wishes. Embrace your quirky.
Email Van Black at [email protected]