Rs of Gold. In 1988, Alumni Relations created Students Together In Networking Graduates (STING) to address student retention and spirit that was more “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” than “My Own and Only Love.” Twenty years after its establishment, it was time to reexamine STING’s purpose. In 2009, Alumni Relations developed a program that more closely aligned with its philosophy and strategy: the Student Alumni Ambassadors (SAAs). STING was gone, but not forgotten.
Don’t call it a comeback. A reincarnation of STING made up of 30 to 35 undergraduates, the SAA program serves as a bridge between current undergraduates and alumni, while fostering students’ pride in Rochester and their interest in staying connected and giving back. Although it would be great if SAAs could get alumni and fellow classmates to trade Uptown Funk for The Genesee, their purpose is really to inspire future alumni leaders and donors.
UR lovefools. SAAs can be easily identified by their uniforms: the spirit R cardigans. But it’s what’s underneath their Meliora duds that make them who they are. SAAs are the kind of students who when they say they bleed blue and gold, there’s some concern they may try to prove it. They are exceptionally positive and enthusiastic; they are eager to meet new people to expand their personal and professional networks; and they have a solid grasp of the University’s history, mission, and current initiatives. They are quite literally our poster children.
R is for veRsatile. There is little that Advancement could ask SAAs to do that they are not already doing. Need a student presence for a general campus, local, or regional event or how about a presidential or George Eastman Circle event? SAAs do that. Need a campus tour for a prospective donor or new Advancement staff member? Follow the cardigan, sir or madam. Do you want to thank a donor or volunteer with a call, card, or video, or perhaps a current student’s perspective on the University? S. A. As.
Yaas, SAAs. There are countless glowing anecdotes from prospective families, alumni, and volunteers that prove the SAA program is an invaluable contributor to the Advancement mission. But for a sense of hard value, in labor hours, their service is worth an average of more than $17,000 a year. Better still is the program’s effect on SAA members. Compared to their peers, SAA members have proven to be far more likely to give to their senior class gift campaign, continue giving after graduation, and become a member of the George Eastman Circle. And many also continue to serve as alumni volunteers.
Spreading the love. In 2013, the Offices of Alumni Relations, Annual Giving, and Stewardship launched a “Valentine’s Day” for the University called “I Heart Rochester Day.” During Spirit Week—the beginning of the spring semester—undergraduates write notes to thank first-time donors for being the gasoline to their burnin’ love for Rochester. A similar fall tradition, “UR Home,” encourages students to write notes in the spirit of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros to be shared in donors’ Meliora Weekend registration packets.
TAGsgiving. Mel Liora ’19 could run through and out of the Rush Rhees Library, high-five the Eastman statue and Gene Kelly around a lamp post, on his way to Todd Union, not knowing he passed more than 100 donor-supported objects. But not on Thank A Giver (TAG) Day. Launched in April 2015, TAG Day physically tags those lamp posts, spaces, buildings, and more to highlight what donors have done for the University and give students like Mel a chance to say thank you.
24 hours of contributing. There is no making the world “ever better” without the support of the University community—teamwork makes the dream work! A University that gives together grows together! Enter Day of Giving. Also launched in April 2015, Day of Giving encourages Rochester’s alumni, parents, faculty, staff, parents, and friends to make a gift of any size to anywhere at the University. Support is further shown on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using #URMakingADifference. Adding #EverythingIsAWESOME is optional.
“For he’s our greatest benefactor…” On July 12, 1854 in Waterville, N.Y., Maria and George Washington Eastman had the most important Kodak moment—their son, George, was born. Every year, George’s birthday is celebrated by the University’s young alumni across the country. Members of the Young Alumni Council, and other volunteers, organize and host happy hours, allowing recently graduated members of the University community to get together and raise a glass to ol’ papa Eastman, a jolly generous fellow, which nobody can deny.
Smells like ’Jacket spirit. Where do University students go after graduation? “Where’s Rocky?” helps provide the answer. For anyone who has ever been tormented by the infuriating chaos and red herrings that hide Waldo, this is not a question to be feared. University mascot Rocky the yellowjacket simply poses—in card stock form—with students and alumni around the world. And for the alumni who found love as students, or later in life, they can add some Meliora to their wedding day with a UR pennant.
There is only one. It became one of the first homeopathic hospitals in the U.S. in 1889. It is now well known for comprehensive care. Its name is
Highlander Highland Hospital. It’s a quasquicentenarian. On the way to more than 125 years of service, Highland became the first U.S. hospital to treat diabetes with insulin, first New York hospital to establish a family medicine training program, and first Rochester hospital to allow fathers in the delivery room—today Highland is Rochester’s busiest hospital for births.
We swear it will be done. Highland is a community hospital, founded on the principle that “no one, however destitute or forlorn, if sick, shall be refused admission and careful treatment.” It is so deeply rooted in compassionate care that it made its motto “compassion heals.” If Highland were a person it would be Patch Adams. And to ensure that motto is put into practice, the hospital backs it up with the Highland Promise. Highland promises to commit its overall service and operation to excellence. Anything less is inconceivable.
The Highland Life. A unique branch of UR Medicine, Highland offers the distinctive blend of a warm, caring environment and first-rate health care, highlighted by region-leading bariatric, geriatric, and women’s health services. It’s a combination that has earned it several accreditations and awards for outstanding quality. Highland’s affiliation with the Medical Center ensures its patients receive Medicine of the Highest Order and make it, what some may say, the Shangri-La of community hospitals. Cheers to being happy and healthy!
Higher and Higher. To continually fulfill the Highland Promise, the Hospital relies on the help of the Highland Foundation. The Foundation is responsible for generating new funds for priority areas within the hospital. In addition to fundraising, the Foundation, which has $9.2 million in assets, allocates around $500,000 annually to support strategic areas (e.g., Linda’s Garden). A source within the Foundation disclosed a desire to recreate the statue of liberty scene from “Ghostbusters II” with a giant Dr. Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann to “get the big bucks.”
Party like it’s 1889. Hearing someone in a raspberry beret scream “Let’s go crazy!” and then drive off in a little red Corvette means it’s time for the annual Highland Gala. Or, it might be time for the annual Golf Classic, unless it’s been canceled due to purple rain. And that is when doves cry. What makes doves happy is the presentation of the Highland Foundation’s Nothing Compares 2 U Award a.k.a. the Heritage Award, given to an individual or organization that has played a significant role in the life of Highland and the community.
A.K.A., Leaders. These aren’t the type of volunteers that are featured in the titular film “Volunteers”—although, minus the brainwashing, Tom Tuttle comes close with his enthusiasm and dedication. University volunteers are a group of more than 3,000 alumni, parents, and friends who are exemplars and partners in advancing Rochester’s mission. Together, they constitute Volunteers in Partnership, and they demonstrate their leadership in three ways: participating, giving, and helping.
Bueller ’90? Being a volunteer starts with showing up. Attending University events and meetings and participating in projects are easy ways to stay connected to and informed about the University. Those who are willing to make a larger time commitment can join a leadership group, such as a board, council, or committee. While some are by nomination or invitation only, there are 90 different opportunities across the University and Medical Center.
Three’s Volunteering. [Sing] Come and give to our school…We’ve been stewarding you… For annual, major, and planned support…Three’s Volunteering. Giving in these ways—ideally all of them—also helps to make a volunteer. One of the most popular ways to give annually is through the George Eastman Circle, the University’s leadership annual giving society. Examples of a major gift include an endowed scholarship, professorship, or research fund. Finally, volunteers might also make a legacy gift through a bequest or other gift planning.
UR is where UR. We’re channeling our inner Jon Kabat-Zinn a little bit here, but wherever they are, volunteers are bringing the University with them. Around the world, volunteers are the University’s ambassadors. They engage other alumni, parents, and friends within their own communities through salons and events that are focused on how we are The Wiz of universities. They help us attract superstar students and plan reunions. And they offer their counsel and professional expertise, which sometimes means guest lecturing.
Retreating forward. Like the saying about going backward in order to move forward, sometimes the future of a university needs to be discussed over the course of a three-day retreat at an island resort in the southeastern U.S. Any volunteer worth their charitable remainder annuity trust knows that. In March 2011, University volunteers met on Kiawah Island to make final preparations for the launch of The Meliora Challenge. Now they’re gathering on Amelia Island to discuss post-Campaign strategic priorities that will take the University to the next level.
The Green Ceiling. Parents and students alike might feel as though the cost of higher education is an endlessly increasing figure. We can’t speak for other institutions, but here, there’s a reason the cost per student has increased: our endeavor to be “ever better” has actually made us better—inside and outside the classroom. The real problem is there are too many deserving students and too few financial aid dollars. The answer is a deeper pool of endowed scholarships and fellowships.
“When I was a boy, scholarships were only $30.” That would make you about 164 years old. Endowed scholarships have existed at the University since its founding in 1850. Among the first were the New York Baptist Union scholarships, which covered three terms worth of tuition. Endowed scholarships and fellowships have the potential to reach a high level of prestige and endure for centuries.
SCHDPF. Endowed scholarships and fellowships are critical resources because of the financial assistance they provide students and the way they benefit the University. Use “SCHDPF” as a simple way to remember how they help the University: Stay Competitive, often being the difference between students coming here or going elsewhere; Honor Diversity, ensuring high-performing students from all backgrounds are able to attend; and Provide Freedom from heavy student debt. Remember SCHDPF!
The Meliora Club. There’s a movie from the 80s (“The Detention Gang?”) where a character writes this amazing “essay,” that captures the essence of a Rochester student. To borrow from that, each of our students is a scholar, an engineer, a caregiver, an artist, and a prankster. Every year since 2009, scholarship and fellowship donors have been able to see this first hand at the Celebration of Scholarships. While the annual event recognizes donors’ generosity and scholarship recipients’ accomplishments, it also provides a unique opportunity for donors and students to meet and interact with students.
Getting down to brass tacks. An endowed scholarship or fellowship can be created with a minimum gift of $50,000. There are three additional giving levels that provide partial tuition, full tuition, and full tuition with room and board (or graduate stipend). There are still more options for those looking to commit less than $50,000. And for those looking for fun, making a gift that also creates a good old-fashioned challenge could be a great way to add excitement and impact to philanthropy.