Volunteer Spotlight: Giving Thanks
Outgoing NULC co-chairs in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco made lasting impact
From left: James DeNaut (Weinberg 84), President Morty Schapiro, Linda Zwack Munger (Medill 78), and Jonathan Rosen (Weinberg 81).
As the end of their run nears, the co-chairs of the three major Northwestern University Leadership Circle regional councils can look with pride at what they have accomplished.
The San Francisco, New York, and Chicago councils generated increases in almost every possible metric, including membership and amount of money raised. Yet the intrinsic benefits seem to be just as numerous.
“It’s nice to have a reason to call someone from my own class, and it’s also fun to get to know someone from a different class who I wouldn’t have had the chance to meet without the council,” said Jennifer Moore Morehead (Medill 2000, Kellogg 2008), who along with Gideon Searle (Kellogg 1983, Parent 2002, 2009) and Sona Wang (Kellogg 1986), is completing a two-year term as co-chair of the Chicago Regional Council.
“The council is a group of extraordinarily committed alums, so the meetings are always a great chance to get excited and reinvigorated about Northwestern.”
It wasn’t too long ago that opportunities for engagement were limited for alumni and friends outside of the Chicago area. That need was filled in a major way in 2006 with the establishment of the NULC, and its first two regional councils—Chicago and San Francisco Bay Area.
In New York, where more than 15,000 alumni reside, Jonathan Rosen (Weinberg 81), Linda Zwack Munger (Medill 78), and James DeNaut (Weinberg 84) assumed leadership roles in fall of 2007. It didn’t take long for them to make an impact. Their first years were so successful that the three were asked to renew their terms as co-chairs in 2009. They helped increase New York’s council membership from 38 in 2007 to 63 today.
“We were charged with figuring out how can we bring the color purple full time to New York,” Rosen said. “Everybody meshed very well and just believed that if we could give the New York area alums a reason to connect, they would.”
Scott Ryles (Weinberg 1981) and Donna Petkanics (Weinberg 1980) became co-chairs of the NULC’s San Francisco Bay Area Regional Council in fall of 2008. Ryles said he believes a personal connection is most effective in getting alumni engaged in the University after a long absence. And he said the University has responded with excellent support.
“Northwestern is easy to sell,” said Ryles, whose San Francisco regional council membership has grown by nearly 50 percent. “The school does a great job of bringing as much of Northwestern to San Francisco as they can.”
Even in Chicago, where alumni—by virtue of geography—are never far from Northwestern, there has been a noticeable increase in council involvement. Giving increased from $446,343 in 2009 to $552,324 so far in 2011.
“Gideon has been instrumental to the fundraising for the group and Sona has worked hard to recruit new members,” said Morehead. “They both have a lot of energy and passion for Northwestern and I have enjoyed getting to know them better through this role.”
Though their stint in leadership roles is coming to an end, the eight co-chairs plan to stay involved in the University in a variety of ways—and they have high hopes for their successors.
“New York felt very disconnected from the “mother ship” in Evanston,” said Rosen. “The bridge has been built. There is fluid communication back and forth. It is something for the next co-chairs to build upon.”
Said Ryles: “The most gratifying part has been meeting a lot of people who shared the Northwestern experience over the years—and seeing that group grow to many hundreds in the Leadership Circle. There are over 8,000 alumni in the Bay Area and we’ve only touched a fraction of them.”
Morehead said she’d like to see “a regional council in Chicago that is poised to further increase membership and dollars contributed. It’s been our belief that because Chicago’s regional council is in Northwestern’s backyard, it should be the strongest. I believe our legacy is that we’ve set the council up for this success.”