Prepare to Become an Alum

Rick Pender

To the Editors:

Although I’m certain you’re getting an excellent education at Oberlin, I want to tell you something you might not have learned yet: You’re officially on your way to becoming an alum. That’s right — by virtue of your enrollment, you’ll be part of the Oberlin Alumni Association, an institution that dates back to 1839. For 173 years, graduates of Oberlin have been uniting to appreciate and support the institution that’s turned them into people who make a difference in the world.

I graduated from Oberlin in 1971 with a degree in English, thinking I would teach. I’ve done that, to be sure, but so much more. Using fundamental skills I learned during my undergraduate years I’ve worked in public relations, communications, journalism and fundraising. I’ve had a varied career — one that Oberlin prepared me for in ways I never imagined when I was a student. I suspect you might be saying the same 40 years after you graduate.

But the other thing I remember and am grateful for is that I could not have afforded to attend Oberlin without scholarships supported by generous alumni, graduates who preceded my time at the College. I benefited from their gifts to the Alumni Fund, as are many of you. Part of what makes Oberlin such a rich place to learn is the broad array of students who attend. Without the support of alumni, such diversity would be unlikely.

Even if you don’t receive financial aid, you have benefited from alumni who provided funds for buildings, faculty positions and innovative programs. And here’s another fact that might be news: Oberlin’s Board of Trustees is made up of alumni who help govern and shape the College, making it an ever better institution of higher education.

While I’ll never make a million-dollar gift to Oberlin, I’ve found ways to contribute, most specifically by urging other alumni to contribute in whatever ways they can. I chair the Development Committee of the Alumni Association, a group of grads who encourage other alumni to make financial gifts to Oberlin. We have recruited hundreds of alumni, who contact classmates and urge them to be supporters, too. Each year we help raise approximately six million dollars.

Working together with the dedicated staff in the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs, many contemporary Oberlin students are engaged in efforts that support this program such as telephone calling to grads to encourage their contributions or special efforts that result in seniors donating their matriculation fee back to the Alumni Fund. That’s a great way to make your first gift to Oberlin — and a way to start saying thanks to the College and alumni. What’s more, it’s the first step in making a difference for students who will follow you.

I’m proud to be an Obie. I bet you are, too. As you look to the future, I hope you’ll join the ranks of alumni who are committed to making the College an outstanding experience for future students from many backgrounds.

–Rick Pender,
OC ’71 Chair, Development Committee Alumni Executive Board