Updates given, new Fund Chair elected, and awards bestowed at Alumni Association Annual Meeting
On the evening of Tuesday, April 13, more than 100 alumni/ae from across the globe joined together on Zoom for the Alumni Association Annual Meeting and Awards Ceremony.
Alumni Association President Will Dunn ’02, presiding over his first Annual Meeting, began the program by highlighting various Association initiatives from the past year. Dunn outlined the Association’s focus on inclusivity, connecting and supporting alumni/ae, and engaging and educating the community through communications and programming. He also highlighted the formation of advisory councils for Alumni/ae of Color and the LGBTQIA+ community, in response to alumni/ae interest, and expressed that these groups will “have the chance to really flourish over the next year and moving forward.”
After promoting the newly formed Pelican Pros career development initiative and encouraging attendees to join the School’s networking and mentoring platform, Alumnifire, Dunn introduced Rector Kathleen Giles, praising her leadership through challenging times. “It has been amazing to watch Kathy and her team at work,” Dunn said, “running a fully residential school through a global pandemic, and finding solutions where other schools did not.”
Giles began her remarks by congratulating the evening’s Award winners and applauding the efforts of the alumni/ae community as a whole: “The product of our school is our alumni/ae, and the way you carry what you’ve done here out into the world, and turned it into service to the greater good, is inspirational to our students and all of us here.”
After reviewing the various student activities and community programs that dotted the 2020-21 academic calendar, Giles touched upon the challenges of this past year both within the student body and the alumni/ae community. “The institution isn’t the buildings, it’s the people,” she noted. “This community holds a series of very complex relationships that continue to change over time, with a School that also continues to change over time and evolve. Evolution and change are happening at St. Paul’s School, and we are embracing it and are excited about it.”
Outgoing Fund Chair Doug Asano ’92 shared the progress of the 2020-21 SPS Fund, and encouraged all those in attendance to do their part in supporting the school financially. In his five-plus years as fund chair, Asano has overseen more than $25 million in annual giving, including upwards of 18,000 individual gifts from alumni/ae of all form years.
Caroline La Voie ’88, P’20,’21 introduced the candidate to assume the fund chair role, fellow Alumni Association Executive Council member Amachie Ackah ’90. “I’m honored to be the candidate for the SPS fund chair,” Ackah said. “It is incredibly important to me to give back to a school that has taught me so much, to a community that has supported me so much, and to a tradition of values that guides me every day.”
Dunn then transitioned into the final segment of the evening, recognizing this year’s three Alumni Association Award recipients. The first, Coley Burke ’59, P’87, was a real estate mogul, environmentalist, and former SPS Alumni Association president. He died on November 8, 2020, just a few days after receiving the award. Joining the Association meeting from Marin County, Calif., Erik Burke ’87, with his sister, Lisa Burke Whitescarver, said, “On behalf of our entire family, we accept this award for our father, who is smiling down on all of us today.”
A professor of African American studies and history at Northeastern University, award recipient Bob Hall ’65 was one of the first African American students to graduate from St. Paul’s School. Tuning in from Boston, Hall spoke of the importance he places on his St. Paul’s School experience, which, he shared, “had a tremendous impact on my life and my trajectory. Tradition counts for something, and I am happy to have contributed to that tradition.”
“I carry St. Paul’s with me everywhere I go,” Caroline Randall Williams ’06 said in her acceptance remarks, made from her home in Nashville, Tenn. The award-winning author, teacher, and activist currently serves as the writer-in-residence at Vanderbilt University. “Whatever work I’ve done that has allowed me to share this space with y’all this evening, comes from the will to do the work, to labor on, and the will to be a truth teller,” she said, before reading her poem “Sestina for the Boys on the Hill.”
Dunn closed the meeting by inviting attendees to join breakout rooms dedicated to honoring the three Alumni Award recipients.