By Yvonne Dennis (246)
When one Central grad spots another anywhere in the world, by face recognition or by clothing, you can put money on what the first exchanged words are going to be: Class number and class number.
Class numbers are the ties that bind Central alumni in spirit even as connections through clubs, teams, teachers and the school itself can fade.
But the changes that take place in graduates as they transition to adulthood form other connections, connections that Central’s incoming director of development, Lynn Norton Robins, believes can be much better harnessed to benefit alumni and take Dear Old High to even greater heights.
“The shining star that Central is now, it’s got the potential to be greater,” said Mrs. Norton, as she prepares to take on her newly created role in July.
While she sees the class links as uniquely cool, she believes Central alumni could be just as strongly linked by professions and by interests.
Gifts large and small are given to Central regularly–some through whole classes and some from individuals. But Central, its alumni association and its Home & School Association believe they can be much better organized in drawing the kinds of gifts that can be transformative for the school, particularly in these days of constricted public funding.
So Mrs. Robins is charged with building a comprehensive fundraising plan and program for Central, with an emphasis on major-gifts development and alumni outreach. The former national campaign director for Friends of AKIM USA and New Jersey regional director for Jewish National Fund was hired “because of her experience, her enthusiasm and understanding of what we want to do,” said Chuck Steinberg (221), an Alumni Association past president and current chairman of the scholarships, awards and prizes committee.
In recent years the Alumni Association, through generous individual donors and other partners, has been able to help modernize the Barnwell Library, science labs and the music department, among other things. Now the Alumni Association is considering another capital campaign and “we look to expand our development department,” said Mr. Steinberg.
Mrs. Robins plans to do that by “building a foundation of committed and engaged people.”
Right now she sees the Alumni Association as engaging its graduates basically from one event to the next–such as Career Day, International Day, the Thanksgiving game or the annual dinner. Often, she said, alumni seek more personal engagement.
“I don’t want to come in like a steamroller,” said Mrs. Robins. “I want to come in and learn and then make suggestions. But I think an easy something new to do would be acknowledgment cards. Graduation. Somebody has a baby. Somebody has a special birthday. Somebody dies,” she said.
“There was the unfortunate incident that happened at University of Penn (the suicide of Central alumnae Ao Kong last year).”
Fellow grads wanted to reach out in some way, but they didn’t know how.
“If we had acknowledgment cards in place somebody could send in $10, whatever, into the Central alumni,” she said. “I would like to institute that and bring in the art department to design a couple of cards so that they get sent out from school. It’s a small way to engage everyone… I’d like to monitor that and see was it worth us doing that.”
Other trial ideas include a lecture series, like many other organizations do and that even some alumni are doing in their own ways. For example, Norman Salvat, class rep for the 186, organizes a lecture series in and around Glenside that is attended by some of his classmates but isn’t specifically a Central alumni thing.
Mrs. Robins is also inspired by an annual event put on by the group Living Beyond Breast Cancer.
“They once a year have yoga on the Art Museum steps. Two thousand people come,” she said. “So at Central, it’s a huge space. There’s a lawn there. Let’s have yoga! Let’s do something. You don’t have to rent space. It costs nothing. You can put it on the website and invite people. It gives people a reason to come!”
Mrs. Robins wants alumni to feel free to come meet with her in room 313 at Central once school opens back up in the fall. And she won’t be shy about going to meet alumni where ever she needs to.
“I can make those calls. I can set up a day with one or two alumni. I think that that makes a difference. And I have the best excuse in the world. I am new.”