Judy Frithsen Lee ’69 and Leah Johnson Wilcox ’69
As two of the four volunteer co-chairs for their upcoming 50th reunion in 2019, Judy Frithsen Lee and Leah Johnson Wilcox discuss how the Class of 1969 is helping to build Vassar’s future.
What are your inspirations/reasons for giving back to Vassar?
JL: I want others to have the ability to attend a college with Vassar’s attributes, as I did. We got a first class education focused on the development of one’s intellect and values. We enjoyed a social environment free from the pressures of pledging or invitational affiliations. We lived on a campus that did not revolve around the drumbeat of big money competitive sports schedules. This freedom, and I daresay privilege, is expensive. I want to do what I can to ease the financial strains of providing this type of education.
LW: Our education was supported by the financial contributions of alums, particularly the 50th Reunion Gift, and now it is our turn to continue the tradition.
Please describe what it has been like to serve as fundraising co-chairs for your 50th reunion. Describe your class goals and any special events or challenges that you are working on. Tell us about your fundraising strategies.
JL: First of all, while I don’t minimize the work involved, it has been fun. It has given me the opportunity to make new friendships in the class. Many of my closest friends in the class are those I didn’t even know in college!
LW: Our class is the last all women’s class. For us it is especially important that we have 100% participation – regardless the size of the gift – and we have involved many of our classmates to assist in the effort.
JL: It is also a heart-felt goal to raise the largest 50th Reunion Gift in Vassar’s history - $16 million. We do it by having a dedicated team that is committed to not only reaching out to every class member, but also getting to know her, if we don’t already.
Please share your most interesting or challenging volunteer experiences.
LW: Mini-reunions are by far the most interesting (and time-consuming) part of our volunteer experience. We found that mini’s - because they are closer to home, feature smaller groups, and are sponsored by a class acquaintance - have attracted classmates who have not been involved over the years.
JL: They are fun, hilarious, poignant, exhilarating, sad – but not to be missed. I wish I could go to every single one throughout the country and indeed, all over the globe.
What advice would you like to share with other fundraising volunteers heading into a reunion year?
JL: A powerful reason for classmates to give back to Vassar is the way they feel about each other. I salute the wisdom of our class officers who have instituted ways to strengthen existing bonds and forge new ones among members of the class.
LW: I’ve already mentioned the value of mini-reunions. We also have another powerful connector called A Classmate’s Journey, a short summary that various classmates have written about what they’ve been doing and thinking, challenges faced, and resolutions they came to during the last 50 years. We publish one every 6-8 weeks or so. Every one of them is fascinating, authentic and inspiring. Reading them makes both of us so grateful we went to Vassar.
Past Spotlight Volunteer
Amanda Wallwin ’02
As the current Chief of Staff for New York State Assemblymember Dan Quart, Amanda Wallwin ’02 has been responsible for negotiating compromises between community groups and for building strong coalitions to support legislative initiatives. After returning to Vassar College this past summer for her 15th reunion, Amanda decided to accept the volunteer position of Class Fund Chair.
You were recently back on campus for your 15th reunion. How has Vassar College changed?
The biggest changes I noticed on campus were all the building renovations - the new Avery theatre building, the Science Bridge, the Jewett renovations, and all the other small shifts in the landscape. It was great to see how the campus has changed since we were there while still holding onto the same spirit we knew back then.
What made you decide to volunteer as a Class Fund Chair for The Vassar Fund?
I volunteered as a Class Fund Chair because I realized that as connected as I felt to Vassar, I wasn’t actually integrating that connection into my giving. Serving as a Class Fund Chair felt like a way to change that, but I also thought that might give me some helpful insights into how to engage classmates who are in the same place I was.
How have you volunteered for Vassar before?
I’ve served as an Admissions volunteer, interviewing Brooklyn Vassar applicants.
What is your inspiration/reason for giving back to Vassar?
Vassar was so many different things for me - it was a place for intellectual development, of course, but it was also where I started to figure out my place in the world. It’s where I laid the groundwork for a career and a life that I love - one that I never would have had otherwise. I was inspired to volunteer for the Vassar Fund because I want to make sure that future generations of students have those same opportunities that I did.