President’s Recognition Dinner honors donors, displays student endeavors

Geneseo celebrated the 32nd annual President’s Recognition Dinner on Friday April 26 as an expression of gratitude to the alumni and friends of the college whose contributions have enhanced the academic opportunities available to students.

The event consisted of a cocktail hour in the College Union lobby followed by dinner and a reception in the Ballroom. Three donors – Suzanne Gouvernet, Srinivasa Leelamma and Frank Vafier ’74 – were recognized for the 2013 Award for Philanthropic Leadership.

“The dinner happens so that the college, the students and especially the president and Geneseo Foundation board, can recognize and acknowledge all of the generosity that our donors exhibit,” Executive Director of Campaign Operations Lisa Feinstein said.

“It makes the students aware of the impact that donors have on their education, so that hopefully when they graduate, they will step up and take their turn giving back to the college,” she said. “It’s about creating a cycle of philanthropy.”

Faculty, staff, alumni, friends and students gathered in the College Union to meet, mingle and express gratitude to those who contributed to help develop academic experiences for students.

“It is so great getting to meet the people who really help to pave the future,” senior Emily Webb, who participated in the externship program this spring, said. “It’s the people who are donating exactly what they have to offer to their alma mater – that one genuine connection we all share over several generations. It’s fantastic to meet the people who want to see you succeed.”

Sophomores Nathan Kahn and Sean Neill, who were awarded the John A. ’87 and MaryGrace ’84 Gleason Ambassador in Student Affairs, said they had the opportunity to discuss their project with their donors and to thank them for their contribution.

According to Neill, the project is about community engagement – trying to get students to “think spatially” about their engagement in the county and “forging interactions” between college students, high school students, professors and residents – people who wouldn’t otherwise interact.

The Gleasons spoke to their own engagement with the community and their dedication to creating opportunities for students in order to make Geneseo a competitive and well-rounded institution.

“We were both really involved with the school, and we wanted it to be community based always,” MaryGrace Gleason ‘84 said. “That was the criteria for the scholarship, and I really like what they are doing. It’s a really amazing project.”

John Gleason ‘87 is not only an alumnus and donor, but also the chair of the National Alumni Council.

“We give to the school because the school honestly gave so much to us,” he said. “We met here and we had an opportunity – we had an opportunity that was provided to us. What I think is important is that both alums figure out a way to give back to students, and students give back to alums.”

“It’s absolutely amazing that we have this opportunity and we’re so grateful,” Neill said. “This is something we wanted to do anyways and something we want to keep doing even after we finish the project. It’s just awesome we have the resources to do this.”

According to President Christopher Dahl, this year’s dinner was the best one in his nineteen years at Geneseo.

“It was a remarkable showcase of student talent and an index of how well our students understand the significance of some of our major donors,” he said.

“The President’s Recognition Dinner doesn’t just recognize generosity,” Dahl said. “It really underlines the relationships that make us a college community. We’re not just the students and faculty here now, we’re also the alumni, and we’re also the donors in their relationships with us as part of the work of the college, which is to provide an ideal or excellent teaching and learning environment.”