Westminster College has a rich tradition of strong alumni support for the College and its students. One recent development that has been exciting to watch is the number of young alumni members who have stepped up to the plate to support the College through the President’s Club. Young President’s Club members have grown steadily over the last three years, reaching record highs for FY16. This past fiscal year 15 individuals and couples at the young alumni level have become actively engaged in the work of this giving society.
“Having so many young alumni bring their fresh ideas and enthusiasm to the President’s Club gives us the synergy to achieve great advancements for the College,” says President Benjamin Ola. Akande. “These young people realize the importance of investing in the College early in their professional lives so we can have the resources to take Westminster to the next level for a new generation.”
The President’s Club is Westminster’s most prestigious annual recognition club for alumni and supporters of the College. Contributions provide support for student scholarships, academic programs, faculty development and student activities. Kathryn Ayers Wickenhauser, ‘11, from Louisville, KY points out that for the first ten years out of school, young alumni can belong to the President’s Club by giving a little over $50 a month.
One of the main reasons these young alumni have become members of the President’s Club is because of their great love for Westminster. That great affection stems from a variety of reasons. Lee Goatley, ’12, from Springfield, KY praises “the structured and constructive leadership opportunities and programs for students to gain valuable life skills that lead to success” and the “prestigious academic programs due to the dedicated faculty and staff.” Ben Jones, ’14, from Kansas City, feels “the closeness of the College created a space where I was able to build lifelong relationships and question the world and my place in it.” Kathryn stresses the strong friendships forged here that last forever. “Westminster isn’t just for college, it’s for life,” she says.
Marissa (Tyler) Denehy, ’08, from St. Louis, MO says Westminster will always have “a special place” in the hearts of her and husband Sam, ’10, because they met and fell in love here. Kathryn also met her husband Keith, ’10 through Student Foundation. As Caroline Ayers, ’14, also from St. Louis, puts it, “Westminster is in our blood.” Her father Brock, ’82, and sisters Kathryn and Amelia, ’16, all went to Westminster, and she has found “no matter where you go in life, you can always find some Westminster there.”
Each of these young alumni has his or her special memories of time spent on campus. Caroline has literally grown up at Westminster. From the time she was a child, her parents would come to campus a few times a year to attend functions and park their camper trailer behind the Delt house. Marissa remembers the enjoyable debates and discussions with favorite professors: Kurt Jefferson, John Langton, and Bob Hoerber. Kathryn has fond memories of her Biology in Belize trip and trips to New York with the Blue Blazers Investment Committee. Ben reminisces about the great bonding moment his class experienced during what they called “Snowpocalypse 2011,” the epic blizzard which cancelled classes and challenged his freshman class to stay warm and “not get caught sledding on campus.”
The historic Columns Ceremony has special meaning for Lee. When she walked through them to start school, she thought of her grandfather who had experienced the same rite of passage in 1936. Then as Custodian of the Columns as a senior member of the Skulls of Seven, she had the honor of welcoming a new class of students into the Westminster family.
However, besides all the great memories from their days at Westminster and the love that grew out of that experience, these young people have come forward to give in spite of the personal expenses they face in starting out their lives as adults for other reasons as well. Caroline remembers all the wonderful opportunities she received because of strong alumni support and feels it is now her turn to give back. Marissa recognizes if Westminster is to be successful in attracting new generations of students, the school needs money to provide the “best facilities, the best faculty and staff,” and be on the “cutting edge in technology and programs.”
Kathryn’s family has a long history of giving back to Westminster but her reason is very personal. “I would not be where I am today in my personal or professional life without Westminster,” she says. Ben realizes his Westminster education would not have been possible without his scholarship donor, Trustee Wally Head, ’72. “I experienced firsthand how generosity can change students’ lives,” says Ben. “As a young alumnus, it feels so appropriate to give back however I can.”
Lee tells other young alumni that even if they don’t feel they are in a position to join the President’s Club right now, they can help in other ways. “I feel like it’s easy to say ‘I’ll give when I’m older or when I’m more financially established’ but the truth is any amount makes a difference and it’s time now to support other students like we were supported by alumni before us,” she stated. “If you are not in a position to give money, donate some time to mentor a student or reach out to our Alumni Office and Development Office to ask for other ways to support Westminster.”
The commitment, leadership, and energy of young alumni such as these four ensure a bright future for Westminster in years to come.
Young alumni who have chosen to join the Fiscal Year 2016 President’s Club include:
Caroline E. Ayers ‘14
Bradley A. Crecelius ’14
Samuel D. Denehy ’10 and Marissa E. Denehy ‘08
Lindsey M. Dennis ’15
Nicholas R. Diefenbach ’07 and Annie C. Diefenbach ’09
Derek J. Duncan ’09
Meredith A. Gibbons ’11
Lee G. Goatley ‘12
Katherine E. Humphreys ‘09
Dr. Daniel L. Jackson ’04 and Kristen (’06) M. Jackson ’06
Benjamin A. Jones ‘14
Anthony G. Laramore’07 and Kelly D. Laramore ’08
Sean Manners ’09
Ryan S. Orf ’10
Keith W. Wickenhauser ’10 and Kathryn Ayers Wickenhauser ‘11