Inaugural meeting of the Camel Athletic Club
New York City
January 20, 2016
Good evening everyone! I am thrilled to be here with you on this historic night — as we launch a wonderful new venture for Connecticut College — the Camel Athletic Club. And before I say another word, let me give a huge shout out to our hosts, Tim Armstrong and Luke Beatty — both from class of 1993, and both former lacrosse players — who have made this night possible.
It was about a year ago when I met with Tim and he first mentioned his desire to create a space for former varsity athletes to come together in support of the Athletic programs that were so central to their experience as students at Conn. As soon as I heard the idea, I knew it was something we had to do. And clearly, you all felt the same way. So thank you for being here. I can't tell you how moved I am to see all of you tonight, and to see this dream now become a reality.
There are many reasons, of course, to support athletics. Varsity sports create school spirit; they foster loyalty and commitment. They teach the arts of collaboration and teamwork. They teach the important life lessons of winning, and losing, and knowing how to handle both with grace and humility. And they teach perhaps the most important survival skill of our time — resilience. So, it's not surprising that, when you look at our alumnae who were varsity athletes, you find a lot of success. When I was thinking about what I would say tonight, in fact, I immediately began thinking of all the varsity athletes that have graduated from Conn and made their mark as leaders in every field you can imagine:
- In media and communications, we could start in this very room, of course, where we have one of the titans of the field, Tim Armstrong '93.
- In law, I think of Debo Adegbile '91, a soccer player who became head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund,
- In medicine, there is former swimmer Susan Coakley '83, who is president of Healthnet at the Boston Medical Center
- In politics, there is soccer player Jon McBride '92, who served as director of White House personnel under President Obama; and there is volleyball player Kelly Hart '02, who works for the State Department in Juarex, Mexico.
- In finance, there is ski team captain Jonathan Shabroom '89, who has launched and sold more start-ups than you can shake a stick at! And there is former basketball star Dwayne Stallings, who became an investment advisor after playing professional basketball for several years.
- In education, there is former rower Ed Burger '85, a mathematician who is now President of Southwest University. And there is also swimmer Sarah Reisman '01, who is in the department of Chemical Engineering at one of the top engineering schools in the country, Cal Tech, and who was recently called a rising star by a group of Nobel Laureates.
AND THERE IS MORE ...
- In the arts, there is Alexandre Yulish '97, a painter who just had a major show in LA, and who still counts Ric Ricci as his most important mentor at Conn.
- And in philanthropy, there is yet another rower, the unforgettable Anita DeFrantz, an Olympic silver medalist, 30-year member of the International Olympic Committee, and former president of LA84, a non-profit devoted to expanding youth sports opportunities in Southern California.
This, of course, just begins to scratch the surface. I'm sure you have many more stories. But by any measure it is an extraordinary record of achievement by Camel Athletes!
Let me just say, in closing, that it has been a record year for Connecticut College, too.
- We received the biggest gift in the College's history from Rob Hale '88 and his wife Karen, a gift of $20 million. Rob is another lacrosse player, whose leadership in business and philanthropy both in his community and on our campus is unmatched.
- We have also launched an innovative new curriculum — a new liberal arts for the 21st century — that will make Conn an educational leader among its peers.
- We are completing a new strategic plan that will help define the priorities that will advance the distinctiveness of our College in the next decade.
- And NOW, this: the inauguration of what will be the most important alumni group in the history of the College.
Of our nearly 27,000 alumni, over 5,000 people — or about 20% — were varsity athletes. You are a powerful force among our alumni community and we need your leadership. We have an ambitious goal to increase the participation of our alumni body in our fundraising this year. And if every one of you in this room tonight becomes a card-carrying member of the Camel Athletic Club, and you persuade just two more of your teammates to join as well, we could increase our participation by as much as 5%. That would be huge. And so I'd like to issue that challenge tonight.
Tim and Luke — thank you for YOUR leadership in creating what I know is going to become one of the most powerful new vehicles for advancing this College. With the Camel Athletic Club you have put the CAC back in NESCAC and given that acronym a whole new meaning. You think NESCAC stands for the New England Small College Athletic Conference? Well, tonight has changed all that. What we have created here, I hereby declare, is the Never Ending Season of the Camel Athletic Club!
Go Conn. Go Camels!