"There’s Something in the Water"
Laurentian Alumni Loyalty Knows No Bounds
By Edward J. Forbes ’02
I’ve loved my college as one may love a wife, With faith unfaltering. That, I trust, you know. I love her sons and daughters as my own — And mine are hers as well. My hoard is friends, My only wealth—enough. The seed is sown, And in the harvest days, my labor ends.
This verse, penned by legendary Professor of English Charles Kelsey Gaines, Class of 1876, in his final Christmas message to friends and family in 1941, captures the abiding affection so many Laurentians hold for their alma mater and each other.
While every graduate has his or her personal St. Lawrence story, when asked why they remain loyal to their alma mater, alumni say it’s because of the camaraderie Laurentians share. This celebration of the shared experience of a collegiate education in the North Country, with its unique opportunities and challenges, has deep roots. In the dire financial crisis of 1885-86, alumni zeal secured funds to preserve the University’s future.
Today, St. Lawrence alumni play critical roles in supporting the University by working to raise funds, recruit students and help new graduates secure professional futures. It’s impossible to attend a gathering without hearing a story about how one Laurentian helped another….
Last summer, at the recommendation of Danny Graham ’00 and Colin FitzRandolph ’05, John Loftus ’05 approached David Officer ’67 for advice on a career change. Officer recommended that Loftus talk with Josh Lane ’99, an executive vice president at Willis HRH North America, an insurance broker. Lane eventually offered Loftus a position.
This kind of anecdote is hardly unique. Laurentians help each other and St. Lawrence in myriad ways. Maintaining that Laurentian camaraderie, it seems, is to participate in it.
“The networking is great”
|Jon Pirozzi '96
It’s no surprise that the center of the Laurentian social swirl in New York has become Stone Creek. After all, the Murray Hill lounge’s comfortable décor of earthtones, stone and log furniture reminds one instantly of the North Country. That its owner, Jon Pirozzi, graduated from St. Lawrence in 1996 also helps.
“St. Lawrence is a very tightly-knit community,” Pirozzi says, explaining that he’s been thrilled to host Laurentian events geared toward young alumni as well as televised hockey games. “We’ve also worked with alums to plan functions from charity events to birthdays to engagement parties,” he adds.
In addition, Pirozzi, a brother of Phi Sigma Kappa, hosts an annual gathering of Phi Sigs that, he says, has put Stone Creek on the radar as a place to “bridge the gap between younger and older alums.”
He’s also helped graduates get their start in New York. Jenny Nichols ’05, John Ward ’01, Padraic Smith ’03 and Sasha Stoecklein ’06 have all worked at Stone Creek. “The networking is great,” he says.
“Mr. St. Lawrence”
If you’re a Laurentian from Western New York, you’ve probably met Nicholas P. Amigone III ’71, P’05, ’07. Were a contest held, few there would be able to challenge Amigone for the title of the Queen City’s “Mr. St. Lawrence.” Over the years, he’s organized alumni events, encouraged classmates to attend reunions, aided the Parents Committee and recruited local high school students.
“I’ve probably interviewed 50 or more,” Amigone estimates. “I’ve enjoyed meeting them. They keep me young.”
Staying connected with students he interviewed has been very fulfilling, he says. “I run into them on campus, they send Christmas cards or I bump into them socially. My dentist and one of my stockbrokers are St. Lawrence graduates.” But the biggest rewards for staying active in the life of the University, he says, have been his sons. Daniel graduated in 2005 and Marc in 2007.
“St. Lawrence is a badge I wear proudly,” he says.
“We take care of each other”
|Karen Helle Nemiah '82
First, there were clippings dispatched from the alumni office, holiday cards, casual conversations at University events and phone calls. Then came e-mail. Later, Facebook arrived. As the number of arrows in her communications quiver has grown, Karen Helle Nemiah ’82 has kept up as her class reporter since graduation.
“I’ve been doing this for so long,” says Nemiah, “I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve.”
Staying connected and helping fellow Laurentians do the same is a reason Nemiah has hung on to her class-reporting job for 27 years. The freelance advertising and public relations specialist has also served two terms on the Alumni Executive Council and worked as a volunteer for career services.
“We Laurentians take care of each other,” Nemiah says. She’s no exception. When she was an executive at Grey Global Group, a New York-based advertising concern, Nemiah hired half a dozen Laurentians.
If used well, Nemiah believes, the St. Lawrence network can help alums in just about any situation. “If I landed in a new town,” she says, “I’d grab my directory and call the Laurentians who live there and ask them, ‘What do I need to know?’”
“I should give something back.”
At Cannondale Associates, a Wilton, Conn., sales and marketing consulting firm, four Laurentians are hard at work.
“We’ve got Stefka Antonova ’09, Bob Hilarides ’83, Ashish Dixit ’06 and me,” says Cannondale’s managing director, Don Stuart ’77. Since 1999, he and his firm have hired over a dozen Laurentians.
Stuart has organized telethons, asked classmates to make leadership gifts and helped organize reunions. “It comes down to loyalty and a personal belief that St. Lawrence gave something to me,” he says. “I should give something back.
“St. Lawrence folks are very competitive,” he says of those he’s hired. “They work well in teams; they’re very smart and analytical. They have a strong desire to win and they have solid interpersonal skills.”
While many of his Laurentian employees have moved, Stuart has predictably kept in touch. “These are connections and bonds that have grown stronger over time,” he says, explaining why he’ll continue to help fellow alums and the University. “It was where I grew up and it offered me the latitude to make mistakes and the opportunity to grow. It’s why I stay involved. It’s that personal.”
“It’s just cool to work with an alum”
Breaking into the production side of the film industry, particularly with little experience, is no small feat. It’s one Rachael Profiloski ’99 (right) accomplished and one she now helps other Laurentians complete.
After a stint in publishing, Profiloski sought to realize a longtime dream. Armed only with a positive experience as an intern at a London film production firm during her semester abroad and some screenwriting background from Craig Professor of English Sid Sondergard’s courses, she landed a job as a production assistant at Engel Entertainment, a Manhattan-based film company.
Almost immediately, she says, she wanted to return the favors St. Lawrence had done for her. “I thought, ‘this is my chance to offer St. Lawrence students a more hands-on experience.’” Now a producer, she estimates she’s hosted 20 Laurentians as interns. Jon Sauer ’08 (pictured with her) had such a successful run that he was hired to be a full-time production assistant after graduation.
“There’s a sense of community at St. Lawrence,” she says. “I wanted to continue that after I graduated. It’s just cool to work with another St. Lawrence alum.”
“There was always an unbelievable connection”
The spirit of the 1960s, when so many college students felt compelled to make a difference in the world, has motivated Edgar N. “Ned” Fox III ’69 to maintain strong ties to St. Lawrence.
“Maybe it was being part of that generation,” Fox recently reflected. “We’d been hearing ‘Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.’ It was an era when a lot of us were civic-minded. St. Lawrence fostered that.”
Fox, an attorney for the federal Transportation Safety Administration in Newark, N.J., credits his involvement in groups like Students for a Democratic Society for his devotion to St. Lawrence. Since the early 1970s, he has volunteered to raise funds and new students for his alma mater. He has talked with thousands of potential Laurentians, spreading the message of how valuable a St. Lawrence education can be.
“I’ve kept tabs on many,” Fox says, rattling off a roster of Laurentians: Andrew Cambria ’02, who Fox interviewed in a pizzeria, is working for Thomson Reuters in San Francisco; Heather Ferguson Lakatos ’01 is a doctoral candidate at the University of Rochester.
“There was always an unbelievable connection,” Fox says. “It’s something in the water. You get a warm, fuzzy feeling.”
Ed Forbes is a member of the Alumni Executive Council. An editor at The Journal News in White Plains, N.Y., he earned a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2008.