Bruce Zellers: New Role Connecting Alumni to the School and Each Other
I had gotten comfortable with the expectation that I would finish my Greenhills career as a teacher of American History. My tenure here began in 1983 with Alyce Depree and the Integrated Experience (American History/American literature in back-to-back periods; a fantastic experience!) and then morphed, after Alyce retired, into more conventional AP sections. Along the way was a long stint as Senior Class Principal (also a wonderful post!). However, Fayroian had a rather different idea about the next chapter: he would eventually call the position he imagined an “Alumni Relations Liaison.”
The job is based—in part—on one of Peter’s friends at Cranbrook. He was a retired teacher and one-time Head of School. His responsibilities were seemingly simple: help keep thousands of alums connected with one another and to the school itself. Intriguing. Peter introduced us and we met in his office on the edge of the Cranbrook campus. Well, to be more precise, we met after he returned from a trip to Florida (it was February, in Michigan….) where he was meeting with a smallish group of his school’s alums. More intriguing. I thought that I could probably enjoy traveling for the school to places such as Los Angeles, Boston, New York—or Miami!—to meet our alums. However, I wanted to make sure that I would continue to teach a couple of courses. I readily agreed to Peter’s vision—and then came Covid and a number of other changes at the school. This year, 2021-22, will be the first episode in this new chapter of my Greenhills story: I will be an assistant to the Alumni Relations Director, charged with helping to foster deeper connections between Greenhills and its 4000 alums.
How do I (we) imagine the job? There are three components. First, I get to inform alums about Greenhills as it is today. The school is not the same as it was 5, 10, or 50 years ago. For one thing, it is considerably larger than many alums will remember: current enrollment 632. But the job is also to talk about new programs, new initiatives, new sports, and, of course, about the strength of the current academic program. While some things change at Greenhills, essential things, like a serious approach to teaching and learning, remain the same.
Second, the job is to celebrate the accomplishments of our alumni community. It is an extremely talented and diverse group: Greenhills graduates are engaged in everything from farming to pharmacology. They are making contributions to the nation and to the world in every imaginable way. The goal is to track down those stories and bring them to everyone’s attention. I want to foster pride in our 50-year legacy. We’ve taken a step recently, with the inauguration of an exhibit of alumni (and faculty) publications. I’m well aware that many of my colleagues here at school are well-connected to alums as well; I will be consulting with them as the job develops. I will be looking forward to collecting stories and writing about our community in future publications.
Finally, this position is explicitly intended to connect our alums to one another and bring them back into the school (virtually or physically) to enrich the experience of everyone, including current students. Cultivating a rich network of interesting, creative, responsible people will be the goal. I would love to see these rich individual alumni efforts multiplied by linking them to similar or related efforts in the far reaches of the community.
Peter made clear from the beginning that the means to these ends could and should evolve. For instance, travel is a central aspect of this position: visiting alums in situ, as it were, is part of the job. Large, formal reunions are a separate operation; visiting with few people in Salt Lake City is more the goal. Perhaps an informal gathering in someone’s home? I will arrive bearing swag (pens, graduation books, stickers, pins). Cities with symphonies will be high on my list! Lest anyone wonder, raising money is not part of this job; I won’t ask for it when we have coffee or a chardonnay somewhere. People more skilled than I still have that job. And, finally my responsibility to inform and connect extends to former or retired faculty. They, too, are alums of this school.
Two closing notes. I am really excited about this. I’ve always enjoyed meeting alums as I travel here and there, and this position allows me to make those efforts more frequently. And does anyone have a home for about 100 squirrels? My new space has no room for them all!
By Mr. Bruce Zellers, Greenhills Teacher and Alumni Relations Liaison