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“Since graduation I have moved all over the United States. While I do go “home” every five years for my reunions, I miss out on so many awesome opportunities only offered on campus. What I have experienced since the current pandemic is what I was craving all these years. I am so happy to be able to participate in events no matter how far away I live from Raleigh. Thank you for offering them; it means more than you know.”
– Nelly Navarro-Britt, ’99

Alumnae and Donors Stay Connected

By Emily Parker

Alumnae and Donors Stay Connected

By Emily Parker

Throughout 2020 and 2021, alumnae and friends of Meredith College remained connected to one another through virtual events offered by the Office of Alumnae Relations and Institutional Advancement.

Over the course of the fall and spring semesters, the Alumnae Office has offered nearly 70 virtual events. A sampling of the variety of events offered for alumnae and friends include an Italian adventures series, at home crafts classes, a Scholar Sips series with faculty, a political landscape series, a virtual Angel Hike, a Trick or Trot 5k, and monthly virtual book clubs. Virtual events have provided alumnae with opportunities to engage with current Meredith College faculty and staff members as well as with fellow alumnae.  

To date, nearly 2,000 alumnae and friends have participated in a variety of virtual events that have been offered throughout this academic year. Given that the events have been virtual, alumnae from around the globe have been able to participate. Alumnae living in North Carolina, Alaska, Florida, Virginia, New York, Arizona, Texas, New Jersey, Ohio, Washington, Pennsylvania, California, South Carolina, Alabama, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Connecticut, West Virginia, Louisiana, Indiana, Colorado, Tennessee, Georgia, Missouri, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and in the U.K., Italy, Switzerland, and Japan have enjoyed events from the comfort of their home.

Alumnae close to campus and all over the world have also continued to connect with current students on the Meredith Mentors platform. There are currently 1,673 users on the platform. 

“From the moment I stepped on campus at Meredith 50 years ago, I knew it was truly a very special place. The professors were challenging but also supportive. Each of us was assigned a faculty member once our major was declared. Those professors then stepped in to guide and encourage us. I received birthday cards from Dr. Rose for many years after graduating from Meredith. I have life-long friends from my four years at Meredith. I am very happy to support Meredith as I believe Meredith is providing a quality education for young women.

Peggy Allen Williamson, ’71

“I thoroughly enjoyed the virtual art gallery tour and talk event hosted by the Art department. It meant so much to me to be in the same virtual rooms as other Meredith people again. I appreciate Meredith so much and all Meredith stands for. The College is doing so many things well during the pandemic.” 

Cathy Gaynor, parent of alumna Jamie Gaynor, ’18

“What a great event last night! Thanks for all your hard work in pulling it together. We SO enjoyed hearing the students perform and getting to see all 114 participants. Wow! I loved being able to share tea in my keepsake Meredith mug with all my fellow Angels. Thank you. We would ordinarily not have been able to attend. This was a special holiday treat for us.”

Jayne Abernethy, ’83, thoughts about the Holiday Tea 

We are very proud of our first scholarship recipient, Laura Oakley, who recently presented a beautiful and eloquent description of her study abroad by Zoom to scholarship donors. This past year, more than ever, we have all realized the need to continue and provide more for our students. We feel Meredith is allowing their students to take this additional step for the richest life, a life that will make a difference, through the varied Meredith Abroad Program. It is our hope more patrons will encourage and support this very special and well developed series of foreign studies, so that every student can have this magical, meaningful experience.”

Gail Brinn Wilkins, ’61

“COVID required the Alumnae Office to pivot and become creative in identifying ways to connect alumnae to the College and to one another. Our virtual events have allowed alumnae around the globe a chance to hike within their community, bake a pie with Dr. Diane Ellis, visit Italy, enjoy a bit of tea with John Rose and Dr. Betty Webb, tour the North Carolina Museum of History, discuss works of literature and non-fiction, and participate in how-to events, such as painting and weaving,” said Hilary Allen, director of alumnae relations. “During a time of such uncertainty and when we could not be together physically, these events and activities were more important than ever.”

The Office of Alumnae Relations continues to add events to the calendar and anticipates hosting both virtual events and in-person events throughout the summer and fall. 

To connect donors with their scholarship students, Institutional Advancement has held virtual meet and greets for students to thank their donors, introduce themselves, talk about their studies, and inform them about their life at Meredith. Connecting individual donors and foundations with these students was incredibly successful allowing donors who live all over the country to meet their scholarship students and hear from various faculty and staff who are thankful for their gifts to the College.

In the fall, the retired faculty and staff luncheon was reimagined. Retired faculty and staff could pick up their lunch on campus or have it delivered by an Institutional Advancement staff member and enjoy it at home. When the attendees entered the Zoom call they were thrilled to see old friends and chat with each other. President Allen delivered a College update to the group and did an extensive question and answer session following it.

“All in all, it was a different type of event, but we were all reminded of the special bonds this group formed while working on campus. We received several emails afterward thanking us for bringing them together,” said Astra Ball, director of advancement services. 

The Holiday Tea for donors who are members of the Lifetime and Annual Giving Societies was held in December with special performances from the Music department. Participants still enjoyed their tea with Meredith mugs that were mailed to them in advance of the occasion. Over 100 alumnae and friends participated. 

A virtual study abroad lunch and learn with Brooke Shurer, director of international programs, and student presentations were held for donors to learn what students had gained from their adventures, and updates about when students will travel again was held in March. 

“Attending the Meredith Book Club has exposed me to new interesting books that have given me insights into the challenges of others’ lives. Feeling somewhat isolated because of COVID-19, it is nice to see the faces of the group and share in their views about the content. I find that the books selected are not books I would have found on my own, especially The Girl with the Louding Voice. The book about a young Nigerian girl’s life stretched my understanding of women’s opportunities worldwide in a time when we have been thinking about the improvements made for us in the U.S. by the efforts of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”

Boyd King Dimmock, ’71

My time at the recent virtual book club was amazing! It gave me a chance to get back to me and share that time with a great group of women. In the beginning, I only knew one person but felt like I made some new friends who shared a kindred spirit and love of reading.”

Tamani Anderson Powell, ’86

“The virtual alumnae book club has been a great opportunity to meet alumnae from across the country and overseas and to discuss interesting, relevant, and thought-provoking novels and non-fiction books. As a teacher and school librarian, I love a strong book club, and it’s even better when I can meet with my Meredith sisters from my own comfy chair at home without having to drive back into Raleigh at night!”

Deanna Harris, ’90

“We have found the presentations and interactions with Dr. David McLennan during the Meredith Votes 2020 series to be interesting and informative. We’ve been impressed by his knowledge of politics, government, and elections at every level. I like seeing this quality of fine scholarship that our students have available in Dr. McLennan. This series is another example of Meredith helping us be responsible citizens and strengthening our bonds as an informed community.”

Crystal Hartness Leathers, ’65 

“I looked forward to Monday mornings at 10 a.m. and the stimulating Zoom about Election 2020. Dr. McLennan is very personable, and his facts and commentary enriched the process. It ALMOST makes me want to go back to school, now that I have a living lens of 50 years since graduation through which to view things.”

Emma Bartholomew Stewart, ’70

Students continue to write thank you notes to their donors and even though students and donors could not gather for the scholarship dinner this year, students wrote profiles and recorded videos to introduce themselves to their donors and thank them for their gifts. 

Donors have continued to support Meredith College during the pandemic and their gifts are keeping Meredith going strong. Giving Day held February 23 exceeded its $600,000 fundraising goal by more than $150,000. A total of 2,698 donors contributed $771,521 in 24 hours and honored changemakers in their life with their gift.

Meredith Mayhem is currently underway and will end on June 30. Alumnae have already shown their passion for competition between classes and for supporting Meredith College. Alumnae continue to give generously to the Greatest Needs Fund, but also have embraced the importance of giving to the newly established Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Fund and have helped reestablish the Chaplain’s Student Emergency Fund to support student needs that arise unexpectedly. 

Generous giving from donors has resulted in Meredith’s endowment exceeding $136 million at last report.  

Thank you to everyone who contributed their time, talents, or gifts to Meredith College this academic year.