Interview with Princeton AlumniCorps’ New Board Chair, John Fish ’55

John Fish ’55 is a founder of Princeton AlumniCorps and served as the Program Leader of the Project 55 Fellowship Program for 20 years. He developed the PP55 program in Chicago, and after a few years encouraged Northwestern University and the University of Chicago to create similar programs. The three programs work closely together, offering joint programming and a wide like-minded community for fellows.

For nearly 50 years John has been involved in numerous community organizations and associations in Chicago. From 1969 to 1997 he was on the faculty of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest Urban Studies Program, an off-campus experiential semester for students from 13 Midwest colleges. John was appointed as the Chair of the Board of Princeton AlumniCorps on October 1.

Q: Your recent appointment as Board Chair is your third time serving on the Board. Why did you initially get involved with the organization and what has kept you engaged for all these years?

After the Washington meeting, my classmate Steve Boyd ’55 came out and told me about the original idea for Princeton Project 55. I immediately got excited about it. I hadn’t known Princeton University to do anything like this before, and it sounded great. My enthusiasm carried me through the first meetings, and into helping to put together the founding document. In that first year, we had three fellows in Chicago and three in Washington.

My reasons for remaining engaged with Princeton AlumniCorps are the same as the reasons for starting my connection. I love working with young people, and love staying in touch with so many interesting organizations. It helps to keep me involved in the city (Chicago) and is very inspiring.

Q: Why do you think the goals and programs of Princeton AlumniCorps still resonate with people some 22 years on?

The first year out of college is so important for young people. It’s an opportunity for recent graduates to explore different possibilities and interests. Once you get involved with a permanent job, you don’t often get the opportunity to do that again. Giving young people early exposure to public service careers through Princeton AlumniCorps will always be really valuable. I continue to be interested when a young person finds a goal or project that they find exciting.

The opportunities the Project 55 Fellowship Program provides are really exciting. Over 22 years conducting this program, Princeton AlumniCorps has developed a large community of alumni and organizations interested in the public interest. Community Volunteers, one of our new programs, leverages our dynamic network to connect alumni from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s with innovative volunteer opportunities in the nonprofit sector. Emerging Leaders, our program for aspiring nonprofit leaders, continues to develop our alumni and their impact. Our programs connect alumni with the many rewarding career and volunteer opportunities that exist in the nonprofit sector.

Q: You have often talked about how the PP55 program puts young Princetonians into challenging situations outside of the classroom. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

The first year I was involved with Princeton AlumniCorps, a fellow called Sarah was working for an organization called Health and Medicine Policy Research Group, headed up by Quentin Young. It was a great organization, but at that stage only just starting up. There was only one other staff member – the Executive Director, and Sarah. During the first year, Sarah came up to me and said John, “the Executive Director has left and I’m the only staff person, I need help.” To Sarah’s credit, she ended up keeping the organization alive, and raising money until they found a new Executive Director. It was such an experience for someone straight out of college and to this day, Quentin still speaks of her highly. 

 A lot of other interesting stories came from fellows working in North Lawndale in Chicago, where many of the organizations had a large African American membership. For fellows from very different backgrounds it was such a valuable learning experience, and so exciting to work with such an effective community group. I remember one woman who did a fellowship at an African American faith-based community organization in Chicago. She was Jewish and she asked me, “John, do you think I’ll fit in?” The first week she was there, they had a big retreat. It was so different to her existing experience, but she was accepted straight away and became immediately involved in the community.

Q: What role do you think the organization plays in the broader Princeton community and in communities around the country?

I think the greatest role we play is as brokers between nonprofit organizations and alumni. We help nonprofit organizations to find talented people, as well as helping alumni to get into something really challenging. It has a great impact on the community, because we can help these talented, smart, Princeton graduates to use their skills in important areas.

Q: What do you see as some of the challenges and opportunities you will encounter in your upcoming term as Board Chair? And what is your hope for the future of Princeton AlumniCorps?

One of the things that I’d like to focus on is to find new ways to energize Princeton alumni across the year groups. With only four or five staff members, we are limited in capacity, and I’d like to see our programming flourish – managed and led by alumni. Our board, and our wide network of volunteers, is multigenerational. Our two newest programs, Community Volunteers and Emerging Leaders, embody Princeton AlumniCorps’ recent growth, and the involvement of alumni of all ages with the organization. Our aim is to encourage and develop alumni who have the capacity and passionate leadership to deliver and manage their own innovative programs. I think the fundamental goal of AlumniCorps should be to continue thriving as an organization run by alumni for alumni, across the generations.

 

 

AlumniCorps Hires Rachel Benevento, New Program Manager for Community Volunteers & Emerging Leaders

Rachel Benevento and Kef Kasdin '85

Rachel Benevento is the newest member of the Princeton AlumniCorps team.  Most recently, she worked at VolunteerConnect in Princeton, creating a skills-based volunteer pilot program. Rachel also served as a VolunteerConnect board member, helping to create a new service model for the organization. Previously, she engaged corporate employees in cancer education and fundraising initiatives for the American Cancer Society.

Rachel has also worked at Columbia University where she founded the Alumni Partnership Program, connecting current and former students on a personal level through various forums. As a board member for Community Impact at Columbia, she advised staff and student coordinators on programmatic challenges and evaluated new program proposals. She earned an M.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and has worked as a freelance writer and editor. Rachel holds a B.A. in history from Columbia.

Regarding Community Volunteers, Rachel writes: “I am excited to help Community Volunteers reach its potential in engaging mid-career alumni in meaningful public service opportunities. Matching the professional expertise of program participants to the needs of  local nonprofit organizations will provide critical outlets for alumni to channel their passions and make a difference in their community.”

Contact Rachel to learn about Community Volunteers and Emerging Leaders at RBenevento@alumnicorps.org.

A Video Message from John Fish ’55 and Chet Safian ’55

John Fish '55 and Chet Safian '55

We recently spoke with John Fish ’55 and Chet Safian ’55 about the impact and growth of the Project 55 Fellowship Program, and their hopes for the future of Princeton AlumniCorps. Click here to view a short video message from Chet and John!

John Fish is the founder of what is now called the Princeton Project 55 Fellowship Program (it began as the Public Interest Program). John still lives in Chicago, where more than 300 interns and fellows have been placed. John has served on the Board many times throughout the years, and he was just elected as Board Chair on October 1.

Chet Safian expanded and led the Project 55 Fellowship Program in New York City, where more than 350 interns and fellows have been placed. Chet also founded The Alumni Network, which helps to create and support alumni-driven organizations modeled on ours. There are currently 28 TAN affiliates, and they have placed more than 700 interns and fellows this year.

This year, 54 Project 55 fellows are serving at 44 public interest organizations in seven U.S. cities. They join a growing cadre of more than 1,300 alumni of the program.  In addition to the Project 55 Fellowship Program, AlumniCorps’ two new programs – Emerging Leaders and Community Volunteers – provide opportunities for alumni of all ages to put their passions to work in the public interest. To learn more about each of these programs, please visit www.alumnicorps.org.

How Does Princeton AlumniCorps Achieve Our Mission?

Princeton AlumniCorps envisions a day when all Princeton graduates will embrace civic involvement as their responsibility as alumni and citizens, throughout their lives. To that end, we provide alumni with opportunities, training, and support needed to put their energies to work addressing significant social issues.

Princeton Project 55 Fellowship Program

  • 54 PP55 fellows are serving at 44 public interest organizations this year.
  • In total, alumni of the program now number more than 1,300.
  • Fellows are currently serving in seven geographic areas: Boston, Chicago, Connecticut, Philadelphia, New York, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington, DC.
  • About 10% of the senior class applies for a PP55 fellowship each year.

 

 

 

 

Emerging Leaders

  • Princeton AlumniCorps’ newest initiative, launched in June 2011 in Washington, DC.
  • A 10-month professional development program designed to transform young nonprofit professionals into the sector’s future leaders.
  • First class of 11 participants are alumni of the PP55 program, Princeton, and other institutions.
  • The program curriculum interweaves the development of leadership, management, and hard nonprofit skills with mentoring, peer support, and networking within the sector.
  • Emerging Leaders put their learning into action by designing and executing projects that generate real results for their organizations.

 

Community Volunteers

  • The Community Volunteers program connects alumni from the classes of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s to innovative civic engagement opportunities.
  • Volunteers offer nonprofits cost-free access to professional expertise while nonprofit partners offer alumni opportunities to serve their communities in a truly meaningful way.
  • Community Volunteers matches alumni with such opportunities as service on nonprofit boards, pro bono work addressing specific organizational needs, individual volunteer matching, and more.

 

 

 

The Alumni Network

  • The Alumni Network (TAN) helps other groups of college alumni to organize programs modeled on our example.
  • Affiliates include more than 30 public interest programs at colleges and universities across the country (e.g. at Harvard, Dartmouth and Stanford), including some working abroad.
  • Taken together, TAN affiliates have placed more than 7,000 interns and fellows since the Network was formed.
  • In many of our cities, we work with TAN affiliates and host joint seminars and social gatherings, to connect fellows with an extensive community of nonprofit professionals.

Click here to get involved!

Dick Turner ’55, former Board Member and Officer, dies

 

Dick Turner, 79, of Cape May, New Jersey, died peacefully on Friday, September 9, following a battle with cancer. For the many staff members, Board members, classmates, and alums who have had the pleasure of knowing and working with Dick, he will be remembered as a gifted writer (our Board scribe for many years), an art historian,  and an avid environmentalist, with a wry sense of humor and a warm heart.

Mr. Turner was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1932, and received bachelor’s, master of fine arts, and PhD degrees from Princeton University.  He was a Fulbright scholar, and held a number of academic appointments during his career.  He was an instructor in fine arts at the University of Michigan, professor of art and archaeology at Princeton University, dean of the faculty and professor of fine arts at Middlebury College, and president of Grinnell College.  He finished his career at New York University, where he held a number of positions, including director of the Institute of Fine Arts, dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences, professor of fine arts, director of the New York Institute of Humanities, and the Paulette Goddard professor chair in arts and humanities.

Mr. Turner was a Leonardo da Vinci scholar, an expert on the Florentine Renaissance, and the author of a number of books, including Vision of Landscape in Renaissance Italy; Art of Florence; Inventing Leonardo; Renaissance Florence: The Invention of a New Art; and, La Pietra:  Florence, a Family, and a Villa.

He was very active in a number of organizations, serving on the board of directors of New Jersey Audubon and the Pinelands Preservation Alliance.  He was a member of the College Art Association, the Century Association, Phi Beta Kappa, and Princeton Project 55.

Photography and birding were two of Mr. Turner’s greatest passions.   He honed his skills as an amateur photographer over the years, and was an avid bird watcher and devoted to the Cape May Bird Observatory, where he volunteered countless hours and made many friends.
In addition to his wife Jane of 56 years, Mr. Turner is survived by sons Louis (Barb) of Minneapolis, MN, and David (Robin) of Sarasota, FL; a sister Betsy Turner of Newfoundland, PA; grandchildren Chase, Mills, Melley, Lark, Alexander, and Garrett; and step-grandchildren Emma and Alex.

His kind and generous spirit will be missed by everyone who knew him.

In lieu of flowers , donations may be made in Mr. Turner’s name to New Jersey Audubon, 9 Hardscrabble Road, Bernardsville, NJ, 07924, or at njaudubon.org.

A memorial for family and friends will be held on Saturday, October 22, 2011 from 2:00 – 4:00 pm at the Cape May Bird Observatory, 600 Route 47 North (Delsea Drive), Cape May Courthouse, NJ.

 

An Interview with AlumniCorps Board Chair Kenly Webster ’55 and President Bill Leahy ’66

Princeton AlumniCorps Board Chair Kenly Webster ’55 and President Bill Leahy ’66 were interviewed for Shared Effort by Jim Lynn ’55. Plans are underway for Kenly’s replacement as Chair after his three year tenure expires this June.

AlumniCorps President Bill Leahy '66 and Board Chair Kenly Webster '55

Q: Kenly, you’re finishing up your second hitch as Chair. How did the problems you had to deal with change between the first hitch and the second?

KW: Roughly three years ago we [then Princeton Project 55] adopted a new mission statement that was the product of a Board no longer dominated by Class of ’55 members, with the assistance of a PP55 President from another class. Transition was a major new challenge. With transition came a strengthening of the responsibility of the Executive Director and much more centralized control, which took patience to accomplish.

Q: What was your biggest challenge as chairman?

KW: The biggest challenge clearly was to implement, without contention, the transition. Smooth transition was critical.

BL: I think that as President in this transition, my role was to assist in expanding the board, looking for individuals from the younger classes.

Q: Was there ever a time when you worried that this really might not work out well?

KW: The doubt came about nine years ago when we were experimenting with other forms of succession that did not materialize.  Mainly, we sought to identify another class to pick up the management of PP55, and that turned out to be a concept that other classes were not willing to undertake as a class.

Q: What’s the next big challenge facing the organization?

BL: All of us were affected profoundly by the economic downturn. Regardless of how the transition was going, the reality was that finances were going to potentially affect what we could do to sustain and expand the program. This was all beyond our control, and it’s been heartening to shore up last year – a year that could have been a profound deficit – by establishing the [20th anniversary] gala, which made it a profitable year instead. This financial challenge, of course, will continue into the future.

      The other challenge which we have worked with over the last couple years has been integrating individual classes with Princeton AlumniCorps. It has been difficult because this organization began with a camaraderie of a group within a class. This is the kind of spirit the University kind of instills in each class, and when you bring institutions together and try to merge them and their interests, sometimes you end up not being able to do it because of individual spirits – “we should be in charge” or “it has to be a class number.” The name change allowed for other generations to feel engaged with our organization.

      We’ve initiated two new programs: the Community Volunteers program, which I think is going to be another way of engaging people who have had no true relationship with the original organization, and secondly the Emerging Leaders program, which should allow us to sustain many of our PIP alumni into the nonprofit world – which I hope in turn will bring them back for Board positions with our organization.

Q: Is there any danger now that Princeton AlumniCorps might be spreading itself too thin with two new programs at once along with a very well-seasoned and successful Princeton Project 55 Fellowship Program (formerly the PIP)?

KW: I do not think so. Financially, we have, for 20 years, raised the money to do what we wanted to do. There are many supporters of the organization to draw upon. From the standpoint of staffing there are ways to ensure that projects have less demand on staff and that staff has efficient participation in the projects. In sum, you have two safety belts: one is strong staff organization (and hiring outside people to help), and the other is a wide network to attract funding.

Q: Now’s your chance to answer any questions we should have asked but didn’t.

BL: Any organization goes through its adolescence and into its early adulthood, and this organization was doing that as they approached their 20th year. What happened was the development of discipline within the Board – some very individual subcommittees, with designated rules and procedures, which are going to be very important as we go forward, because an organization really can’t survive when it meets on an ad-hoc basis and without any kind of internal discipline. This is very important for the issue of perpetuity.

KW: How is transition going to ensure perpetuity?  I think we have put in place a very strong organization comprised of the Board, board committees and staff. Although we have the transition in place, we’re going to have to fight each year to keep it permanent. To do this we have targeted programs that are designed to attract leadership and financial contributions from alumni classes from all decades after the ’50s.

       A second force in perpetuity may well be attracting leaders from graduates of the PIP program. Almost all of the current leadership comes from graduates of Princeton, who as such have a common bond. But there is a second common bond among the PIP graduates who have all vastly benefited from the program. Therefore there is an additional fertile leadership source from these program graduates.  But I would not expect a president of the organization to come from the PIP alumni for yet a number of years.