PP55 20th Anniversary Gala: Celebrating the Past While Poised for the Future

Princeton Project 55 (soon to be Princeton AlumniCorps) held a successful 20th Anniversary Gala on the evening of May 27, 2010, at the Westin Princeton at Forrestal Village in Princeton, NJ. Among the more than 350 people in attendance were several dignitaries and supporters on hand to honor the founding Princeton Class of 1955 and be inspired by keynote speaker, Cory A. Booker, Mayor of Newark. The atmosphere was electric. Click here to view photos of the event on our Facebook Page.

The Gala brought Princeton AlumniCorps Board members, Project 55 fellowship alumni, Princeton University President Emeritus Harold Shapiro, representatives from the Rita Allen Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, CityBridge Foundation, Public Health Solutions, and numerous other nonprofit partners, and Princeton University faculty and staff together for an evening dedicated to honoring the vast accomplishments of PP55 in the realm of alumni civic engagement.

This was the first gala ever to be held by Project 55 to raise both awareness and funds for the alumni-driven organization’s efforts to engage alumni of all ages and all backgrounds in the public interest.  Project 55 is grateful to our many sponsors and donors who contributed over $150,000 because they recognized the critical role these news dollars play in the success of and expansion of our work. Those in attendance clearly made evident their commitment to mobilizing Princetonians—and alumni of other universities—for the public good.
Although Project 55 began with the Class of 1955, it has expanded to involve alumni from other Princeton classes and other universities. More than two thirds of Gala guests were not affiliated with the Class of 1955. Anne-Marie Maman ‘84, former board member, chaired the event. Alumni of different ages, including Kenly Webster ’55, Kate McCleery ’75, Jim Gregoire ’69, Scott Welfel ’06,  Gordon Douglas ’55, Kathy Miller ’77, Arthur McKee ’90, Rishi Jaitly ’04, and William Leahy ’66, spoke of their growing commitment to service through their involvement with PP55.  They shared their excitement for the next 20 years of this great organization, under our new name, Princeton AlumniCorps.

President Shirley Tilghman welcomed Gala attendees via a video message and expressed the intense pride that Princeton University feels for all who have been part of Project 55 over the last 20 years. She said  “An entire generation of Princeton graduates has been given the opportunity to pursue public service immediately upon graduation, and for some of those students, their lives have simply been transformed by that experience. It has led them to careers in public service that have continued to this day. For the rest, of course, they take away from their experience as Project 55 fellows a commitment to community service and understanding that voluntary service is going to be part of their lives, whatever their professional pursuits will be in the future.” President Tilghman closed her remarks by saying, “I hope those of you in the Class of ’55 and particularly those who were involved in the creation of this wonderful public service project enjoy that experience as much as all of us who admire what you have done so much enjoy hearing it. So, happy birthday, Project 55. Twenty years of extraordinary service to Princeton University, and to this nation.” Click here to view President Tilghman’s Video Message.

A highlight of the evening was the keynote address by a true model of civic leadership, the Honorable Cory A. Booker, Mayor of Newark, NJ. Mayor Booker spoke of the need to action, for positivity, and optimism, and the fight against “sedentary agitation” that plagues so many Americans today.  Stay tuned for video of Mayor Booker’s keynote address.

Princeton Project 55 will officially change our name and broaden our mission as Princeton AlumniCorps in Summer 2010. Be on the lookout for videos of the gala presentations and announcements of new programming in the coming months.

Interested in becoming an AlumniCorps member? Contact Kathleen Reilly, Executive Director, at kreilly@alumnicorps.org.

Spotlight on a Board Member & Mentor: Scott Taylor ’75

Taylor, ScottScott Taylor graduated from Princeton in 1975 with an economics degree. He also holds an MBA in finance from Columbia Business School.  He manages a personal family foundation and was formerly a partner in Mansion Partners, LP, an investment fund.  Previously, he had been in institutional sales with Citigroup Asset Management, Bear, Stearns & Co., and Morgan Stanley & Co., and was a financial analyst with General Motors Corp.  Scott is a member of the Project 55 Board of Directors. He and his wife, Courtney Finch Taylor, Wellesley ’79, live in New York; where she, of course, favors black, while he adds, much to her chagrin, some orange.

How/Why did you get involved with Princeton Project 55? Did it surprise you to learn that Princeton Project 55 is a multigenerational organization?

I got involved around the time of the 10th anniversary of P55, when I responded to a piece in the Princeton Club of NY newsletter, looking for mentors.  I had always done a fair amount of alumni job counseling, focused on Wall Street.  But the civic engagement angle in the not for profit sector was enticing.  Helping young people help society seemed to make a lot of sense.  It wasn’t until I was a bit more involved that I saw that the founders were beginning to include the former fellows in preparing for leadership roles.

What is your background regarding nonprofits/volunteering? How have you demonstrated “Princeton in the Nation’s Service?”

My first job out of Princeton was on the business side of a small children’s services agency in Queens, New York.  That was relatively short-lived, but working with PP55 now gives me another opportunity to “give back.”

What’s the most important thing you look for when supporting an organization or serving on a nonprofit board?

I’m a numbers guy, so I am interested in organizations that serve the largest number of constituents in an efficient way.  Bang for the buck!

Please discuss the importance of what PP55 does for the Princeton community and communities across the country.

I like to think of the whole structure of PP55 as a form of what I call “leveraged philanthropy”.  Through our work and financial contributions, we engage fellows who both help their partner organizations help many constituents, and either grow in their careers helping a number of not-for-profits, or move on in the for-profit world and become dedicated philanthropists supporting PP55 like organizations.

For 2009-10, PP55 placed 46 fellows. What would your advice be for our newest class of PP55 fellows, and to those Princetonians who are still looking for a job next year?

Use the Princeton network!  Pick up the phone and make the calls!  You will almost always get a positive response, probably some help, and often some referrals, but it will rarely be a hard call to make.

As we celebrate our 20th Anniversary, what is your hope for the next 20 years at PP55?

Having just joined the Board of PP55, I am very encouraged by the steps being taken by the founders to involve new leaders in sustaining not just the Public Interest Program, but looking new programs whereby all Princetonians can have a meaningful, positive impact on society.

Rob Spackey ’08 Shares Fellowship Experience with PP55 Board

Robert Spackey '08 spoke at the Sept. 26 PP55 Board Meeting
Robert Spackey '08 spoke at the Sept. 26 PP55 Board Meeting

At the September 26 PP55 Board Meeting, Robert Spackey ’08 talked about his 2008-09 PP55 fellowship experience at College Summit in Washington, DC. His prepared remarks are below.

Princeton Project 55
Remarks for the Board of Directors

September 26, 2009

I first stepped foot in the Princeton Project 55 office in April of 2008.  I was a late-comer to the fellowship application process, having assumed for most of my senior year that non-profits were not were I wanted to expend my energy.  Most non-profits, I presumed, were well-intentioned, but poorly managed, inefficient, and stale places to work.  After an earnest but wholly unsuccessful job hunt, I began to expand my search and found that Project 55 had several unfilled positions.  So, I took a chance.  I applied, was accepted, and apathetically began what has turned into one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  I have learned so much this year from my work at College Summit, and being in a challenging environment with smart people thinking about tough business and educational problems has forced me to rethink, and truly appreciate the role of a non-profit organization.

College Summit’s mission is to place more low-income students in college.  We partner with high schools around the country and provide a curriculum for seniors applying to college.  The curriculum is taught as a regular class in which the teacher walks students through the application process, completing tasks such as college lists, applications and the FAFSA.  We are a social entrepreneurship venture, which means that we find innovative ways to sustain organization.  For instance, we sell our curriculum to school districts for a nominal fee.  In addition, we seek to attract “investors”, not simply funders.  These investors are shown data that our product produces results, and they invest, confident that more dollars will produce results for more students.  Consequently, strong data is crucial to furthering our mission and reaching more students.  But last year we had what some might call a “data crisis”.  Although I didn’t know it then, the data crisis would be a turning point in my first year in the workforce.

It was the week before Christmas.  Everyone was in a great mood, and little work was getting done. But unbeknownst to most of the organization, the leadership team was looking at some pretty unsettling numbers from our data department.  We all went off to Christmas break (yes, College Summit has a Christmas break), blissfully content that everything was just fine.  The executive team didn’t break the news until after the holidays but let’s just say we all had a very sobering start to the new year.   At 10am on Tuesday, January 6, the Vice Presidents called a meeting with anyone whose job touched data in any way.  My job happened to be tangentially related to data so I was there and I remember distinctly the speech we were given.  Brian, our vice president of operations, opened by stating that our numbers were showing that only 2% of our students had submitted a college application. This was not good; more importantly, it was not accurate.  We knew anecdotally that students roughly half our students had submitted an application, but the system was not reflecting that reality.  After the initial announcement, Tom, the representative from the project management office, got into more detail about some possible ideas for solving the problem.  All were complicated, and all had significant downsides that were bound to make a lot of people unhappy.

I remember sitting in that meeting and asking myself one critical question: how does this affect me?  As Tom read through his rough sketch of solutions, I looked around the room, and the faces of each individual spoke volumes.  No one felt good about the problem, and no one felt good about the ideas to fix it.  But furthermore, no one in the room quite knew who was the one to “own” this issue and guide it towards resolution.  The 10 people in the room, and the additional 30 or so regional staff members on the phone all left that meeting deflated.  Now I’m not going to stand up here and tell you I decided right then and there that I was going to solve this thing. No, frankly at that time I was still asking myself another question which was: given what it says in my job description, what should I do about this issue?  Am I responsible for it?  Will I be held accountable?  From that perspective, the answer was clearly no, I was not ultimately responsible.  I wrote parts of the curriculum that dealt with our data system, but this was much bigger than that.  In fact, I reasoned, this was something for the managers and directors to sort out.  Once they got a handle on the situation, then I would be given a clear directive about what to do.  And given the fact that my job title had very little to do with this issue, I was confident that the directive would soon be: don’t worry about it, it’s not your problem.

That’s not how the data crisis concluded for me.  The next day I remember being called into a meeting with a smaller group in which we started to weigh the options and plan who was going to tackle the issue.  As the discussions began, I started to speak up and identify some risks involved with certain options on the table.  We had several more meetings that week with the smaller group, and I found that the more information I had, the more I was able to contribute, and the less I felt like a tangential curriculum writer, orbiting far from the center of the problem.  By the end of that week, after many rounds of sometimes heated discussion, and some serious bore down problem solving, I felt like an influential member of the group.  In fact, it was clear that I, along with two others, had really taken this problem on.  It wasn’t assigned to us.  We weren’t the obvious picks to solve it.  But this was our ad hoc team and by the end of the week, the three of us had developed a complex 35 step process necessary to achieve our goal.  I knew by heart how accounts would be created in the computer system, how groups would be established to keep track of students by class, the data points that each regional team member would need to collect, the process for batch creating accounts when accounts couldn’t be created at the school, and the strict timeline necessary for meeting each milestone.

In the end, we accomplished our goal and were able to produce a report for the board that showed that 60% of our students had submitted a college application.  To know that that process worked was incredibly satisfying.  But what I realized looking back on that whole month was that I could have stood back and let others take care of the problem because working on the data crisis was not in my job description.  But I made the choice to be intimately involved and go beyond my prescribed role.

College Summit constantly refers to our students as “better than their numbers”.  On paper, they might not have the highest GPAs or the best standardized test scores, but their talents are tremendous nonetheless.  In many ways, College Summit challenges it’s employees to be better than their numbers.  It may say on paper that I’m an entry-level associate, but I found this year that that did not mean that that was all I could be.  And going beyond the job description is a trait that I have found common among every single person in the organization who I consider to be excellent at what they do.

Today I am no longer an entry-level associate.  I was promoted last spring three levels to be a senior coordinator for projects on the Research and Development team.  But I haven’t stopped striving to be better than that title.  I’ve been put in charge of a project called Launchpad Campaign that is piloting a new and innovative way of implementing College Summit.  We are thinking critically about our costs of doing business, how we can scale good education, and how we can double and triple the number of students we serve each year.  It is a great joy to be able to think about these tough problems and know that I can make the choice to be an influential problem-solver on whatever issue confronts us.

Last week, Keith Frome, our Chief Academic Officer told me at our regular weekly check-in that several schools in Colorado unexpectedly want to buy our curriculum for 9th graders.  He asked me if I thought we should sell it to them on short notice.  A year ago I would have said, hey, I don’t think I’m really the right person to help with this – that sounds like something you and the exec team need to decide.  Of course, today I don’t respond that way.  I say: it sounds like a promising opportunity, but we first need to think about how the curriculum will be supported because Colorado is short staffed.  Maybe if we laid out up front that the school would get a one-time training and a minimal support after that, we could make the sale and not suffer capacity issues on the regional team.  His response? I like it, let’s do it.

Click this youtube link to watch Robert Spackey at the May DC Fellows Forum

Project 55 Elects Five New Board Members, Bids Farewell to Two Long Time Members

Princeton Project 55’s Board of Directors recently elected five new alumni to the Board. New Board members (bios below) are Anthony Quainton ’55, Marsha Rosenthal ’76, Arti Sheth ’08, Scott Taylor ’75, and Dick Walker ’73. Illa Brown ’76, Andrew Goldstein ’06, Jim Lynn ’55, and Lindsay Wall ’02 were reelected to the board.

The PP55 Board of directors includes members of classes between ’55 and ’08. The wide range of classes represented by these new and returning Board members is in line with PP55’s strategic goal of diversifying the leadership of the organization beyond the class of 1955.

PP55 owes much gratitude to retiring Board members Mimi Murley ’76 and Chet Safian ’55 for their years of board service to Princeton Project 55.



Ambassador Anthony Quainton ’55

Tony is a long-time supporter of PP55. Twice awarded the Presidential Meritorious Service for his service, Tony was ambassador to four countries and was often in the middle of politically volatile situations during his 38 year career in the Foreign Service. Since leaving government he has served on the International Policy Committee of the Catholic Bishops Conference, as Chairman of the Board of the Washington Theological Consortium, as Vice Chairman of the Public Diplomacy Council, and as President of the Lions Foundation of Washington, D.C.  

Marsha Rosenthal ’76

Marsha is an Assistant Research Professor, Center for State Health Policy; Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research at Rutgers University. Marsha is a parent of a current PP55 fellow and has actively mentored public health fellows and participated in PP55 interviews and orientations for many years.

Arti Sheth ’08

A 2008 fellow, Arti will be continuing her employment as a Grants Associate at Global Kids in NYC next year, and volunteering with the NYC PP55 area committee. While at Princeton, Arti was an active member of the African and International Students’ Associations and worked to organize events and raise awareness about global affairs. Arti has spent her summers studying in France and Italy, and interning at a translation agency in Paris. She hasalso worked as a translator and teacher at WAMATO, a small school dedicated to providing basic education to underserved Tanzanian youth. A Tanzanian national of Indian descent and a globetrotter at heart, Arti is fluent in French, Italian and Kutchi, proficient in Kiswahili and learning Portuguese.

Scott Taylor ’75

Scott recently retired from a career in finance, most recently on Wall Street in institutional sales. Scott is an active member of the NYC area committee, where he helps to organize events and evaluate partner organizations, and he has mentored fellows for many years. Scott earned an MBA from Columbia ’80 in Finance. 

Richard “Dick” Walker ’73

Dick Walker is the principal of his own consulting company, R. O. Walker Company LLC, serving both for profit and nonprofit clients in the area of philanthropy.   Dick served FBR Capital Markets as Vice President, Corporate Giving from 2004 to 2008 after a 32-year career at Landon School as a teacher and development officer. Dick is currently an active member of the PP55 Development Steering Group and the PP55 Midcareer Program Planning Committee, and has participated in local seminars and mentored PP55 fellows for many years.

The Alumni Network Sets Strategic Direction for 2009-12

Princeton Project 55 is excited to share with our valued affiliates our goals for The Alumni Network in 2009-12:

Princeton Project 55 would like to grow and expand to reach alumni of all ages—providing more opportunities to connect with Project 55, our affiliates, and each other to serve our nation in the public interest.

Project 55 will expand its TAN activities in order to support that ambitious goal. Here are just a few of our plans for 2009-10:

1.     Communications: Project 55 will continue to provide TAN affiliates’ contact information every fall and help to organize and share best practices and resources online.

  • Chet Safian intends to retire as TAN Program Leader and will be less proactive in seeking new TAN affiliates. Affiliates and/or interested parties should email TAN@alumnicorps.org with any questions or suggestions throughout the year.
  • Project 55 is committed to continuing local partnerships in our cities and fellowship “position sharing” with our affiliates when applicable. We are grateful for the wonderful collaboration among TAN affiliates “on the ground,“ which benefit all our programs.
  • Project 55 will continue to publish The Venture Catalyst online, and we encourage online posting and participation from our affiliates.

2.     Conference: Project 55 plans to expand and enhance the TAN Conference in order to broaden our reach to affiliates, partner organizations and alumni of all ages and interests.

  • We expect this change to enrich and diversify the TAN conference experience for our long-time affiliates. All TAN Affiliates will be invited and encouraged to lead and participate in workshops of interest. At the same time, Project 55 will have an opportunity to better connect its Board members and supporters with TAN and other PP55 programming.
  • This in no way prevents our affiliates from planning additional TAN conferences in their areas. In fact, we encourage local innovation!

3.     Project 55’s 20th Anniversary Year: During our 20th Anniversary year and hopefully beyond, PP55 hopes to facilitate more opportunities for universities and alumni of all ages to engage in the public interest.

  • Project 55 plans to pilot at least one networking/idea-sharing event for this purpose in each of our major fellowship cities in 2009-10. Stay tuned for more information, and please send any thoughts to TAN@alumnicorps.org!

NoteShould any TAN affiliate feel an Advisory Board conference call is in order, they should contact the Advisory Board Chair, Nick Beilenson (NBeilenson@peterpauper.com) or email TAN@alumnicorps.org

PP55 Board Member Spotlight: Kathleen McCleery ’75

resized-kathleen-mccleeryKathleen McCleery ’75 joined the PP55 Board of Directors in June 2008. Kathleen has been the Deputy Executive Producer for “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” since November 2005. She oversees the daily program and coordinates all editorial, technical and online aspects. In her nearly 14-year tenure at the NewsHour, she’s produced stories in four Presidential election cycles. She covered the impeachment of President Clinton, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and the Iraq war and its aftermath. She traveled to Cuba to produce stories during Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1998. Her career as a broadcast journalist has spanned 34 years. In 1981, Kathleen married Robert J. Martinez, also ’75, an attorney in Washington, DC, in a ceremony at Colonial Club in Princeton. Their son, Jason, is a senior at James Madison University, and their daughter, Elena, is Princeton Class of 2011.

How did you get involved with Princeton Project 55? Did it surprise you to learn that Princeton Project 55 is a multigenerational organization?

When Elliott Lee ’74 called to broach the subject of Princeton Project 55, I was surprised. I knew very little about the organization, but I trusted Elliott having known him for more than 3 decades. If he was involved, I knew PP55 had to be worth considering. Elliott’s pitch was intriguing. He talked about reaching a point in life when we have a bit more time and can think about service to others. With 2 children in college, the moment was right.

What is your background regarding nonprofits/volunteering? How have you demonstrated “Princeton in the Nation’s Service?”

Please let me be the first to admit I don’t have the long history of service that most of my colleagues on the Princeton Project 55 Board do. I have great admiration for their long commitment to public service and for their many accomplishments at PP55.

For Princeton, my husband and I co-chaired the Northern Virginia Alumni Schools Committee for several years and interviewed applicants for many more. We worked hard to insure that our committee interviewed 100% of the students applying to Princeton every year. Our efforts were recognized on Alumni Day in 2006 when we received the S. Barksdale Penick Prize. We served a term on the national schools committee as well mentoring other chairs and encouraging them to hit the 100% mark.

I’ve spent years doing the kinds of things many parents have done … mostly working tirelessly for school-based organizations supporting the various activities my own children have participated in. We started early by organizing a parent cooperative to buy the Montessori pre-school our children attended. That became a parent-run school, and we were involved for 7 years. Later, I found my way into elementary, middle school and high school activities ranging from helping in the writing labs to speaking on career days to manning the concession stand at athletic events.

I served as president of the Band Boosters for 2 years and was on the board for several more years while my son and daughter played clarinet in the school bands. We’ve supported the local education association hosting fundraisers at our home among other things.

Perhaps my longest tenure in public service has been the decades I’ve spent in public television, a non-profit, of course.

What’s the most important thing you look for when supporting an organization or serving on a nonprofit board?

People make up organizations, and I look for smart, creative, interesting people who are committed to making their organization the very best it can be. I want to be challenged, and I want to experience the intellectual, collegial atmosphere we all found at Princeton.

Please discuss the importance of what PP55 does for the Princeton community and communities across the country.

Princeton Project 55 performs a unique service for Princeton University, for the fellows and for the partner organizations. Everyone benefits. The fellows get real work experience while performing an important service. The partner organizations get talented workers. All of that reflects positively on Princeton for educating the students and for inspiring them to work in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations.

PP55 is currently in the process of placing our 2009-10 fellows. As you know, the current economy has drastically decreased the availability of fellowship placements. What would your advice be for our newest class of PP55 fellows, and to those Princetonians who are still looking for a job next year?

There’s no sugar coating it. This is a very tough job market, a tough economy. For the new Princeton Project 55 fellows, congratulations. You are about to embark on a very exciting year, one you’ll likely never forget, and one you’ll build on for many years to come.

Take advantage of every moment, every contact, every seminar, every event. Soak it all up and learn from it. Your fellowship is a real job. While you’re performing an important service, you’re also learning how to behave, how to interact with others and how to manage others.

For those still in search of the perfect job, relax and know that something will come your way. Be persistent, don’t give up and do use your Princeton contacts. I never fail to return a Princetonian’s email and never refuse to speak to a young Princetonian asking for career advice.

As we near our 20th Anniversary, what is your hope for the next 20 years at PP55?

I’d like to see Princeton Project 55 continue to provide fellowship opportunities to recent graduates and similar opportunities to older alumni. I hope we can transition to a strong, stable base of support (both financial and otherwise) from the middle year alumni. As our country grapples with the current economic crisis, I’d like to see Project 55 help match those in need with those who can give service.