Volunteering Your Friendship

Saint John’s alumni are known for staying connected to their college friends long after graduating. Most of my Johnnie friends regularly gather with their social groups - annual fishing trips, concerts, golf traditions. They serve as groomsmen at each other's weddings and they introduce their families to each other. Saint John’s gave them lifelong friendships, and they nourish these relationships over decades.

In many cases, these friendships continue to flourish independently from Saint John’s alumni programming. But once every five years, each class of Johnnies has Reunion. It’s meant to encourage as many class members as possible to reconnect. A typical Saint John's class ranges from 300 to 450, and all alumni, non-degreed alumni and spouses are invited. Reunion builds a class-wide spirit of celebration. Reunion can do something that small groups of classmates couldn’t do on their own – bring the whole class back to the place where they first became friends. Saint John's alumni have a long tradition of successful Reunion, and now they and their Saint Ben's classmates celebrate Reunion together in June.

Volunteers form the core of Reunion. At the heart of volunteering is the belief that people are more likely to participate if they are contacted by someone they remember. Saint John's research from this past year shows that the primary reason alumni attend Reunion is that they know someone else who's going.

Every volunteer is just as crucial as the next.  The more volunteers, the greater attendance by classmates, and the more fun Reunion is. Volunteers call their own social groups, with the collective goal of personally reaching the whole class.

While most class volunteers are responsible for inviting their friends, some choose to do more. Reunion Chairs lead efforts for events, communication and the class gift. Mature classes may have designated volunteers to focus on asking for estate and legacy contributions to Saint John’s, such as Bill Knese '70. Younger classes focus their efforts on attendance and engagement, knowing the big gifts will follow in years to come. 

A personal phone call from a friend can make all the difference in a Johnnie's choice to attend Reunion or make a gift. Last year, an alumnus from the Class of 1991 commented as he made his Reunion gift:

I’d like to thank Bill Olson '91.  If it weren’t for his personal phone call and encouragement, I would not be [attending Reunion or] donating money to Saint John’s today. 

It was the first time in twenty years the Johnnie had come back, and he had a blast. It just goes to show the importance of class volunteers!

Reunion is a great opportunity for classmates to come together in a special way, and volunteering can make it even more rewarding. Many Johnnies already enjoy lifelong friendships. Volunteers expand upon these friendships to the benefit of all. To all who have volunteered for your class over years and decades, I extend my thanks!

[Editor's note: To volunteer for your Reunion, contact Raj Chaphalkar '08, Jim Kuhn '02, Ted Kain '12 or James Kimeu '09.]