Alumnae Trina Keene Jones, Susan Wolfe Elmore, Roberta Rosenberg, Connie Martin Anick, and Wendy Carton reconnect at the home of President Janet L. Steinmayer during their 50th reunion.
When Lesley's Class of 1972 started planning for their 45th reunion in 2017, they knew that they wanted to commemorate the occasion. While alumni often celebrate a milestone reunion with individual gifts, they wondered if they might be able to make a bigger impact collectively.
Classmate Roberta Rosenberg had an idea—a Class of 1972 Giving Circle.
With a background in special education, senior services, and domestic violence prevention, Roberta had experience in fundraising. And like many of her classmates, she feels a strong connection to Lesley and its mission, despite the myriad ways that the university has transformed and expanded since 1972 when it was still Lesley College.
“The changes that have happened at Lesley are very important changes and good ones,” she says. “People here recognize that teaching is a life skill. It's not a classroom skill. Everything I've done in my entire career has had some element of teaching in it.”
Roberta became involved with a women's giving circle in Boston through her work as executive director of The Second Step, an agency working to prevent domestic violence. The giving circle would invite non-profit organizations to attend a gathering and make a presentation about their work. Roberta was invited to come discuss her work with Second Step and was chosen to receive funding.
“Usually when I’d go speak to a group, I’d come home with $50, but that night I came home with $1,200 for The Second Step. It was a wonderful model.”
As her Lesley class approached their 45th reunion, she mentioned the giving circle idea to a classmate.
“I'm not in a position to give a lot of money to Lesley. But I told her about the giving circle that I belonged to and I said ‘what would happen if we started in 1972 alumni giving circle?’”
Other classmates agreed that it was a powerful way to pool their resources.
“It has a lot to do with women's financial empowerment,” Roberta explains. “In a lot of families, women don't make the decisions as to where they donate. This is an opportunity for women to do their own thing in terms of philanthropy.”
At the 45th class reunion in 2017, three Lesley professors gave a presentation to the group and then the class voted on which program to support, choosing the Urban Scholars Initiative which supports first generation and low-income Lesley students. At the 50th reunion, after a long and thoughtful discussion, a class steering committee voted to designate the funds raised through the Giving Circle to Threshold, Lesley’s two-year certificate program designed for students with learning differences.
“I was very excited when everyone voted for the Threshold Program,” says alumna Dagny Fidler, who has worked in the special education field since graduating from Lesley. “And I loved the conversation that we had—it was a great time for people to talk about what was important to them.”
In the future, Roberta hopes that the class Giving Circle will be able to sponsor community conversations on topics that are important to Lesley alumni, including the future of education and the emotional and social needs of children in the wake of the pandemic.
“Lesley is going to have an opportunity to play a role in helping the government realize that if public schools are going to survive, something has to be done to support the teachers,” she says. “My intuition tells me that Lesley is going to be at the table for those conversations.”
She sees the Giving Circle as a way to invest in Lesley’s future and to create a larger impact down the road.
“It's not something that's going to happen in one shot,” she says. “You have to plant a seed.”