Sometimes, it’s hard to find the right volunteer position to match your available time and talents, but not at Lehigh! With so many volunteer options, everyone can find something they enjoy, whether they are close to campus with a flexible schedule or far away and juggling busy agendas. For senior alumni, writing birthday card greetings, serving as a desk greeter at the Alumni Memorial Building, or volunteering on the Senior Alumni Council are all ways alumni can stay connected and give back to their alma mater. You can too!
Tom Hoh ’75, president of the Senior Alumni Council (SAC), first got involved as a desk volunteer when he retired as a controller from Pipeline Petroleum. His experience inspired him to also volunteer as a Reunion Parade Marshall, birthday card writer, member on the board of the Lehigh Wrestling Club, and member of his class reunion committee.
“Volunteering is a chance for alumni to explore new interactions with Lehigh,” said Hoh. Since he has lived in the Lehigh Valley all of his life, he says that he’s received many opportunities to stay active with his alma mater.
“Lehigh offers a whole lot for both the community and alumni. I attend lectures, concerts, and sporting events, so my ties to Lehigh never really changed,” Hoh said. “The thing that did change, though, was that I was able to retire at a very early age, and now I had some time. This is my opportunity to give back for all the things that I’ve been receiving for the past 40 years. Once you volunteer for one thing, it sort of multiplies.”
The volunteers who attend the Alumni Memorial Building’s desk at the front entrance welcome visitors from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., weekdays, during most of the academic year. Walking into the beautiful, stone Alumni Memorial Building, visitors are greeted by alumni who originally passed through Lehigh’s halls as students and returned to their beloved campus to make newcomers feel just as at home. The Alumni Memorial Building always leaves an enchanting impression on visitors, and senior alumni can be part of that lasting memory for visiting students.
Monica Timar, Lehigh’s associate director of Regional and Affinity Strategy, said, “The volunteers are just a nice presence to have for the families who walk into this spacious building, have no idea where to go, and are nervous. A lot of times, families ask them about Lehigh, the alum’s own time here as a student, and good places to eat in the area. They share stories. They all enjoy it.”
If commuting to campus to volunteer is not ideal, alumni can choose writing birthday card greetings that can be prepared anywhere and anytime. Alumni receive birthday cards for their 75th, 80th, 85th, and 90th, and then each birthday following their 90th.
Pat Girke ’55W, who worked at Lehigh for then treasurer Elmer Glick from 1951-1955, now volunteers writing birthday cards during the month of August. She said that she enjoys writing cards, especially when she knows the alumnus who is receiving it. She said, “It is great to celebrate their birthday with them.”
Ken Hendrix ’55 also enjoys writing cards to connect with alumni he knows. He embraces a strong network of Lehigh alumni after working 40 years for the Public Service Electric and Gas Company in New Jersey, which had three presidents and many employees that were Lehigh alumni. He said that he writes about 35 cards per month, and each month, there are about two or three alumni who are over 100 years old.
“Being able to reach out to them is rewarding,” Hendrix said.
Richard Smith ’55 shares Girke and Hendrix’s enthusiasm for writing birthday cards for alumni. He began writing birthday cards in 2005 and has written more than 400 cards since he started! He transitioned to also volunteer for the Senior Alumni Council in 2005 and later served as president.
Senior Alumni Council
The Senior Alumni Council members recruit future volunteers and also plan three alumni events per year. One is a holiday luncheon to recognize the volunteers, during which they present a senior volunteer with a service award. Another favorite is the winter sports luncheon that usually coincides with a Lehigh wrestling match. As Lehigh’s campus blooms during spring, the Back to the Classroom gathering in April invites alumni to return to Lehigh and engage with faculty, students, and staff about current research topics being explored at the university.
As former president of SAC for six years, Smith says that his most memorable accomplishment was creating the Back to the Classroom program, which is now in its seventh year. “Sometimes we get people who haven’t been on campus for 40 years, so that’s a good experience,” he said.
Like his fellow alumni, Smith also cherishes the chance to return to Lehigh’s campus and said, “I love it, because when I was a student, I lived in town, so I didn’t have much on-campus experience. Since joining the Senior Alumni Council, I’ve met a lot of people I never knew who were in my class. I love to come back on campus.”
If you would like more information on becoming a volunteer, please contact Monica Timar at (610) 758-3136 or email email@example.com.