Scene Magazine | Spring 2022
St. Ambrose University couldn't thrive without its expansive and tireless volunteer network that keeps our 30,000-plus alumni connected wherever life takes them.
This past year, 1,254 alumni volunteered to help keep SAU growing.
"Despite COVID-19, all of our volunteer numbers are very strong. We launched several programs where people can engage and volunteer from their homes and hometowns during these unprecedented times," said Wendy Pondell '05, director of Alumni and Community Engagement and Special Events.
The Alumni Association is one of SAU's more established voluntary advisory councils, a group of dedicated Ambrosians who work to keep others connected to their alma mater.
"They are a working board; they come to meetings, run events, volunteer, they are actively involved in the process," said Pondell.
The board has spearheaded the distribution of the coveted alumni pins at commencement and organized alumni events such as Bee Happy Hour and the Bee Cool Tent at the Quad-City Times Bix 7 finish line. They have promoted the sale of SAU vanity license plates, and most recently sold and imprinted stencils for the driveways of Fighting Bees supporters.
Megan Leon '16, '18 MOT volunteers on the board because it connects her with other alumni, allowing her to share experiences while serving the greater community. She was heavily involved in piloting the Bee Stencil project and hopes to stencil the beloved Ambrose mascot on a Quad Cities driveway near you.
"My favorite projects have been helping to lead the Bee Stencil Project, which is a fundraiser we will continue this spring, and volunteering at the Bix Bee Cool Tent," Leon said.
Building this board requires an internal nomination process whereby gaps are filled; they are not looking simply to fill a seat, but instead to represent varied life experiences, cultures, and educational programs, to name a few distinctions.
"We feel that a diverse cross-section of alumni provides a good sounding board for our office and offers a true snapshot of the SAU experience," said Pondell.
Alum and board member John Stender-Custer '00 decided to become involved in the Alumni Association because he felt representation matters.
"As a gay man and a member of the LGBTQ community, I hope to lend a queer perspective at our alumni meetings," he said. "I had such a positive experience at St. Ambrose, and it is my wish that it remains a safe place for LGBTQ students to come out or stay out and flourish."
One of the more recent board additions is Martha Garcia-Tappa '91. Martha and her husband, Steve Tappa '91, were college sweethearts who now have front row seats as the next family generation of Bees soar. Their youngest son, A.J., was a first-year student and football player this past year and their oldest son, Michael, has plans to re-enroll in the fall.
"I joined the board because I want to share my experiences. I am a very proud Ambrosian, and I want to help promote events and give back as much as I can," said Garcia-Tappa.
Alumni Association Board members share one resounding theme: All felt their lives were positively impacted by their time at St. Ambrose.
And now they are giving back, using their diversity of thought and experiences to bring the same boundless energy and enthusiasm for their alma mater.
"I decided to become involved in the Alumni Association because St. Ambrose holds a special place in my heart," said Thomas Mason IV '91, a long-involved alum who now is president of the Alumni Association and father of an SAU student, Chase, who is completing his first year. "The education I received, the spiritual nurturing I received, and the life-long friendships that I developed have helped me achieve many successes in life."
Mason noted among the many life lessons, the most important thing his time at Ambrose taught him was the importance of community service, "giving back so that the lives of others are enriched as mine has been."
Pondell said the board's work is invaluable to the Alumni Office and the University. "Our office really appreciates everything they do to extend our reach," she said.