Graduation – it’s the day every student looks forward to. Four years (or more) of hard work culminating in one fantastic moment. That moment when they get to walk across that stage and say that they graduated from St. Ambrose University.
After that fantastic moment, many will start their careers all across the country and, in some cases, around the world. Instead, others might continue their education at Ambrose or another university.
But just because they graduated from SAU for their only time or their first time doesn’t mean that their connection to Ambrose is lost forever. The second they shake the bishop’s hand, they become a member of the St. Ambrose Alumni Association, an organization with some 29,000 members. Director of Alumni Wendy Pondell explains it best.
“So, the Alumni Association is a group of 30 alumni. They represent various decades, geographic regions and areas of study in the university and student experiences. We bring them together to help guide the activities of the alumni office as a way to best serve the alumni population,” Pondell explained.
The Alumni Association isn’t just an organization with loose connections to Ambrose; they are very hands-on in their activities and passionate about what they do. They host two trivia nights throughout the year to bring current and former Ambrosians together and fundraise for other events later that year.
They also help the engagement office put on the annual Bee Happy Hour, a fan favorite of many Ambrose alums.
“It’s an event that we do in June, and we encourage all alumni to gather on the same night at the same time to gather with fellow Ambrosians, parent, students and then toast their experience at SAU and their love for everything St. Ambrose. It’s a fun way for us to reach out to our alumni across the country and not just necessarily in the Quad Cities or in our bigger cities,” Pondell said.
The Alumni Association doesn’t just stop at events; they also help promote the Ambrose Annual Fund. The general fund benefits all aspects of St. Ambrose University from the ground up.
“Everyone has a household budget at home,” Pondell explained. “And it’s what you need to pay those monthly expenses or yearly expenses. So, the university is a little different; we have the same fund and that’s called the Ambrose Annual Fund and the alumni board not only supports that fund but also encourages their fellow alumni to do the same.”
The association also has ways for those long-distance Ambrosians to get involved without traveling back to campus. Pondell says that besides the regional events, the alumni association encourages fellow Ambrosians to get involved with their community and live the St. Ambrose lifestyle of service to that community.
One great example of service to the community was Dr. Amy Novak’s Bee the Difference Month. The event started on November 7th with the university’s annual tradition of Bee the Difference Day and ended with the feast of St. Ambrose on December 7th. While that event was going on, the alumni association helped spread the word so former students could get involved as well.
As for direct involvement, Pondell says that the best way for Ambrosians to be hands-on is to mark their calendars for a trip back to their alma mater.
“This year we sent out a yearly calendar to all alumni and listed the big events for the year. Such as homecoming and the wine festival events taking place March through May” Pondell stated. “We encourage people that if those events are of interest, go ahead and mark your calendar because we would love to see you back here.”
While the alumni association is all about promoting events and supporting the campus, they also want to make sure that Ambrosians past and present stay connected. Pondell says that if your address is up to date, you’ll hear from them through the various means of communication used to reach out to everyone.
If there has been a recent life-changing event such as a new job, a marriage or welcoming a new family member. Alumni are encouraged to update their information by using the form on the association’s webpage.
Overall, the St. Ambrose Alumni association exists to help the students of the past build and shape the university for the students of the future.
“We always say that the student experience regardless of whether you graduated in 1950 or 2005 or our upcoming graduates in 2022. Your experience was made possible by the alumni and donors that came before you,” Pondell said. “Whether it’s the buildings that you have class or the equipment that you use. All of that has been made possible by the support of others. So, we just ask that alumni be a part of that and help build the next chapter of St. Ambrose education for those who come after us.”
So, after you walk that stage, don’t forget about the memories you’ve made, the friends you’ve connected with and the traditions you’ve started. It’s up to the past to support the future. Whether it’s five, ten or fifty years down the line, the alumni association asks only one thing of its multitude of members – don’t bee a stranger.