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San Diego

1:00 PM  Sep 5th, 2014
by Molly Blake '96

It’s summertime, all the time, for California Flyers

When Steve Geise ’92 took the reins as leader of the San Diego alumni community, it was on the verge of being shuttered.

“We were barely kicking,” Geise said.

Despite the wildly popular Christmas off Campus event, led since 1999 by Phil Cenedella ’84, and the bi-annual Surf and Turf tailgating fete, Flyer alumni didn’t gather regularly in America’s Finest City. So Geise did what any self-respecting Flyer would do to draw Southern California area graduates together: he added a table.

Geise, a partner with Jones Day law firm, explained, “I organized a brewery tour and tasting and billed it as a lifelong learning event” to draw more alumni support. It worked. Afterward, with the spicy scent of hops still swirling in the air, Geise pledged to keep the momentum alive.

San Diego counts among its UD cohort some 400 members, mostly transplants from other states, but they’re scattered up and down the Pacific Coast and as far inland as El Cajon. Although the dispersion presented a geographical challenge, Geise, originally from New York, instead recognized it as an opportunity.

Drawing on the if-you-build-it-they-will-come mentality, he and his team began hosting a flurry of Flyer gamewatch parties, networking nights, beach cleanup service projects, brunches, Masses and dinners with alumni. Attendance swelled with a cross-section of graduates from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, and Geise now proudly reports their once-fledgling community is blossoming.

“Despite being the farthest I’ve lived from campus, I really feel close to the school,” he reports.

Lest anyone think that the San Diego alumni community is kicking back and resting on its newly resurrected palm fronds, the members are learning more besides the science of craft brew. The community is learning valuable lessons about what draws SoCal folks halfway across the country to UD and how to stay engaged with those students while they’re enrolled and after they graduate.

Whether it’s a dinner — similar to the one 1999 grads Chris Duncan and Kristin Blenk Duncan recently held in their San Diego home for a group of current students — or slinging fish tacos at a campus recruiting event, Geise has figured out keen ways to inject the Marianist values and the red-and-blue UD colors into the sun-kissed Southern California community.

“We’re so far away from campus, but when we get together, it’s like we’re on Brown Street,” Geise said. “Only we’ve got palm trees.”

IT’S ALWAYS SUMMER IN SAN DIEGO. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE BEACH READ?

“I enjoyed THE SILKWORM by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling, of Harry Potter fame).” —Carol Gibson Lewellen ’72

“BOYS IN THE BOAT by Daniel Joseph Brown. The story follows University of Washington rowing team members through college in the 1930s all the way to the Olympics. It’s soon to be released as a movie, and I think Flyers will like it.” —Mary Beth McCabe ’79

“BICYCLE MAGAZINE because San Diego is great for biking. All roads have bike lanes and you can ride year-round.” —Bob Raibert ’90

“I just finished Mariano Rivera’s THE CLOSER and Tony La Russa’s ONE LAST STRIKE. It’s the perfect combination for me, since the beach and baseball are my two favorite things.” —Maggie VanDura ’10

“If you do not like the Sunday comics, then it has to be JAWS by Peter Benchley. ‘We’re going to need a bigger boat.’” —Dan Shillito ’70

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