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The most famous catacombs in the world are in Paris, but UD alumni don’t have to travel halfway around the world to experience a set of intertwining tunnels with a rich history. They just need to meet up with UD’s
Indianapolis alumni chapter.
“The chapter meets six to 10 times, annually,” said Melissa Weseli ’04, chapter president, who listed activities like gamewatches and Christmas off Campus as popular offerings. “We host at least five main events each year.”
The chapter focuses on lifelong learning, culture, art, student outreach, spiritual growth, networking and service. The nearly 1,400 members provide a vast selection of activities to enjoy in the Hoosier state, but it’s what the Indianapolis chapter chose as its cultural event last spring that caught the attention of several other chapters.
“In my job at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown, I had heard about the City Market catacomb tours as a fun thing to do while visiting the city. I thought our local alumni would enjoy it, too,” Weseli said.
The tunnels that rest below the traffic and hubbub in Indiana’s capital city were constructed more than a hundred years ago. Instead of housing the dead, these tunnels were used to transport and store meats and produce sold at the City Market before the days of refrigeration. More than a century has passed, yet the limestone and brick archways are still intact and apt for exploring.
“We were able to partner with Indiana Landmarks, a fantastic organization that hosts this public historical tour along with the others in the state,” Weseli said. “The 30-minute tour was on a Saturday afternoon in the middle of June, taking us underground to see all the remains of a historical plaza that was destroyed by a fire in the 1950s.”
The catacombs were a nice place to cool down during the hot summer day, with a wide range of alumni participating.
“Most of us had never explored that part of our city, including me,” Weseli said. “We will definitely do something like that again in 2014.”
While UD alumni make a home in Indianapolis, they aren’t just staying for the Indy 500 and Hoosier pride, but a slice of history that lies just below their feet.
How can you have lots of fun, for little cash, in Indy?
“St. Joan of Arc French Market, the first Saturday after Labor Day. It’s free and always has a UD vs. Notre Dame volunteer challenge going.”
—James Seidel ’70 and Molly Pritchard Seidel ’71
“Visiting the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is one of my favorite things in Indy and one of the best values around. For just a small additional fee you can take the bus tour around the grounds of the track.”
—King Doxsee ’90
“Tailgating at the Hurst Beanery before a Colts game, Three Wise Men in Broad Ripple for pizza and beer or going to Clowes Hall at Butler for a concert.”
—Mike Bosway ’80 and Betsy Sweeney Bosway ’81
“Running, walking or biking on the ever-expanding Monon Trail or the downtown canal. Listening to music at outdoor concerts held at various parks in the summer.“
—Margaret Adamek ’82
Ten years ago, Bill Mills ’00 walked into Flanagan’s and spotted someone he thought was a UD classmate. It was Matt Williams ’00, and the two realized they lived on the same floor in Founders Hall as freshmen.
Sounds like a typical UD story, except the Flanagan’s in Mills’ anecdote wasn’t the pub near campus but a similarly named spot in Grand Rapids, Mich., a city where one is less likely to meet another Flyer.
On return trips, they met two more alums, Paul Berkemeier ’00 and Tina SantaMaria Berkemeier ’00, and decided there were enough Flyers in town to start an alumni chapter. Mills became the first president of the West Michigan chapter in 2004, held the role for five years, and returned to that position in 2012.
Past chapter activities have included volunteer work with charities assisting the homeless and displaced youth, Christmas off Campus and gamewatches.
“We try to mix up our event sites and hold some in Kalamazoo or Grand Haven, even though 75 percent of our members live in Grand Rapids,” said Mills, who counts 400 alumni throughout the west side of the state. “It’s tough sometimes because we do have a smaller chapter.”
Outings near Lake Michigan prove to be a uniting force, and driving distance becomes less of a factor when members want to enjoy the beach.
“Summers are big here because our winters are pretty brutal,” Mills said.
They might have found another winning idea in ArtPrize, a competition promoting civic involvement through the creation of art in Grand Rapids. Residents help artists develop their pieces and then vote for their favorites. Often called the “American Idol” of art, ArtPrize attracted more than 1,500 entries from artists in 47 countries.
Voting runs Sept. 18 to Oct. 6, and voters must register in person to cast ballots .
“Since it’s such an instrumental event to west Michigan, we thought it would be great to get the chapter involved,” Mills said.
Members gathered monthly during the summer to help Mexican artist Sebastian Salamanca Huet with his work “Childhood Desires” by placing biodegradable kites in trees. The kites symbolized Huet’s youthful hopes and dreams, which encountered both restraint and protection in the trees, representing his mother and other authority figures.
“Childhood Desires” appears downtown near the famous red steel structure Alexander Calder crafted in the 1960s that helped establish the mid-sized city as a Midwestern artistic hub.
Mills expects chapter membership to increase in the future, as he says growing numbers of students from nearby Catholic schools are choosing UD.
If they return to west Michigan, he’ll make sure to contact them — if he doesn’t see them at the local Flanagan’s first.
Run into a UD graduate in the Rochester chapter, and you’ll likely get an earful.
If you ask some of the 767 alumni in the Rochester, N.Y., chapter to talk about their alma mater, you’d better have a comfortable chair handy.
“We love to talk about UD — it’s kind of an obsession,” said chapter president Katie McGuire ’07. “Three of our alumni chapter presidents are Rochester natives. If I wear a Flyers T-shirt to the Rochester Public Market, I’m inevitably going to be stopped by someone who wants to tell me when they graduated and what house they lived in on Kiefaber.”
Proud and passionate, Rochesterians were born to be loyal Flyers, McGuire said. The chapter is known for strong event attendance, whether they have to slog through a snowstorm to make a game watch or tolerate an eight-hour bus ride back to campus for Reunion Weekend.
“We’re hearty,” McGuire explained. It doesn’t hurt that the bus trips, started years ago by longtime chapter president Frank Geraci ’73, have now reached legendary status. “We fill a bus with 50 people, everyone brings snacks and movies, and we sit together as a big cheering section at a basketball game. It’s a blast.”
They also understand how to maximize their city’s offerings. Last fall, the chapter was recognized by the Alumni Leadership Council with a Program of the Year award for its 9/11 commemoration event. The group toured the traveling exhibition “September 11, 2001: A Global Moment” and invited University political science professor Mark Ensalaco, director of human rights research, to lead a post-tour discussion.
Rochester alumni have also partnered with local agencies like the Notre Dame Learning Center, a Catholic-based tutoring program; participated in charity fundraisers like the Tour de Cure for the American Diabetes Association; and volunteered at major events like the LPGA Championship.
You can also find them getting back to their roots. They host an active Christmas off Campus event each year and organized a bowling night to connect with current UD students home on winter break. A meet-and-greet luncheon for area law grads is also in the works, McGuire said.
“There are several colleges and universities in the Rochester area, but our UD alumni chapter is larger and more active than some of theirs,” she noted. “Just ask us — we’ll be happy to tell you all about it.”
What’s your favorite Rochester festival?
“The Park Avenue Festival is one of my favorite summer festivals in Rochester; it’s always held the first full weekend of August. I have attended since I was a child and still love going.”
—Jackie Sudore-Flood ’95
“The Lilac Festival. It’s the first festival of the season, with 10 days of entertainment and yummy food.”
—Anne Marie Jankowski ’94
“Fairport Canal Days!”
—Dom Zambelli ’16
“Positively Pittsford, for the food and live music.”
—Trish Gramkee Kazacos ’92
Win or lose, Cleveland’s professional sports teams have some of the most loyal fans in the nation.
By combining that devotion with UD’s passion for Flyer basketball, the Cleveland alumni chapter found the perfect mix for its alumni events.
“We might not have the best pro teams, but we show up,” said chapter president Carla Rossi ’05. “It’s something we can bond over.”
In a large city where the east-west twain rarely meet and 40-mile drives on I-90 can separate far-flung suburbs, Rossi and her husband, Craig ’07, have spent the past year bringing together more than 3,000 alumni from east, west and all parts in between in the spirit of Flyer and Cleveland sports love.
Alumni eagerly gobbled up tickets purchased for UD nights at Indians and Cavaliers games, and gamewatches for the Flyers’ matchups against Xavier and the first round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament proved to be popular draws. The chapter hosted gamewatches at Buffalo Wild Wings in Strongsville, owned by Jerry Franklin ’74 and daughter Colleen Franklin ’02, and Mullarkey’s Pub in Willoughby, owned by another parent-child team — John Bowers ’76 and son Kevin Bowers ’06.
Another gamewatch spot, Eddy and Iggy’s bar in Lakewood, doesn’t have direct UD ties, but the owner has become quite fond of Cleveland’s Flyer Faithful.
“We had a really great turnout there,” Rossi said. “The owner even calls us now when UD games are coming up and asks if we’d like him to host it.”
Lest one think that Cleveland alumni only unite for sports-related programming, a Christmas off Campus celebration in Lakewood drew a strong crowd, as did a Christmas decorating event at St. Aloysius Church on the east side.
Sometimes, the group doesn’t need sports or UD traditions to have fun. Last winter, the chapter hosted Beer School, a two-hour course at Cleveland-based Great Lakes Brewing Co. Rossi said one attendee noticed someone she hadn’t seen since their 2002 graduation, and the two have now rekindled their college friendship.
“Being a UD alum means you’re family for life, wherever you are,” Rossi said.
If you’re looking for three words that sum up the love Chad Larkin ’00 has for the Phoenix area, these will do as good as any: golf in December.
After graduation, the former varsity golfer and Dayton native packed a suitcase and his golf clubs, booked a flight and headed west.
“When I graduated, I thought, ‘I can go wherever I want,’” Larkin says. “I can always move home, but it’s hard to establish yourself somewhere new.”
Over the past decade, he’s watched the region emerge from its reputation as a retiree haven. Young people like him have flocked to the metro area — now the country’s fifth-largest — drawn by its robust economy and outdoor, active lifestyles. The area’s average age is now 34.
“It’s a very young city now,” he says. “We have Intel, Honeywell, Boeing. Google has an office at Arizona State.”
He sees the changing demographics in the UD alumni who attend Phoenix chapter events, which draw a wide range of ages. As alumni chapter president, it’s something he keeps an eye on.
His chapter does a very popular Christmas off Campus each year, most recently to benefit Maggie’s Place, which offers support for single mothers. In other years, they’ve assisted Foundation for Blind Children and St. Vincent de Paul. Changing partners each year “gives us exposure to different service opportunities,” he says. There is a quarterly networking event, and Larkin is looking at opportunities to offer more cultural activities, particularly ones that might draw young families such as a trip to the children’s museum.
But there’s one annual event that he says is “just for us”: golf in December. As students on UD’s campus are typically shivering on a walk to the library to study for fall semester finals, Phoenix alumni are trying not to get sunburned on Arizona State’s Karsten Golf Course. In the distance are hiking trails at Pinnacle Peak, Camelback Mountain and other geological showcases begging to be explored.
There are 653 UD alumni living in the Phoenix area. As Larkin says, it’s a good place to be.
“Even having lived here for 12 years, I still look around at all of the scenery,” Larkin says. “It never gets old.”
What’s the city’s high point?
“Tucked right in the city and known as ‘nature’s stair-climber,’ Piestewa Peak is a great place to go for a quick morning hike when you want a great workout and a great view of the city.” —Emily Miller ’07
“Located 10 minutes east of downtown is Sun Devil Stadium, situated between two buttes on the campus of Arizona State University in Tempe. You get more than just the views of the game. From the top of the stadium you have fantastic views of downtown Phoenix to the west, Scottsdale and the McDowell Mountains to the northeast and downtown Tempe just to the south.” —Chad Larkin ’00
“Near my stomping grounds in Phoenix is South Mountain Park/Preserve. At over 16,000 acres, it is the largest municipal park in the country. This mountain range is not as high as Camelback Mountain but provides easy to difficult trails with beautiful scenic views.” —Andy Neal ’97
“My sister and her family live in Phoenix, so I visit as often as possible. Camelback Mountain is footsteps from their back door. I usually start each morning with a run/hike up the mountain, practice my yoga and watch the sunrise from the summit. Afterward, I reward myself with a breakfast from my favorite cafe, La Grande Orange, just on the other side of the mountain.” —Erika Patterson ‘06
“High point? No snow!” —Den Komaromi ’63
Whether from West County or South City, having attended CBC or Ursuline, when St. Louis first-year students arrive at UD, the rivalries fall away.
“Even though we went to rival high schools, we have that common bond of going to the University of Dayton and being from St. Louis,” says Bernie Powderly ’06. “You could always find a ride home.”
Powderly, St. Louis alumni chapter president, taps into that same feeling when planning events. It’s a culture of community born in St. Louis, nurtured at UD and expanded exponentially when alumni return home — 1,100 strong and growing.
Famous for the Arch and toasted ravs, St. Louis is also home to the first Christmas off Campus. A committee chaired by Renai Basta Lowry ’75 and Brian Lowry ’79 helped start the event that blends the social with service and that has now spread to chapters throughout the nation. The family feel of Christmas off Campus is something Powderly is fostering as the chapter adapts programming to attract more diverse class years. It is capitalizing on free activities like the zoo, adding networking events when the Flyers play A-10 rival Saint Louis, and choosing a more family-friendly day for the annual Cardinals outing (vs. the Phillies Friday, May 25).
The chapter also has the good fortune of sharing its city with the Marianist Province of the U.S., giving alumni opportunities to continue their Marianist connection, says Michael Lofton ’05, former chapter president. For example, brothers join with alumni during game watches, and alumni explore what it means to be Marianist in the 21st century.
Spiritual events are one of five programming areas that all chapters aspire to fill — and St. Louis does it in spades … and diamonds. For the past three years, the chapter has achieved diamond status, the highest rating for chapter participation.
Powderly wants alumni to know that St. Louis is always a great place to come back to. Powderly, a finance and international business graduate who traveled for a year and a half before deciding to come home, is reaching out to St. Louis natives no matter their address. You’re always welcome home, he says, for a visit or to stay. And when you come, we’ll show you what it means to be a young professional in a great city.
How do you have fun all day but pay ONLY for parking?
“St. Louis parks and even the zoo are free. The trails, beautiful scenery and a sunny sky make for a very inexpensive yet fun day. During Thanksgiving weekend, I took my son to the zoo and only paid for parking. It was fun! The penguin exhibit was his favorite.” —Jessica Gonzalez ’96
“Go to the Cathedral Basilica, the seat of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and one of the most spectacular buildings that I have ever visited. Free tours are available daily.” —Larry Bommarito ’75
“The 1,293 acre Forest Park is home to the breathtaking Saint Louis Art Museum, the Saint Louis Science Center and the Missouri History Museum. There are also two public golf courses. It does cost money but, since there are countless free parking spaces within the park grounds, one can use parking money to enjoy a nice round of golf.” —Myles McDonnell ’13
“Either visiting the Saint Louis Zoo or visiting the Arch grounds.” —Renai Lowry ’75
“Laumeier Sculpture Park, Anheuser-Busch brewery tour (free and you get two cups of beer at the end), and take a tour of the Hill (historic Italian part of town).” —Brian Effer ’99
“And you can’t beat the view from the top of the Arch (not free but cheap).” —Joe Pott ’00
Making local schools shine is just one way the Chicago chapter of UD’s National Alumni Association upholds the University’s dedication to service.
At the Alumni Leadership Conference, held on campus in mid-September, the group received the Chapter of the Year award, which recognized it for its emulation of the National Alumni Association’s mission and the University’s charge to learn, lead and serve.
Approximately every other month, the chapter cleans up inner-city Catholic schools in partnership with the Big Shoulders Fund. Volunteers deep clean the building, paint, landscape, organize classrooms and more.
“Chicago alumni, along with volunteers from other schools and service groups, team up together and get an enormous amount of work done in only three hours,” says Tim Rice ’88.
A popular alumni activity, Christmas off Campus, is another way the UD spirit is present in Chicago. The volunteers visit the Association House of Chicago, a community center in a lower income neighborhood, to decorate cookies and play games with children. Santa even visits.
“It’s the continuation of the neighborhood feel, the community feel, where you can walk down Evanston and hang out at your friends’ houses,” chapter co-president Jason Capone ’07 says.
This sense of community is one reason Chicago is so unique.
“It has a great Midwest feel,” Capone says of the city. “Everyone is active and likes to support each other. You always run into other alumni. If you are wearing a UD shirt, you are guaranteed to meet people who went there.”
If alumni in the Chicago area want to go to a bar where everyone knows their name, the place to be is Finley Dunne’s. From gathering to watch men’s basketball games to participating in a Euchre league, the establishment hosts many alumni activities.
The neighborhood bar is so popular that graduates hang out there outside of alumni events, says Capone.
As co-president of the chapter, Capone enjoys having the opportunity to take part in so many activities.
“The Dayton spirit is unique, and to continue to meet people who represent that is so rewarding,” he says. “It is also a chance to give back to the school that gave us so much.”
What is your favorite Chicago dive restaurant?
“TANGO SUR on Southport. You can get a great steak for a great price, and it is BYOB.” —Kevin Higley ’11
“Man, that’s hard in a great city like Chicago. I’d have to say THE BIG EASY for quick grub, and PUBLICAN for great beer and food.” —Steve Vandorn ’07
“THE OTHER SIDE BAR, off of Clark and Arlington. Not only does it have great drink specials, awesome food and a really fun environment, it’s always filled with the sweet smell of garlic bread.” —Caitlyn Andre ’10
“JAKE’S PUB on Clark.” —Charlotte Pederzol ’06
“KUMA’S CORNER. People first try this place because of the novelty — very small, risqué artwork, very loud heavy metal music playing, heavily inked servers and bartenders. But take all that away and you’re still left with some of the most outstanding hamburgers in the city.” —Pete Roccaforte ’02
“EPPY’S DELI … classic deli sandwiches and the home of temperature soup, soups that are priced on the outside air temperature of the day.” —Terry Stewart ’09
“I’m a sucker for a PORTILLO’S hotdog, even if it is a chain. Ask any Chicago-raised UD student — we all craved Italian beef sandwiches and/or hot dogs while away at school.” —Jennifer Cheney ’11
“My favorite dive restaurant would have to be TOP NOTCH BEEFBURGERS. They have the best burgers and shakes — definitely a local spot.” —Meagan Marion ’11
“PANES BREAD CAFE, at the corner of Wellington and Sheffield. They serve hot sandwiches and bake their own bread.” —Mike Wiora ’09
“GREEK TOWN GYROS.” —Beth Bracco ’81
“OLD TOWN PUB, for their pizza.” —Katie Wenstrup ’06
“WILD GOOSE.” —Lauren Hausmann ’08
From a luxury party suite in the Staten Island Yankees minor league baseball stadium, New York and New Jersey alumni look across the water toward the towering Manhattan skyline.
When the game is over, the sky between the boroughs erupts with fireworks. A windy ferry ride to and from the annual alumni event sends alumni floating past the Statue of Liberty.
Incoming chapter president Kevin Stacey ’06 says not many alumni get to see something that cool on the commute to a chapter event. He continues, “That’s the excitement of living in New York City. It’s one of a kind.”
The city offers plenty of activities for UD’s New York/New Jersey chapter, 3,526 strong. Alumni are attracted to the area, as exiting president Steve DeFilippis ’92 explains, because you can do anything there. “It has everything to offer, period.”
Chapter events range from wine tastings to game watches. With basketball such a big part of UD’s culture, DeFilippis says anytime a game is in the vicinity, events are huge. Alumni attend games at Fordham University in the Bronx when the Flyers travel there. Host for the NIT finals in 2009, the chapter welcomed alumni from all over the country to New York for the games at Madison Square Garden.
Alumni love to participate in Christmas off Campus. Held at the Covenant House for more than 20 years and counting, Santa Claus always makes a visit, bearing gifts for everyone.
Stacey knows New York City is a very different environment from the Midwest; one of the reasons he moved there after graduation was so he wouldn’t have to drive a car. Though the chapter includes the surrounding suburbs and northern New Jersey, DeFilippis says most events take place in the city and require alumni to cross a bridge, travel through a tunnel or take a subway — but that’s part of New York City’s charm.
There are three points Stacey wants to focus on during his presidency: consistency, variety and communication. He plans to build an ongoing relationship with a Catholic charity and, this summer, he put on a co-ed charity softball game. With the arrival of fall, the chapter held a back-to-school event for current Flyers and their families.
“I could hit a golf ball in any direction from my house and I’d hit an alum,” DeFilippis says. With all that the area has to offer, it’s no surprise there are so many around.
Stacey says, “It’s New York City. … If a UD alum can make it here, they can make it anywhere.”
How do you show off New York?
1. Coney Island Chris and Cindy Majewski Sippel ’81 took their daughter’s UD friends to Coney Island to experience Brooklyn history, “not to mention getting to ride the Cyclone and having a few Nathan’s hot dogs.”
2. Karaoke U2 After riding an elevator to the basement to find a poorly marked doorway, Emily Cipolla ’09 surprised her high school friends with this underground karaoke bar on St. Marks Place. “There’s nothing like belting out old songs with good friends!”
3. Stone Street Tavern Keith Powers ’05 took a fellow grad to this bar in the financial district for happy hour to be outside with all the people and energy. He also likes to take visitors to Yankees games, “since they’re the best team in baseball.”
4. Radiance Tea House & Books Within walking distance of Fifth Avenue, Central Park and the iconic “Love” statue, Lydia Hirt ’07 took her mother and younger sister to Radiance on West 55th for “a fabulous tea tasting and to enjoy their delicious dumplings.”
5. High Line Brian Torpey ’07 took his father to this park, which stretches through three Manhattan neighborhoods. “It’s fascinating to see how it has been revitalized by making an old section of railroad tracks into a park.”
The Dayton alumni chapter got a good price on a bunny suit. For years the members had been renting, but they finally got around to buying one for $100. Call it an investment in the future.
Each Easter more than a hundred children are let loose on the Kennedy Union lawn in search of 800-900 hollow plastic eggs filled with candy and four silver and gold eggs that will win them a plush bunny or chick. It’s what Dayton alumni chapter co-president Gloria Marano ’88 describes as “controlled mass chaos.”
“But it’s a good kind of crazy,” she added.
With 21,891 alumni in the area, the Dayton alumni chapter is easily the largest chapter around. The Palm Sunday Easter egg hunt, an annual event more than a decade in practice, is the kind of event only the Dayton alumni chapter could hold because it’s the only chapter with the UD campus in its backyard.
“We do everything,” said chapter co-president Aimee Kroll Forsythe ’99, a systems analyst for Avery Dennison who hails from Cleveland. She came to Dayton in 1995 and, like a lot of her friends, hasn’t left.
The proximity advantage has also allowed the chapter to launch Dinner with 5 Flyers, a Students Today, Alumni Tomorrow program which brings alumni and current students together for dinner discussions about life and UD.
In 2006, the National Alumni Association named it Program of the Year. While it was once exclusive to Dayton, the initiative now is expanding to Philadelphia, New York and other cities where alumni chapters are thriving.
In addition to contributing to on-campus events like Christmas on Campus, the chapter holds game-watches throughout the basketball season and once a year fills 200 seats at the Dayton Dragons minor league baseball stadium.
Chapter members have provided meals for the homeless at St. Vincent de Paul hotel and dinner for the families of sick children of Ronald McDonald House. For the last two years, they have raised awareness for multiple sclerosis research through the MS Walk in Kettering, Ohio, with the Ray of Hope team in honor of former UD president Brother Raymond Fitz, S.M. ’64.
But it’s during the on-campus activities like the Easter egg hunt that alumni and their children get to engage most with the tradition and community of the University.
Those kids posing with a UD student wearing the $100-bunny suit might just be the next generation of Flyers.
1. The Oakwood Club “They have excellent food and excellent service. I’ve been going there since I was a little girl. I had my first Shirley Temple there with my dad.” —Anne Fahrendorf Sweeney ’71
2. National Museum of the U.S. Air Force “Not only do you get to learn about the Wright brothers, but you also get to see the modern jets. I suggest everybody visit the SR-71 Blackbird. It’s truly amazing — you can see the fastest jet in the world here in Dayton.” —Wayne Small ’02
3. RiverScape MetroPark “It’s a great place to take a stroll or hop on the bike trail and ride along the river. During the summer there are concerts, and in the winter you can go ice skating or join the Dayton Broomball Association.” —Jen Cadieux ’05
4. Boonshoft Museum of Discovery “A unique indoor zoo where you can interact with small animals, the wonderful planetarium and many engaging exhibits to help you understand the world — it’s the perfect place for a family with children.” —Julie Miller Walling ’80
5. John Bryan State Park and Clifton Gorge “They have a lot of hiking trails and streams that run through the parks. You can see layers of exposed rock from post-glacial canyon cutting.” —Kerry Glassmeyer Ulery ’99
When Tampa Bay alumni named Jim Sirak ’79 their new chapter president, he immediately wanted to focus on promoting a fun atmosphere.
And his system worked — just one year into his presidency Tampa Bay was awarded Chapter of the Year by the National Alumni Association.
“I was shocked,” Sirak said of the honor. “I don’t feel like we do anything exceptional or unusual, but I always try to hear the leadership council and hold as many events for as many people as possible.”
The chapter was singled out for soliciting and incorporating feedback from local alumni and best practices from alumni chapters around the country.
But, Sirak would say, that’s how Tampa Bay has been doing it for years.
For the past 11 years, former chapter president Joe Daum ’85 has been in charge of the annual golf outing at MacDill Air Force Base. This year, the chapter has decided to make it a charity event and give the proceeds to the Sidney School for Autism.
Another event the chapter always looks forward to is its annual Day at the Races at Tampa Bay Downs. Tampa Bay Downs is the only thoroughbred racetrack on the west coast of Florida, and the chapter has been attending races there for more than 10 years.
“We get to enjoy a lunch buffet and also have a race named after us — the University of Dayton Stakes Race,” Sirak said. “Several alumni are always invited down to have their picture taken in the winner’s circle, and we always have a great time.”
This February, President Daniel J. Curran traveled to Tampa Bay. From the headquarters of Valpak at an event hosted by Jim Sampey’82, chief operating officer at Cox Target Media, Curran updated the chapter on campus projects using recently taken aerial photos. He also stayed after to enjoy the men’s basketball gamewatch versus St. Bonaventure.
“It’s one thing for the University to try and relay information, but it’s another for the president to come down and do it himself,” Sirak said.
“Dayton knows how to treat its alumni chapters right,” Daum added.
Top Tampa Bay attractions
1. Minor league baseball Ball caps, hot dogs and peanuts are the perfect combination for a sunny afternoon watching the Clearwater Threshers, a Class A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, located just outside Tampa Bay.
2. Bay Palms Golf Complex Join the alumni at their annual golf outing at MacDill Air Force Base, home to two 18-hole, par 72 courses and beautiful tropical weather.
3. Ybor City Affectionately known by some alumni as “the Oregon District on steroids,” Ybor City is an original Cuban neighborhood full of a variety of cuisines, night music and red brick buildings — a refreshing change of pace from the sandy beaches.
4. Tampa Bay Downs Visit the only thoroughbred racetrack on the west coast of Florida and one of America’s oldest racetracks. Join our alumni each March for their annual Day at the Races.
5. The Straz Center This performing arts center has a leading Broadway series, produces grand operas and presents a variety of concerts, performances and events frequently attended by Tampa Bay alumni.
For information about the National Alumni Association and your local alumni chapter, visit the alumni website.