Just say yes!
For Doug Affinito ’80, these three words sum up his philosophy on just about everything. They even brought him to Brandeis.
As a high-school student, Affinito happened to run into his mom’s dentist, Milton Wallack ’60, at a college fair in his Connecticut hometown. When Wallack learned of Affinito’s interest in theater, he told the boy, “I know just the school for you.”
Though Affinito had never considered Brandeis before Wallack recommended it, once he visited campus and explored the curriculum he quickly decided that, yes, it was the right place.
At Brandeis, Affinito joined the Gilbert and Sullivan Society and pursued every available theater-arts opportunity. He performed in “The Pirates of Penzance” and designed sets for “Once Upon a Mattress” and “The Mikado.”
“I’ve always believed that if you have a passion, you should see where it leads,” he says.
Tony Award-winning Howard Bay, best known for lighting and designing sets for such hits as “The Music Man” and “Man of La Mancha,” was Affinito’s favorite professor. Bay, who died in 1986, would come from New York to Brandeis on Tuesdays to teach two classes.
“Only at Brandeis would a Broadway designer of that caliber spend three hours a week with undergraduate students,” Affinito says. “He had such a gift, and he shared it for the pure joy of sharing it. That idea has driven a lot of my volunteering.”
After earning a master’s degree in computer information systems at Dartmouth in 1986, Affinito worked at General Mills, IBM and Ameriprise Financial. Since his retirement last spring, he has taken a full-throated approach to his passions, singing with three different choral groups, exploring travel photography and building furniture. He plans to start a drama group at his church that will put on sacred and secular productions.
Like Wallack, Affinito has been an active Brandeis alumnus. He first served as an Alumni Admissions Council volunteer, meeting with prospective students. He later chaired his 30th Reunion and helped raise money for his class gift. “As a relatively quiet guy, I found it different to be out front like that,” he recalls. “It made me think, wow, I have done something to make a difference.”
In 2011, he joined the Alumni Association Board of Directors as a member-at-large, chairing the Constituent Relations
Committee, which seeks to increase engagement among a variety of affinity groups. “Brandeis gave me my career and my passion for knowledge,” he says. “I want to repay that by supporting the school financially and being an active alumnus.”
When asked what advice he would give fellow alumni, Affinito suggests they imagine everything a story about their Brandeis experience would relate, then write a headline for that story. “That headline will tell you what you should do for and with Brandeis,” he says.
Alumni and friends are packing their bags and waxing their skis in preparation for two exciting trips this winter, thanks to the revitalized Brandeis Alumni Travel Program.
On Jan. 8-22, 2013, travelers will join hosts Detlev Suderow ’70, P’05, co-chair of the travel program, University Fellow and senior lecturer at the International Business School, and his wife, Ellen Beth Lande ’73, P’05, on a 15-day sold-out tour of Myanmar.
Program co-chair Vic Ney ’81, P’11, an avid skier, and his wife, Karen Binder ’82, P’11, will welcome skiers to Colorado’s Aspen/Snowmass slopes on Feb. 17-22, 2013. The Brandeis travel program’s first-ever alumni ski trip coincides with February school-vacation week to ensure families with school-age children can participate.
Established in 2001, the Brandeis Alumni Travel Program has taken alumni and friends to Provence, Tuscany, Greece, Vietnam, Morocco, China, Guatemala, Peru, Cuba, Russia and Sicily. “Brandeis alumni and friends share interests and intellectual curiosity,” says Suderow, who has traveled extensively on his own and with alumni groups. “The travel program is a continuation of the exploration we did as Brandeis students. It is great fun and thoroughly engaging to tour these places with like-minded people.”
Ney agrees. “I met my very best friends at Brandeis while a student and later through a variety of volunteer positions,” he says. “It is special to travel and vacation with people who share a bond, particularly one as unique as Brandeis.”
To learn more about the ski trip or the travel program, visit www.alumni.brandeis.edu, or contact Alyson Saykin, director of special programs, by email or at 781-736-2988.
As part of its ongoing commitment to further engage the university’s 40,000 alumni, the Brandeis Alumni Association’s Board of Directors plans to launch a new alumni website in 2013 and has established a committee to connect alumni through common interests rather than graduation year.
According to Alumni Association President Adam Rifkin ’97, several highly focused strategic planning sessions with board vice presidents resulted in a clear set of association objectives.
“Naturally, the overall goal is to engage more alumni and promote the services and benefits offered by the association, of which every Brandeis graduate is an automatic member,” Rifkin says. “We are devising new ways to connect with alumni, in person and online, on the basis of interests, life stage and prior association with Brandeis.”
The board has partnered with Brandeis President Fred Lawrence, who has made alumni engagement one of the priorities of his presidency.
“The work of the board is critical on many levels,” Lawrence says. “The board represents the interests of our graduates and serves as an invaluable advisory council as Brandeis expands its alumni outreach efforts to shape the future of the university.”
Under the leadership of Trustee Lisa Kranc ’75, the association’s vice president of marketing, and Lewis Brooks ’80, P’16, chair of the Marketing Committee, a newly designed alumni website is expected to debut early next year.
“The new site will be cleaner, easier to navigate, have increased functionality and provide a continuous stream of news and updates from the university,” Kranc says. “We are grateful for the input from the Marketing Committee members who shared their expertise and advice throughout the process.”
Rifkin also created the Constituent Relations Committee, which is led by Paul Regan ’73, P’12, an association vice president, and committee chair Doug Affinito ’80 (see profile, facing page). The committee works to identify and engage alumni on the basis of their personal Brandeis experiences, regardless of class year.
The board, which includes elected members and presidents of the 18 alumni clubs around the world, made gifts of more than $475,000 to the university in fiscal year 2012, an all-time high and an increase of 22 percent over last year.
“This is a milestone for the board,” says Anne Reilly Hort ’67, P’91, P’93, an association vice president. “We are thrilled that 100 percent of our volunteer leaders stepped up this year to support our alma mater.”
The association board hopes to build on the successes of recent years to engage alumni in the future.
“In just the past two years, the Alumni Association has taken advantage of social networking to reconnect with thousands of alumni, whether through the Facebook page, online forums or Flat Ollie,” Rifkin says. “Thanks to a great team of alumni volunteers who share a deep commitment to Brandeis, we are confident we will continue to re-engage more alumni every day.”