Alumni in Action
Director of Development, Columbia Museum of Art
Class of 1996 | Double Major: History and Management
Where are you now and what are you doing?
I work as the Director of Development for the Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, South Carolina.
What opportunities have you had because of your Eckerd education and how have they impacted your life?
No child grows up saying that they want to be a professional fundraiser, but the work suits me well. As a double major at Eckerd, I find that my work feeds both parts of my personality; my interest in the humanities and the arts, and the accountability of goals, budgets, motivating staff, etc. Eckerd provided a place for me to figure out what I was interested in doing and gave me the education, and the confidence, to believe that I could make a life and a career doing something I enjoy.
Describe some of your best memories or favorite traditions from your time at Eckerd.
I absolutely loved being in school on the water, especially when I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with papers due and tests looming. I found that being on campus kept me from forgetting the stunning beauty of nature, and that perspective of balancing work and pleasure, or better yet, taking pleasure in work. This enabled me to thrive intellectually and to enjoy myself every step of the way.
I was also surprised by the tremendous diversity in where Eckerd students came from to attend school. Of 1,500 kids, something like 49 states and 62 countries were represented. It was the first time I'd really had a chance to know people who were different than me. During my first year I had roommates from Peru and another from Sweden. Needless to say, for a kid from New Jersey, my worldview changed dramatically. I made lifelong friends who are scattered across the country and in several cases, to different continents.
Describe some of the people who had a profound impact on your Eckerd experience.
Professor Carolyn Johnston did so much to help me develop as an intellectual. Working with Carolyn forces you to get out of your intellectual comfort zone. She worked you so hard, but as a history and literature professor she assigned readings that stay with me today.
Also, the Presbyterian Minister who was on the faculty back then, Fitz Conner, had a big impact on me, even though I'm Catholic. I was a Resident Advisor, which gave me occasion to wander into student affairs from time to time, and often Fitz and I would chat. Not about anything specific - maybe movies, summers, friends, but he, like Carolyn, was so giving of his time and shared a perspective on spirituality that is important for a young person to have, but delivered in an informal, meaningful way.
The common theme is the way in which faculty and staff would give of themselves to enrich me as a student.
What advice would you give students who are considering Eckerd?
My advice to high school students considering college choices is to relax and enjoy. I know there is so much pressure today to choose the perfect school, or know exactly what you're expected to do for work when you finish your education. I think that you'll be happier and more successful if you do something you enjoy and excel at it. Don't just trudge through someone else's idea of what you should do, whether that is a choice of a college, academic major, or whatever.