Yale Alumni Fund recognizes ‘exemplary’ alumni

From left to right: Michael Tom ’83 M.D., vice chairman of the Yale Alumni Fund board, Jocelyn Kane, managing director of the Yale Alumni Fund, Jack Thomas ’80, Roni Beth Tower ’77 M.S., ’80 Ph.D., Shana Katz Ross ’00, ’06 MBA, Lynn Andrewsen ’82, senior director, engagement and campaign initiatives, and Thomas Leatherbury ’76, ’79 J.D., chairman of the Yale Alumni Fund. Not pictured: Caroline Tanbee Smith ’14. (Photo by Tony Fiorini)

The Yale Alumni Fund honored four individuals with Chairman’s Awards during the combined Association of Yale Alumni Assembly & Yale Alumni Fund Convocation event. The awards, which recognize exemplary fundraising volunteers, were conferred during a ceremony at the Omni New Haven Hotel on Nov. 18.

Receiving the 2017 awards were Shana Katz Ross ’00, ’06 M.B.A., Roni Beth Tower ’77 M.S., ’80 Ph.D., Caroline Tanbee Smith ’14, and John M.R. Thomas ’80.

As volunteers, Shana, Roni Beth, Caroline, and Jack have demonstrated outstanding leadership, drive, and a genuine desire to make a difference,” said Thomas S. Leatherbury ’76, ’79 J.D., chair of the Yale Alumni Fund board directors. “Each has worked tirelessly to renew the ties that bind alumni to each other and to Yale — efforts that are reflected in last year’s participation and annual giving totals. I am pleased to honor their contributions.”

Organized by Yale alumni in 1890 to secure operating funds for the university, the Yale Alumni Fund relies on a class-based network of volunteers to solicit annual gifts from alumni and parents in Yale College, the Graduate School, and the 12 professional schools. In the 2016–2017 fiscal year, 39,826 donors contributed $38.2 million to the fund, which is directed to current-use needs of the university, including financial aid, facilities, curriculum development, and student activities. In the 127 years since its founding, the Yale Alumni Fund has raised more than $1 billion.

The Chairman’s Awards recognize volunteers who have demonstrated exceptional leadership, initiative, innovation, and dedication. Recipients are nominated by Yale Alumni Fund volunteers and staff and are selected by the chair.


Shana Katz Ross ’00, ’06 M.B.A.

Ross has been an Alumni Fund volunteer since 2005, serves as co-chair of agents, and is in her third year of service on the Yale Alumni Fund Board of Directors Executive Committee. Over the years, she has made several contributions to Yale and her class in her roles as a former Alumni Fund development officer, AYA delegate, class secretary, and Alumni Schools Committee member. Recently, Ross committed her time and energy to the Bulldog Blitz Participation Workgroup, which evaluated the Bulldog Blitz solicitation and provided feedback on the program’s branding, messaging, and volunteer support.

In 2016–2017, Ross led the Yale Alumni Fund Board of Directors Engagement Workgroup. Under her leadership, the workgroup implemented new initiatives that included the crafting of a new section for the Alumni Fund Volunteer Handbook specific to the work of the board of directors. She is the principal of Vili and Ve Solutions, which she founded in 2010.


Roni Beth Tower ’77 M.S., ’80 Ph.D.

Tower has served as a chair of agents for the Graduate School Alumni Fund for over 30 years. In this role, she engages with development staff and provides feedback on approaches to fundraising and stewardship. She hand-signs hundreds of letters each year thanking Graduate School alumni for their gifts.

Over the decades, Tower has amassed a wealth of knowledge about the Alumni Fund and the Graduate School, and she has been a leader in the school’s efforts to build a community of donors and volunteers. Tower has served on the Yale Alumni Fund Board of Directors eight times and served as an executive committee member for 11 years. A retired psychologist, she is the author of “Miracle at Midlife: A Transatlantic Romance.”


Caroline Tanbee Smith ’14

Smith began her volunteer work with the Yale Alumni Fund as a Senior Class Gift co-chair, and she stepped up as a co-chair for the Class of 2014 in her first few months after graduation. Smith was recently elected to the Yale Alumni Fund board, joined the Alumni Schools Committee, serves as an at-large delegate of the Association of Yale Alumni board, and is a member of 1stGenYale. 

While working on her psychology degree, Smith focused her research on influence, heroism, and motivation, themes that are reflected in her work for the Yale Alumni Fund. She mentors incoming Alumni Fund volunteers, sharing her perspective on the time commitment and rewards of volunteering for Yale. She still calls New Haven home, bikes to work, and for the past three years has organized New Haven Bike Month. She is the co-director of Collab, a boost program for New Haven entrepreneurs.


John M.R. Thomas ’80

Thomas is Alumni Fund chair of agents for the Class of 1980, having led the class to numerous fundraising records. An Alumni Fund volunteer since his graduation from Yale, he became chair of agents in 1987 and joined the Alumni Fund board in 2001. He has served as vice chair of the Alumni Fund Board of Directors and was chair from 2010 to 2012. In addition, he has co-chaired all his class reunions.

Thomas manages 28 class agents. This past year, despite a serious health issue, he achieved 100 percent volunteer participation, a significant accomplishment in a non-reunion year. He called and wrote numerous follow-up emails to his classmates motivating them to support the Alumni Fund, each one accompanied by an image of him, usually on Yale’s campus, wearing Yale gear. Such is his devotion to Yale that his production company, Bulldog Theatricals, is named for his alma mater. Thomas was honored with the Yale Medal in 2014.

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