Barry McNamara  |  Published March 31, 2021

Alumni Board Testimonials

Monmouth College grads champion their alma mater by serving on Alumni Board.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – Alumni young and old regularly sing the praises of Monmouth College, but there’s a group that pulls together to do that job officially – the 34 members of the College’s Alumni Board of Directors.

BOARD MEMBERS: Clockwise from upper left -- Deanna Marchand Baele '95, Wade Brown '07, An... BOARD MEMBERS: Clockwise from upper left -- Deanna Marchand Baele '95, Wade Brown '07, Anthony Bryant '18 and Jerri Picha '75.“I enjoyed my time at Monmouth, and I come from a background of service,” said Deanna Marchand Baele ’95 of Washington, Illinois, who is nearing the end of her second five-year term as an Alumni Board member. “My parents instilled in me the desire to give back to the community. So that’s what inspired me to join the board – to be involved and have the opportunity to get back on campus, to see what’s going on with my beloved alma mater, and really having an opportunity to serve.”

The Alumni Board supports the Monmouth College Alumni Association – the body of all former Monmouth students who have completed at least two semesters of academic work. They are elected from nominations submitted by or solicited from alumni and members of the College administration. The board meets twice a year – in the spring and in the fall around Homecoming.

“What inspired me to join the board was two-fold,” said Jerri Picha ’75 of Warrenville, Illinois, who, like Baele, is nearing the end of her second term. “I wanted to pay back and to pay forward. Had I not gone to Monmouth, the direction of my life professionally and privately would not have gone the direction it did.”

Wade Brown ’07 of Bloomington, Indiana, said he was drawn back to his official role at Monmouth through helping to put together his class’s 10-year reunion.

“Things have been tough in Illinois for quite some time, but when I was on campus for the reunion, it was as if the College was this oasis, this place where things were going well,” he said. “What I was really amazed at was both the condition of the College – the upkeep and improvements – but also there was a very positive attitude between the College and community.”

One of the board’s newest members, Anthony Bryant ’18 of Chicago, said one of his mentors is Dan Cotter ’88, a member of the College’s Board of Trustees. Cotter gave him the idea about board service while Bryant was still a student.

“As an African-American male student from Chicago, you ask questions about who’s involved, who’s participating, who’s at the table, who’s going to listen,” said Bryant. “As a student, I always asked myself, ‘Where are all the Black alumni?’ When I started to ask that question, I wanted to be the answer, as well. I wanted to be the Black alumni when I graduated from this college.”

“A lot of what we do is try to generate excitement for the College and to figure out ways that we can use our individual talents and gifts to be able to help the College.” Wade Brown

The Alumni Board is also diverse by age.

“We have a great group of about seven generations of Fighting Scots,” said Brown. “We look at how can we help the College to be able to continue its mission to serve students. A lot of what we do is try to generate excitement for the College and to figure out ways that we can use our individual talents and gifts to be able to help the College.”

Baele has enjoyed the new relationships she’s built on the board.

“One of the reasons I joined was because of my desire to serve, but what I didn’t realize was that I would walk away with a whole group of new friends,” she said. “You connect with individuals from different decades, and that experience is definitely rich and valuable.”

She looked back at one of her favorite elements from her nine years of service.

“The board really does serve a key function – alumni engagement, awards, engaging students,” said Baele. “One of the things we do is write notes to incoming students – students who have been accepted at Monmouth – and really just encourage them and share our experience and why we feel Monmouth is a good option – what it’s meant to us in our life. I attribute my success to Monmouth’s tight-knit environment and their philosophy. I always felt that it was such a fantastic experience there.”

Student recruitment is part of the responsibility, said Picha, who referred talented first-year artist Grace Cornelius ’24 to Monmouth.

“It’s our responsibility as members of the Alumni Board to promote Monmouth College in any way that we can,” said Picha, who served on the board’s Executive Committee and helped develop its current “more participatory” direction. “Certainly, talking about Monmouth College, wearing my Monmouth College gear, representing the College whenever I can – those are all parts of it. And it’s important for all of us to help the College with recruitment and talking to people about Monmouth to keep it in the forefront – being the boots on the ground and the ambassadors for spreading the good word about Monmouth College.”

“I would tell young alumni, ‘We need you. This is an opportunity, this is a space for you to step up, to get involved, to be heard, to really be a pillar and foundation to how the future of the College moves.” Anthony Bryant

The board members were asked what they’d say to Monmouth alumni who were considering joining them.

“I was a little nervous at first, too,” said Brown. “Being brave enough to step back in and reengage has definitely been worth it. If you’ve just graduated or it’s been 40 or 50 years since you set foot on campus, please submit an application. We’re always looking for members. It’s a wonderful way of giving back to the College with your talents.”

Said Bryant: “I would tell young alumni, ‘We need you. This is an opportunity, this is a space for you to step up, to get involved, to be heard, to really be a pillar and foundation to how the future of the College moves.”

“It’s going to be bittersweet for me,” said Picha of leaving the board this year after a decade of service, which included the “distinct honor” of representing the Alumni Board at meetings of the Board of Trustees. “I’ve watched a lot of good things happen.”

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