Intergenerational Connection a Focus at Alumni Association Annual Assembly

Himeka CurielJune 5, 20249min
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Intergenerational connection in a digitally dependent world was a recurring theme in the Alumni Associations’ Annual Assembly and Meeting held May 25, during Reunion & Commencement Weekend. 

Sporting special edition Reunion caps and totes along with their own Wesleyan blazers, hats, and gear from years past, alumni and friends listened as Alumni Association Chair Ellen Glazerman ’84, P’26 opened the meeting by announcing the retirement of Wesleyan Fund Volunteer Leadership Committee Chair Suzanne Appell and acknowledging the eldest registered alumnus in attendance (Rev. Boardman Wright Kathan ’51, P’76) as well as the Class of 1974 alums celebrating their 50th Reunion.  

“I’m proud to walk alongside these officers and with all of you as we make Wesleyan the best it can be for the current students as well as a source of lifelong connection and education for our entire alumni community,” she said.  

During her welcome and report, Glazerman talked about the strength of alumni participation in the This Is Not a Campaign initiative, including a commitment to “broaden the reach of our online programs through engagements that meet alumni where they are, whether it’s in your geographic area, your strong class year affiliation, your cultural affinity, your professional network, or your lived experience.” 

She also encouraged everyone to join the 7,000 Wes alums who have already signed on to the relaunched WesConnect site, where alumni can find each other, post job listings, and provide networking and career opportunities.  

Former Palo Alto Mayor Sid Espinosa delivers the keynote address at the Alumni Association Annual Assembly on May 26. (Photo by Jonathan Olsen)

Keynote speaker – and a 2024 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient – Sid Espinosa ’94 continued the discussion with his take on intergenerational connection in an increasingly tech-saturated world. Espinosa credited Wesleyan for opening doors and opportunities for “this California farm kid who had no idea what he was doing” and for putting him on a path towards social impact in public service. A path that would take him to the United States Department of Justice, working under Attorney General Janet Reno; to being the first Latino ever—and one of the youngest—to be elected mayor of Palo Alto, California; and all the way to his current position as the head of social impact at GitHub, where he leads tech projects aimed at transforming and uplifting the work of nonprofit organizations around the world.  

In his speech, Espinosa drew on those experiences to talk about the contradictory effects that technology has had on our lives, “In many ways, in our society today, we are both hyper connected and increasingly lonely and isolated,” he observed. “… And we, as alumni, need to rethink this model at its core.” 

Noting the tendency for people to surround themselves with others of the same age, Espinosa encouraged attendees to push themselves to engage with people of all ages. 

“From a societal perspective, intergenerational connections enhance social cohesion. They break down stereotypes and prejudices that can arise from misunderstanding and lack of interaction. They foster mutual respect and empathy. Collaboration and understanding across age groups can drive social progress and innovation,” he said. “People with many years of experience can teach us about resilience and adaptability. And younger generations bring fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and more recently, the keen understanding of the digital age, sometimes leading to creative solutions to contemporary problems.” 

On this last point, Espinosa talked about the rise of distrust in our society as a result of evolving technologies like artificial intelligence and deep fakes, and the need to be smart in how we use tech. For instance, embracing digital platforms and data analytics that can help create an engaging network that spans generations and transcends geographical boundaries, further strengthening our sense of support and community.  

He exhorted his fellow reunion alumni, and alumni across the globe, to become “trusted sources and community connectors” and to use the alumni network (“the cornerstone of University life”) to improve our intergenerational connectivity through mentorship, educational opportunities, sharing stories and starting intergenerational dialogues to create a more connected, more resilient society. 

“This place that challenged us, should educate us, should inspire us, should connect us,” he concluded. “And we all play a part in that.” 

The alumni honored at the Alumni Association Annual Assembly. (Photo by Jonathan Olsen)

As has been the tradition for 65 years, the annual assembly was not only a time for communal gathering and campus updates, it was also an occasion to celebrate alumni who have made an impact in their professional and volunteer pursuits, either in service to Wesleyan or to the world at large.  

This year, the Alumni Association honored CEO of Footsteps2Brilliance Ilene Rosenthal ’74, P’17; Pamela Dorman Books/Viking Publisher Pamela Dorman ’79; author and CEO of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement Shawn Dove ’84; Chairman of Wipro Limited Rishad Premji ’99; and founder of the Tala financial platform Shivani Siroya ’04 with Distinguished Alumni Awards in recognition of their professional achievements. 

For their outstanding volunteer service to Wesleyan, their community, and the nation, Sharon Purdie ’74, P’10; Harold Sogard ’74, P’17; Elizabeth “Betsey” Schmidt ’89; and Sid Espinosa ’94 received Outstanding Service Awards. 

The Association also honored David Kendall ’79, P’24 with the James L. McConaughy Jr. Memorial Award for his extensive body of work as a writer, producer, and director in both film and television.  

More information on current and past recipients of each award can be found on the Alumni Awards web page