Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Coolest Week Ever and It's Only Wednesday

As you know, I do a lot of volunteering for and writing about my alma mater, Lake Forest College. I don't do it for the recognition or the fact that the president now knows me personally or even the super-cool friends I've made, although those things are nice. I do it because I love the College, I'm forever grateful for the education and life-changing experiences I received, and I want to help enable current and future Foresters to have their own ah-ha moments that stay with them forever.

Once in awhile, I get invited to participate in programs or events that I would never be able to participate in if I didn't volunteer so much. This week has given me two of those opportunities.

When I returned from Watervale last week, I received an email from Grace Groner's attorney. You remember Grace Groner. She left Lake Forest College $7million and her cottage earlier this year. Back in March, when I wrote about Grace's generosity and how much I was touched by it, Grace's attorney, Bill Marlatt commented on my post. In his email last week, he invited me to tour Grace's Cottage, as it is now known. Mr. Marlatt has updated Grace's Cottage and it will be lived in by two Groner Fellows each year.

Upon entering Grace's Cottage, I was completely humbled. As Bill and I walked through the modest (by any standards, not just Lake Forest standards) home, I could feel Grace's love and spirit in every nook and cranny. I was struck by just how modestly she lived, yet what a truly rich life she had. Although Grace never married or had children, her generosity will not only affect generations of Foresters, but her legacy will pass to the thousands (millions?) of people they will help along the way. Grace Groner is literally changing the world.

Bill shared many stories about Grace with me in the short time we were together and I was struck by how much she and I share similar values of giving back to those who helped us along the way, a love for Lake Forest College and leaving the world better than we found it. Bill told me she even had a strong interest in politics! I wish I had known Grace because I'm certain I would have loved her and she could have taught me a lot. Simply knowing about her and seeing the lives she has changed, makes me want to be a better person.

Tonight I had the opportunity to represent the Alumni Board and speak at Matriculation. It was quite a moving ceremony with numerous awards presented for student leadership, academic achievement, and faculty excellence, in addition to officially inducting the first year and transfer students into the College. It was especially honoring for me to have been asked to be the Alumni Board speaker because my cousin was sitting in the audience, as the third Gardner to attend the College. Lake Forest is truly a family affair.

Here's the text of my remarks written for me by my good friend Tim.
Greetings to the Class of 2014 from the Lake Forest College Alumni Association. My name is Jessica Gardner, and I'm a member of the Class of 1993. On behalf of the some 13,500 alumni of the College, I welcome you to our family. We take great pride in Lake Forest and the personal and academic experiences gained here. I made life-long friends during my four years here and sitting amongst you are likely to be yours, as well.

Alumni support the College with their time, talents, and gifts. You will meet many of us as you participate in Homecoming, Reunion, & Family Weekend, the Mentor Program, and the many other events in which Alumni play a crucial role. It is my hope that you will view this evening as the beginning of your life-long relationship with Lake Forest College. The Alumni will be watching your progress and cheering you on every step of the way.

Thank you.
I am so honored and humbled to have the opportunity to have these experiences this week because in my wildest imagination when I was a student, I never imagined this amazing path with the College I'd still be on almost 20 years later.


  1. I had no idea you were speaking last night!! That's so awesome, and what an honor to be asked! Just goes to show how invaluable you are to the College Family. :)
    Can you believe that Homecoming weekend is practically around the corner?!

  2. I am jealous of both of your experiences and thank you for sharing them. While I love living in Cleveland, I do miss LFC and the opportunity to do more with the college.

    How amazing that you got to see Grace's cottage. I am sure it was amazing to see the insides and how she lived.

    I hope one of the national media channels that ran the story early on picks up on the follow up article in the Spectrum. It is so nice that her donation is already going to help so many students study abroad. She is already making such a difference in these students lives.

    If I haven't told you lately, I so enjoy reading your blog. It is always so upbeat, positive, and filled with humor. I regret not knowing you better in college.


  3. @Daisykins, Yes, that's why I was in LF last night. It was really fun! They had a gauntlet with the Senior 25 and even some alums! Next year, maybe you'll be able to stop by! I'm sorry we couldn't get together. I actually ran into Derek and ended up having dinner with him.

    @Barrie, Thank you so much for your comment and compliment. The house was amazing. I wish I could post pictures, but I promised Mr. Marlatt I wouldn't. You should come back for Homecoming this year! Even though it's not your reunion year, there's lots going on that you'd have a lot of fun at! And if you really want to get more involved with LFC, there's actually a good bit to do, even from afar and I can hook you up. Should we talk?

  4. Jess, I am pretty committed volunteer wise. I am on the Board of Trustees of a non-profit and I am on the alumni board of my high school. Plus I sit on various other committees. That being said I would be very open to doing something from Cleveland if that is a possibilty. I spoke to Tim about a year and half ago about trying to form a CLE alumni group, but it never got off the ground.

    In regards to Homecoming I might just come. I have a friend in the city I have been promising a visit and she went to LFC freshman year(actually she was in Deerpath, Melanie Elston) so maybe we would drive up for Saturday day. I have not been on campus for 10, gulp, years and I would love to see it.

    Let's chat about all of these topics.


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