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Alumni Serve As Focal Point At Leadership Network Conference


From October 9-10, alumni, donors and staff gathered together in Santa Barbara, Calif. for the annual Leadership Network Conference.

The conference serves as a meeting ground to bring together the larger TFAS family, while honoring a few outstanding alumni, supporters and friends along the way. Most notably, three of the four 2009 Alumni Award winners attended and were honored at dinners throughout the weekend.

There was also a record showing of alumni at the conference in Santa Barbara – nearly 30 alumni participated in the 2009 Leadership Network!

In addition to Board and Alumni Council meetings, the weekend served as an opportunity to explore the life of Ronald Reagan. On Friday, October 9, the group started the day at the Reagan Center in Santa Barbara where they heard from John Barletta, former member of President Reagan’s Secret Service Detail and author of Riding with Reagan: From the White House to the Ranch.

The day’s activities continued at the Reagan Ranch, “Rancho del Cielo,” which is perched atop the Santa Ynez Mountains. Here, guests partook in private tours of the Ranch, which served as a home-away-from-home to the Reagans for many years.

(r.-l.) Manager of Alumni Affairs Maura Bennardo presents Jenna Welch (J 02, I 03) with the Chapter of the Year award for her work with the Washington, D.C. chapter.
(r.-l.) Manager of Alumni Affairs Maura Bennardo presents Jenna Welch (J 02, I 03) with the Chapter of the Year award for her work with the Washington, D.C. chapter.

Friday concluded with dinner at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort, where Alissa Swango (J 99, I 00)was presented with the Young Alumni Award and Jenna Welch (J 02, I 03), accepted the Chapter of the Year award on behalf of the Washington, D.C. chapter.

The Young Alumni Award is given to an individual who is 30 years of age or younger and has shown great promise in their professional field and/or volunteered considerable time to TFAS or community service, which Swango has demonstrated considerably.

As former Chicago chapter president and as the producer for the online operations of the Chicago Tribune, she has made substantial strides in her professional career as a journalist and as a volunteer to TFAS.

In her acceptance speech, Swango mentioned how the Fund had become her family and how her family had become a part of the Fund, as both her younger brother and sister have attended Institutes.

“I know I’ve become greater because of [TFAS] and the opportunities the Fund has provided for me. Thank you for being my family, and thank you for welcoming my family to this special institution.”

Following Swango’s acceptance speech was the presentation of the Alumni Chapter of the Year award to former Washington, D.C. Chapter president, Jenna Welch. The award was created in 2007 and is given to a chapter that has used initiative and innovation in bringing area alumni together.

Welch’s leadership of the chapter from 2007-2009 boosted alumni attendance and helped to make the D.C. Chapter one of the most active chapters in the U.S.

Saturday, October 10, served as another day exploring the life of Ronald Reagan, as conference participants headed to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library.

Groups toured the Reagan’s private quarters at the library, decorated with countless personal items that belonged to the President, donated by Nancy Reagan. Guests also had the opportunity to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony on President Reagan’s grave at sunset.

Dinner was especially distinctive, as it took place in the Air Force One pavilion, directly under the plane President Reagan used for flights during his presidency.

It was here that Rep. Dan Branch (E 77) received his Alumni Achievement Award, for his work in the Texas House of Representatives. First elected in 2002, Branch is currently in his fourth term, representing District 108 of Dallas.

Edwin Meese III, former U.S. Attorney General, was then presented with the David R. Jones Lifetime Service Award. TFAS gives this award annually to recognize outstanding individuals who promote the American traditions of philanthropy, free-enterprise and individual responsibility, or has made significant contributions to the advancement of the ideas of freedom and service.

As an attorney, law professor, and author who served in official capacities within the Reagan Administration in California from 1967-1974, the Reagan Presidential Transition Team (1980) and the Reagan White House from 1981-1985, and then becoming the 75th Attorney General from 1985-1988, Meese personifies the ideal of the Lifetime Service Award.

“Thank you so much for an amazing experience. The event was superb on all levels, from meeting amazing people to sightseeing at places that remind us of President Reagan’s exceptionalism,” said Alumni Council Member Tanja Stumberger (A 04, B 05, CSF 05).

View more photos from the Leadership Network. 


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