Notes from the Alumni Association Chair

By Lowell Frank ’99, M.D. ‘03

Greetings, alumni and friends!  As I type this, the football team has one more game remaining in its… some-sort-of-adjective season.  It’s moments like this that I’m thankful for Columbia, whom we beat by a not-a-baseball-game score of 3-0.  Of course, the Band always wins.

The Advisory Council had its Fall meeting on Friday, September 18th, followed by the annual Big Red Bands Alumni Association meeting, and I’d like to thank all of those who attended.  Rarely in the history of our alumni association has the annual meeting been a destination - it’s usually something to do before you head to the band’s rehearsal, or if you aren’t out wine touring, or if you’ve just gotten in and haven’t checked in to your hotel yet.  I understand all the demands on everyone’s personal and travel schedules, but if you have any suggestions as to how to make this worth your while, please let me know.  Off campus location?  Make it later?  Serve dinner?  I’m open minded.  The best way to disseminate information is still in person.  With that in mind, the next meeting of the 2016 Big Red Bands Alumni Association will be (around) 4 PM on Friday, September 23rd, 2016.   Make plans now!  I would love to have a great turnout.

This past meeting, we reviewed a number of important landmarks for the BRBAA and the Bands.  On the strength of the first Giving Day, the Bands had a record year for income of $165,344, including $100,466 in gifts towards operations.  Thank you!  Of course, FY15 was also a record year for expenses at about $130K.  The expenses are driven by a number of things beyond control, notably recent drastic increases in travel costs and partial Fischell Band Center operations costs.  However, the goal of fundraising for the group is not merely to keep up with rising costs, but also to do more to enhance the student experience.  To that end, there have been some equipment purchases, including approximately half a set of new raincoats (which apparently are thin, warm, waterproof, make you play and march better, and oh yeah, let you fly).  The Bandstaph also went to a leadership retreat at Greek Peak (and no, they didn’t get in trouble first).

We ended the year with the sum total of the multiple long-term investment pool (LTIP) accounts at their post-recession high of around $904K.  More importantly, total shares in the endowment are also at their second highest level ever (16,151) despite the loss of some non-Second Century Fund shares the previous year.  We believe that there will be another Giving Day in the spring, and if we can replicate the enthusiasm on social media that we had in 2015, we can approach the level of gifts we received.  Importantly, a significant number of Giving Day gifts were from non-alumni!  This is the best way to follow up the alumni phonathon, of course – by engaging new friends of the groups.   We also expect the LTIP payout to remain where it is or increase, and that should allow us to meet our budget for 2016 of approximately $146K in income over $124K in expenses.  We hope that the recent overages compensate for many years of extremely high pep band playoff expenses that had the budget in the red (see my last article elsewhere on the site for details).

Probably the most exciting news shared is a Human Ecology design class will be collaborating with the Bands to enhance the interior design of the Fischell Band Center.  Many of the remaining “punch list” items are those that will allow the space to better reflect the sense of history and tradition that we all have felt.  The class will be studying what the band does, how the space is used, and come up with upgrades that reflect this.  Importantly, two large photomurals that were given as named gifts will be designed in the course of this project.  This is exciting for everyone on the Advisory Council, and is expected to occur mainly in the spring semester.

Lastly, I have two requests.  If you are interested in learning more about the Alumni Association and how we work with both Cornell and the Bands, please reach out to me.  There is never a shortage of work to be done.  Additionally, if you are a veteran of BRBAA boards past – especially prior to the aughts – please let me know.  I’m trying to compile a roster of all our previous officers.  We have scant official records, and we’re trying to change that.  Importantly, we’re trying to proactively reach out to those how have contributed (as well as those who want to contribute) to the organization.

The Advisory Council will meet again in February, and if you have important issues you’d like us to address, please let me know.  Until then, let’s go red!, and I’ll see you at Penn, reunion or next fall!