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Coming home for many years to come

by David Simmonds, BA'07

David Simmonds

Recently, my mother asked me why I was going to London “again.” As I near the end of my tenure as Alumni Association President, I stopped to really think about my answer. I landed on my belief that “moments matter.” I give my time to Western to help shape, and experience, important moments – large and small. Over the past two years, a few of those moments really stood out for me.

Answering a call to leadership for our students.

Habits, shared values, and rituals make a tribe – and we have a fiercely proud alumni tribe at Western. I’ve asked you to support our current students, and your response has been overwhelming. During exam season, not only have you donated to support campus mental health services, you’ve written notes to first-year students facing final exams through our ‘Kind Mail’ Campaign. You cared, and it made a difference.

We took a bold step this year, asking graduates within the last decade to donate – whatever they could – to support Western. It’s a tough ask of our young alumni, many of whom are starting careers. Despite this, a number of you joined me and made gifts – gifts that were matched by the university.

Having coffee. Lots of coffee.

In 2016, we launched a unique campaign in partnership with Ten Thousand Coffees. The concept was simple – invite alumni to register online and connect with current students and young graduates to share advice and network. Hundreds of you signed up, and we’ve created more than 2,000 moments over coffee online or in-person.

Mixing things up.

The success of Ten Thousand Coffees showed us alumni and students wanted to make career connections. So, staff and volunteers started an award-winning program called Mixed Business. This fall, for the second time, alumni joined current students and recent graduates for a night of casual conversation. Hundreds of students and young alumni have benefited because alumni like you gave the gift of time.

Going to new places.

Alumni volunteers and staff ventured beyond Southwestern Ontario and held successful alumni community events in Australia, New York, and San Francisco. But, place is not just geography; place represents a state of mind.

This year, Western lived leadership, embracing LGBTQ community members in new ways. We were proud to host our first ever Alumni Pride Reception in Toronto. LGBTQ graduates and allies joined us at a Bay Street office tower to celebrate the progress our University community has made on and off campus. At this event, two graduates in their golden years approached me and shared that while they were students at Western, over 25 years ago, they had no choice but to keep their relationship a secret. Never did they imagine they would be at a Pride reception with staff, students, and alumni as Western celebrated them.

Celebrating champions.

Cheering is one of the few requisite skills for an alumni president and I was thrilled to join many celebrations of students and graduates over the past 24 months. I’ll miss the convocations, award dinners and sporting events that have filled my calendar.

Thanks to all of you who joined me to cheer extraordinary leadership being exercised by alumni, students, staff and faculty on campus and around the world, including this year’s six championship varsity teams.

Forever Purple and Proud.

The years we spend at Western are a crucially formative time in our lives. The education we receive opens doors for success and the relationships we make create friendships for life. Western becomes part of our identity, and the moments we make there together stay with us.

My time as Alumni Association President has affirmed for me that those ‘Western moments’ continue long after graduation. So mom, please know I’ll be coming home to Western for many years to come.

This article appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of Alumni Gazette
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