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Meet Your Alumni Mayfest Hosts

Allyson and BjornApril 30th marks the second year of Bard College at Simon’s Rock’s Alumni Mayfest events. RockNet caught up with four of the hosts from last year who had such a great time connecting with other Alumni that they’re hosting parties again this year. Click for more information about how to attend.

Keith '80 and Penny '81 Brierley-Bowers, Baltimore. Keith’s a business and management consultant with expertise in organizational change and a member of the Alumni Leadership Council. Penny’s a psychologist currently consulting for the Department of Defense. When they met, “Keith was a smooth-talking sophomore and I was a first-year fresh from rural Louisiana,” Penny says.

David Lovely ’96, Chicago. Dave, happily unemployed, entered Simon’s Rock in ‘96. After he received his AA, he took several breaks from school, transferred, and eventually returned to Simon’s Rock, graduating with his BA in 2008. He’ll host a cocktail party with his partner, Jim Lai, and Lori Portnoy ’74.

Sarah Parady ’99, Denver. Sarah, a legal services attorney, works on foreclosure cases at Colorado Legal Services as a Skadden Fellow. She’s helped dozens of families move from the point of foreclosure to a place where they’re current on their mortgages and will likely be able to keep their homes.

Allyson Sgro ’01 and Bjorn-Erik Townsend ’94, Seattle. Allyson is currently in her last year of a PhD program in chemistry and nanotechnology. Bjorn develops software for cloud computing. Now married, the couple first got to know each other when Allyson noticed Bjorn’s “fabulous” avatar on the Simon’s Rock Livejournal community.

Why is it important that Simon’s Rock Alumni get together?Brierly-Bowers & Lovely

Penny: Our closest friends, the people we are most comfortable with, have always been Rockers. When I’ve just read an amazing book and I’m so excited to tell someone about it, I turn to one of my friends from Simon’s Rock.

Dave: It’s important to keep the weird magic of the College alive in all of us. For example, a couple years back I ran into Lori Portnoy ’74 at an alumni event here in Chicago. Lori hadn’t been very involved in Simon’s Rock, but when I met her I was gearing up to work on my Senior Thesis. I guess my enthusiasm was infectious, and she decided to make the trip back for the 40th anniversary reunion, where she had a fantastic time seeing old friends.

Sarah: I’ve made great friends in Denver through the Simon’s Rock grapevine. And I think that with the current economy, it’s really important for us to plug into a network, especially for younger grads.

Allyson: We share such a formative experience. Being in a place where you’re made to really actively engage in your life’s path through your education really shapes people, and it’s a really great basis for friendship. All else aside, when you’re with other Rockers, you’re guaranteed an interesting conversation.

What was Alumni Mayfest like last year?

Penny: It was so much fun. We met great people from around the Baltimore area who we had no idea were here and wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise. We had about 15 people come by, and this year I’d like to see even more Rockers show up.

Dave: I had about 15 Rockers show up for cocktails and barbeque. Paul Goldschmidt ’84 drove from Madison WI to Chicago, and it was one of the few times that I’ve had the chance to have a conversation with a Rocker who’d preceded me by more than a decade. Talking with him was just fascinating.

Sarah: I was actually surprised by how much I loved the gathering! Most of the alums that showed up were younger than me, which was great because I got an update on what’s happening at Simon’s Rock now.

Allyson: At last year’s event we had about 20 people turn out. I was shocked and delighted—I had no idea there were so many Rockers in Seattle!

Why Give to Support Current Students?

Penny: When I got to Simons Rock, I found a community that took me seriously as a human being and that believed in me so that I could flourish. We need to do the same thing for the current generation of students. I think students who make the choice to go to Simon’s Rock are courageous, and they’ve taken a huge risk. We should to do everything we can to stand with them and make sure they have the resources to succeed.

Sarah ParadyDave: The College saved my sanity and possibly my life.

Sarah: I know that the College and major donors care a lot about the alumni giving rate, because it demonstrates to them that we value the education we received. If every alum gives a little bit, it has an impact beyond what you’re going to send. And I know that the College will use my gift for what really matters: the students.

Allyson: It wasn’t just that I had a good time at Simon’s Rock: it was a transformative experience for me. I always appreciated it, but when I got to graduate school and saw how rarely undergraduates were asked to think for themselves, that’s when I really realized what an exceptional education it was.

What do you think about when you reflect on your time at Simon’s Rock?

Penny: Now, our oldest daughter is a junior at Simon’s Rock, and being a parent is really a trip. Simon’s Rock in ‘81 and Simon’s Rock now are very different in some ways. On the other hand, the students have not changed at all: my daughter’s friends are some of the greatest kids. They’re smart, they’re so involved in the world they live in, and they just love life and they love learning.

Dave: I made a lot of mistakes when I was a student the first time around, but it was a fantastic place to do that: the adults around me knew what was going on in my life, and they’d sit down with me and together we’d develop a plan to get out of whatever situation I’d gotten into.

Sarah: Ultimately, Simon’s Rock is just a really, really kind place. The relationships between faculty and staff and students are so respectful and really loving. That’s something I’ve carried with me that I feel inclined to give back to the people around me. It’s such a nurturing place and I’ve been grateful ever since.

Allyson: I think about how age didn’t matter at Simon’s Rock, and now that I’m older, that’s translated into a sense of openness about the options that I can pursue with regards to my career and my life. It’s a really important lesson in the great things that can happen when you don’t get anxious trying to follow the straight and narrow path.

How to Participate

For more information about Alumni Mayfest, including how to host an event in your area, click here.

All gifts to the College until May 1st count toward the Mayfest effort. More alumni are giving than ever before, and giving generously to the Mayfest drive supports scholarships, campus diversity, a stronger BA program, and greater study abroad opportunities. Give Now by making a secure online donation.

With gifts of $95 or more you’ll receive a student-designed 2011 Mayfest t-shirt. Alumni who give $250 will receive a vintage Simon's Rock frisbee featuring an icon of Rocker lore: High Flying Louie.

Previously Featured Alums