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Volunteers Going the Distance
With their third Hopkins student scheduled to graduate in 2014, Ann Gordon and Alan Lefkof are pros at being Blue Jay parents and are happy to share their wisdom with others. As co-chairs of the Hopkins Parents Council, they get to do just that—and more.
What may be surprising about the couple, given their passion and commitment to the university, is that they are not Hopkins alumni and do not even live on the East Coast. After completing their graduate degrees at Harvard in 1977 (Alan has an MBA from the Harvard Business School and Ann has an MCRP from the Graduate School of Design), the couple moved to San Francisco, where they raised their three children: Drew, A&S,’09, Katy, A&S ’11, and Teddy, Class of ’14. Alan, a former CEO of Netopia, Inc., has recently retired as corporate vice president of Motorola Mobility. After retiring as a partner in an economic consulting firm, Ann focused on non-profit work, primarily in the areas of education and health. She is a sustaining member of the Junior League and served on the board of the National Brain Tumor Society for over 20 years.
The family’s affinity to Johns Hopkins began when Drew took online Center for Talented Youth (CTY) classes while he was in middle school. He became serious about attending Hopkins after learning that the university was a leader in the field of international studies and offered a world-class French program. But it was also nearly 3,000 miles away from home. His mom gave him the same advice that she would later offer to other families considering Hopkins who live far away—whether it be on the West Coast or out of the country. “Don’t be afraid to take the leap,” Ann said. “A lot of kids like to stay closer to home and never stretch their horizons, but it opens up a whole new world when they take that leap. Although Hopkins is a big name with a big infrastructure and depth of knowledge, it also has the benefits of a smaller school in many ways,” she says. When Drew entered Hopkins in 2005, Ann and Alan joined the Parents Council as a way to bridge the distance between Baltimore and San Francisco.
The Hopkins Parents Council gave them the opportunity to ensure that their children have access to vibrant student programs that provide academic support, promote opportunities to engage with faculty and alumni, and feature campus traditions and events that build a sense of community and life-long connection. The couple recognizes the need for these activities from their own educational experiences. One of the key roles of the council, they explain, is to engage those who have an interest in philanthropy to contribute—through the Hopkins Parents Fund—to the programs that directly support the undergraduate student life experience on the Homewood campus.
Ann and Alan are committed to educating other parents about why these contributions are important. “And it’s a challenge,” Alan says. At a university that is fortunate enough to receive generous million dollar-plus donations for buildings, scholarships, and research, it’s hard to explain to potential donors why smaller contributions for student life programming are still needed. “But the fact is that there is a budget for everything. All of the money is allocated for different purposes.” Without the Parents Fund, events that have become annual traditions and build that small school feeling such as Lighting of the Quads, First Night, and High Table, might not take place. These events and programs enrich the student experience, which is one of the major themes of Rising to the Challenge: The Campaign for Johns Hopkins. The work of the Johns Hopkins University Parents Programs directly supports this campaign initiative.
Over the past eight years Ann and Alan have acted as parent ambassadors; welcoming the parents of newly admitted students and giving them a personal point of contact. They have hosted numerous events in their home and also travel to the Homewood campus to attend programs and receptions several times a year. “It’s been gratifying for us to connect the families in both traditional and new ways.” Alan says, noting the popularity of the new Johns Hopkins Parents Facebook group. The group is private to allow parents—whether they live in Maryland, California, or overseas—to connect with one another, freely ask questions, and share their experiences—both good and bad.
Under Ann and Alan’s leadership, the council also recently launched the Parents Internship Network (PIN). The goal of the PIN, run in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins University Career Center, is to increase the inventory of summer internships by tapping into the employer base of our Hopkins parent community. In just one year, the program has resulted in the creation of 50 new internships in areas such as finance, engineering, public health, and the biotech industry—thanks to parents’ efforts.
The couple—proving that distance is not an obstacle to success—has had a huge impact on the Johns Hopkins University Parents Programs. When their youngest son, Teddy, walks across the stage as a graduate in 2014, their current roles as Blue Jay parents, generous volunteers, and ambassadors will wind down, but, Ann says “Hopkins will definitely remain in our hearts.”