Alumni Weekend 2014—A Rousing Success

6/11/2014

With more than 800 people attending at least one event for Alumni Weekend, from Friday, May 30, to Sunday, June 1, the Stevens Alumni Association continued to break event attendance records throughout the weekend.

Celebrating its 94th year, this year’s theme was “Ad Astra” and Stevens alumni were proud to do just that. Alumni heard about academic success and future plans from the deans and provost at the Academic Update Lunch, and listened to seminars about healthcare innovation and political corruption.

Kenneth Venner ’84 celebrated his 30th reunion at Stevens in a most unique way. Venner led a talk on how his employer, SpaceX, is leading the space industry into new territory.

Venner is the chief information officer for SpaceX, the innovative, private company based in Hawthorne, California, that is sending crafts into orbit for NASA and private communications firms. “SpaceX: Building Rockets from the Ground Up,’’ the topic of Venner’s lecture, discussed how the company is doing something revolutionary—building rocket ships that are reusable. About 80 people, including his father, Ed Venner ’56, were in attendance.

“It is the perfect example of the value of a Stevens degree,” said Michael Smullen, SAA executive director. “Ken’s success truly illustrates our motto of ‘ad astra’—Ken literally uses the education he received at Stevens to reach for the stars. He is a great example for other alumni, and I hope many more will return for next year’s events!”

“Alumni Weekend 2014 was a great success,’’ said Smullen. “We have continued to grow events that were well received last year. And, based on feedback, the decision to move the Alumni Dinner Dance to Pierce Dining Hall in the Howe Center was met with great acclaim.’’

The golden anniversary class, the Class of 1964, enjoyed reunion cocktails and dinner in the S.C. Williams Library, where they were joined by President Nariman Farvardin and his wife, Hoveida. Classmates have raised more than $529,000 in commitments to support their class scholarship, setting a high bar that is already challenging the Class of 1965 to do better. More than a dozen other classes held anniversary celebrations throughout the weekend as well.

Graduates of the Last Decade (G.O.L.D.) members cruised the Hudson and enjoyed the photo-taking opportunity as the boat sailed near the Statue of Liberty. Farvardin gave his “State of Stevens’’ Address to alumni, where he updated them on the tremendous success achieved in the past year, and issued a call to action for alumni to support the university. The Harold R. Fee ’20 Alumni Achievement Awards, given to the most recent reunion classes, were distributed to Dr. Timothy Phelan ’89; Andrew Sachs ’89; Peter J. Bakarich III ’04; and Michael Manzella ’09; and the Stevens Alumni Award was given to Stevens supporter Robert Thoelen ’74 at the Alumni Dinner Dance.

Thoelen, a longtime recruiter of Stevens students for his company, UTC Aerospace Systems (UTAS), humbly thanked the many Stevens staff and faculty over the past 19 years who have nurtured this successful relationship that has benefitted so many students. The recently retired project manager also recalled what his alma mater gave him: a talent for problem solving, a love of teamwork, and perseverance.

“The things that I have taken from Stevens have been invaluable,” he said.