Volunteer Story, Sondra Szymczak, J59

Szymczak enjoys the 100th anniversary of the Association of Tufts Alumnae in 2005

Former president of Boston Tufts Club and the Jackson College Association of Tufts Alumnae (JCATA), and former chair of Tufts Alumni Council (TAC), Sondra Szymczak, J59, is the current president of Tufts Senior Connection and has been described by Karen Micale in the Office of Alumni Relations as having a “heart of gold.”

“She’s one of those people you can always count on,” says Micale. “She makes work a little bit more enjoyable—she’s one of my favorite people.” Never one to turn down an opportunity to help her alma mater, when Szymczak isn’t manning the reunion booth at Homecoming or rallying the “Over the Hill Gang” for alumni outings, you can find her dropping off homemade scarves and mittens to Women of Means, a medical care program for homeless women founded by Dr. Roseanna Means, M81.

Below, Sondra answers some questions about her inner-Jumbo.

What prompted Tufts Senior Connection (TSC)?

Karen suggested the plan. She works with the older reunion classes and has been hearing for years that older alumni stop attending Tufts functions because they are generally the oldest people in the room, and since programs tend to be repeated, they have been there before. When thinking back on my own Tufts experience, I find that were it not for the TAC, I would be in the same boat.

As a new alumna in 1959, I became active with the JCATA and went to everything. As I got older, I started to skip programs I had heard before. I told Karen I loved her idea and she pulled together a steering committee of people who were currently active or had been at one time; we planned our first event for December 7, 2008—a brunch in Sophia Gordon Hall followed by a Music Department concert. 81 people came—one man from Winchester had not set foot on campus in 50 years!

Our working name was the “Over the Hill Gang,” but later became the TSC. Our stated goal is to reconnect older alumni with their university and to provide a safe venue for social interaction. It seems to be working.

What do you enjoy most?

As an active member of the TAC and a participant with Osher Lifelong Learning, I am on campus frequently and have a fairly good idea of what is going on. TSC gives me a chance to welcome other alumni back to Tufts and to show off our successes and growth. What I enjoy most, however, is simply being with people my own age—we have the same experiences and memories and “get” the same jokes. I love watching them rediscover Tufts and have a great time doing it. I do enjoy Alumni Weekend and always work at registration—it’s fun to see people come back—especially the 50th bunch. So many changes to show them and memories to share!

How deep is the Tufts connection?

Most of my friends are Tufts alumni and thanks to TAC they span many generations. I particularly enjoy working with current students and young alumni—they are our future and it is encouraging to see common sense starting to reappear!

My BFF and I are classmates (J59) who barely knew each other as students. She was Chi Omega, government, and athletics. I was Delta Zeta, English, and Pen, Paint, & Pretzels. We became friends as advisors to our respective sororities, the JCATA, and the TAC. She is the sister I never had—I guess that Tufts connection is pretty deep.

Return to list of volunteer stories