Being in Las Vegas itself is quite an experience, even for the most seasoned traveler, because it is a city unlike any other. For weeks we had been hearing about the possible number of attendees who would be coming to the World Deaf Nation Expo, July 18-23, so our office was not sure how much to prepare for in terms of giveaways and supplies.
It was like "Deafville" for a week: at the expo, in the casino, the hotel lobby, everywhere you turned you saw Deaf hands flying; it was quite an experience! Boy were we surprised, not only by the number of attendees, but also by the number of alumni who came to visit us--both those who are well connected to Gallaudet, and "lost alumni."
The Office of Alumni Relations had a booth at the expo, along with the College of Professional Studies and Outreach (CPSO), WORLDEAF, and Department of Social Work. From the minute the expo opened on the first day at 9 a.m., we were slammed by hordes of alumni visiting us. At moments, the crowd was so overwhelming we had to pace ourselves in order to be able to give each person that visited the attention he or she deserved. I am truly grateful the president of the Gallaudet University Alumni Association (GUAA), Alyce Slater Reynolds, ’76 & G-’78, Gerald "Bummy" Burstein, ’50--both of whom volunteered their time--and student worker Mark Graves, Class of 2011, were able to be there to help me out.
As the days went on, the pace slowed slightly; there were periods where large groups of people would visit, while at other times it was a bit quieter, but not for long. Many of the alumni we met were those who had not been in touch with Gallaudet in years, and they were thrilled that Gallaudet had come to them. They were starved for information and updates on Gallaudet, many lingering to talk to us about their days at Gallaudet, wanting to know what was happening, and receiving information about future events being held at Gallaudet, such as class reunions.
One of the big successes of our time at the expo was the Bison Booster Challenge. GUAA’s goal is to get 1,000 new alumni to donate by September 30 in order to increase the alumni participation rate. When Alyce, Bummy, and I explained the purpose of this challenge, we were often met with comments such as, "Absolutely! Gallaudet changed my life!" and you would see them throw down that $5 bill with a flourish as if making a statement. Other alumni showed their loyalty by coming back the next day to donate if they didn’t have enough cash on them that day. Others donated because their children were going to Gallaudet, to name a few of the many reasons alumni donated. In all, more than 200 alumni donated to the future of Gallaudet, many of them first time donors, so It truly warmed our hearts to see the number of alumni who showed their love and support for Gallaudet. It was simply inspiring to see the loyalty alumni have for Gallaudet. Because of these alumni, we are even closer to our goal, so to all of you who attended and donated, THANK YOU!
We also offered a beautiful Gallaudet blanket in a raffle drawing, and Ruben Macias, E-’68, was the lucky winner!
All in all, it was a spectacular week for many of us. We left feeling particularly good that we had reached out to alumni who thought they were lost to Gallaudet, and that they in turn helped Gallaudet by their generosity. Seeing their reactions was priceless, and it reminded me once again why alumni are the backbone of our University.
Abigail S. Drake, ’97 & G-’99
Assistant Director, Alumni Relations
Posted: 2 Aug 2010