A “Passionate” Alumnus Takes Over Alumni Relations

Bob Alig. Photo: Candace diCarlo

“I saw this as an opportunity to return to my roots here at Penn,” Robert Alig C’84 WG’87 was saying last month, a few days after starting his new job as assistant vice president for alumni relations. “I feel an enormous commitment to and passion for the University. This is an opportunity to help our quarter-of-a-million alumni around the world to feel reconnected to the University—and for them to experience the remarkable momentum of the University, regardless of how long they’ve been away from us.”
   Alig’s extensive rèsumé includes a stint as director of MBA admissions and financial aid at the Wharton School from 1996 to 2000, as well as senior associate director from 1995-1996 and associate director of the school’s graduate division the year before that. Most recently, he was a principal and partner of Katalyst, LLC, a Conshohocken, Pa.-based venture-capital firm, where he focused on strategic planning, business development, organizational design, and human-resource management.
   “Bob brings with him a wonderful complement of work and educational experiences that will serve the University’s needs well as we work to create a rich array of programs and services to meet the needs and expectations of Penn’s diverse global-alumni body,” said Virginia Clark, vice president of development and alumni relations, in announcing Alig’s appointment in May. “His earlier professional career in sales and marketing of consumer products, and administrative and commercial property management, coupled with his current work with clients utilizing Internet technologies, e-learning, and Web-enabled management tools, are a solid foundation for meeting the challenges of his new position.
    “Bob is passionate about the University of Pennsylvania,” she added, “and his new role as one of its strongest advocates is great news for Penn.”
    “I feel an enormous affection for the University,” acknowledged the 39-year-old Alig, “and I am energized by simply walking down Locust Walk. That’s something I experienced the first time I visited this campus in April 1980, and that feeling is part of what drove me to come back here and work in the Wharton MBA program in 1994—and a large part of what motivated me to return in this capacity.” Adding to his emotional ties is the fact that his wife, Laura Sorscher W’85 L’88, is also an alumna. The two met in High Rise East—er, Harnwell House—in 1983, and now have two daughters, Madison and Schuyler. “We’re truly a Penn family,” he says.
    Asked about the challenges facing Alumni Relations, Alig noted that it would be a mistake to view the position as one of “simply crafting or refining our image.”
    “I think this position needs more than that,” he added, “and by that I mean a leader who is going to forge and nurture a culture that responds to every opportunity and every constituency in a way that underscores an unflagging commitment to our alumni—and to our current students, who will be alumni. To create and nurture this relationship with a global alumni pool—and an alumni pool that is becoming increasingly mobile—requires us to harness technology to facilitate the interaction.”
    On a more personal note, Alig said: “We have to be respectful of the fact that the diversity and richness of the Penn experience makes the connection that each person feels for the University different. And the greatest challenge here is to facilitate and enhance that connection, regardless of the origins of the connection.”
    Alig acknowledged that he was “very excited” about taking on the position at Alumni Relations and the “opportunity for me to reinvent myself.” One thing that “astounded” him during the years in which he traveled to far-flung cities and countries for Wharton was the “remarkable commitment and generosity of our alumni.” As a result, he said, “I am confident that there is no challenge here that the staff of Alumni Relations can’t meet if we are able to harness the limitless resources and unflagging commitment of my fellow alumni.
    “So,” he added with a small smile. “Am I daunted? Yes. Intimidated? No.”

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