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Alumni couple inspires seniors to pay it forward

John Foote and Kristen Rupert

Kristen Rupert and John Foote, both Class of '74. Photo: Provided.

As the Class of 2014 approaches Commencement Weekend in May, more than 100 seniors are volunteering their time as part of one of Cornell's oldest traditions: the Senior Class Campaign. The volunteers, who educate classmates about staying engaged with Cornell after graduation and encourage them to give back to their alma mater, organize events to build class unity while soliciting gifts from peers through phonathons, emails and personal outreach. With only a few months until graduation, this year's campaign is getting an added boost from John Foote '74 and Kristen Rupert '74.

With a long list of alumni volunteer roles, Foote and Rupert know what it means to stay involved. Both are active members of the Class of 1974 and Cornell University Council, and in 2010 they received the Frank H.T. Rhodes Award for Exemplary Alumni Service. Foote sits on the Fraternity and Sorority Advisory Council and Lab of Ornithology Administrative Board, and Rupert serves on the Cornell Outdoor Education Advisory Board and Plantations Advisory Council. An authority on transportation and infrastructure policy, Foote has lectured in recent years in the Department of City and Regional Planning and the Department of Policy Analysis and Management.

According to campaign co-president Ihsan Kabir '14, "John and Kristen show the Class of 2014 exactly what a meaningful, lifelong relationship with Cornell looks like."

John Foote with senior class campaign leaders

John Foote '74, left, with senior class campaign leaders in Rulloff's. Photo: Provided.

"We're all part of a family," said Foote. "Whether you're class of 1974, '84, '94, '04 or '14, we all have something really incredible in common. We think what the seniors are doing as part of the Senior Class Campaign is very important."

The Class of 2014's campaign has already raised over $35,000 from more than 1,100 seniors, or about 34 percent of the class. But class leaders are hoping that a little extra incentive will reach an ambitious goal. Foote and Rupert have challenged the seniors to achieve 50 percent participation from their class.

For each senior who makes a gift, the couple will make a gift to undergraduate scholarships. If the class reaches 50 percent participation, the result will be $25,000 from the couple to two scholarships awarded next year in honor of the Class of 2014. Although it's been four years since a senior class hit the 50 percent participation mark, this year's campaign is quickly approaching 2013's mark of 37 percent.

"John and Kristen's generous gift shows us that even decades after our time on the Hill, our love for and devotion to Cornell can inspire such energy, passion and generosity," said Wei Yang '14, the campaign's co-president. "It gives more meaning to our work on the campaign as we begin our lifelong journey of being Cornellians."

The Classes of 1974 and 2014, separated by 40 years, hope to socialize together during Reunion Weekend and maintain their connection. This is the fourth year that new graduates are encouraged to return to campus in June for Reunion Zero.

Foote reminded senior class leaders recently: "Your life as a Cornellian is really just beginning. What happens in the next 40, 50, 60 or more years -- that's when the fun really begins. You're Cornellians forever."

Corey Ryan Earle '07 is associate director of student programs in Cornell's Office of Alumni Affairs.

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