Raymond Cattaneo at UMKC Alumni AwardsBy Lisen Tammeus

As we were finishing this issue and thanking all the alumni and faculty who helped us put it together, I began to think back on my favorite alumni story from this past year. And while there were so many, the best story is one that still makes me tear up, and it’s happening as I type this. It’s a story of this alumni family and the powerful partnerships you all have.

As the UMKC Alumni Association planned its annual alumni awards luncheon, a fundraiser for student scholarships and immediate aid, our student affairs office told us about an urgent problem: the hundreds of outstanding students who had a financial hold on their accounts. The holds — often $500 or less — were preventing them from being able to re-enroll or obtain transcripts at graduation. For many students, the hold meant stepping out of school to earn more money, which statistically means they are less likely to return.

The Alumni Association quickly agreed to tackle the issue for as many students as possible. On each table at the luncheon was a chalkboard with one student’s monetary need. Raymond Cattaneo (M.D. ’03, pictured), then-president of the Alumni Association, challenged each table to literally wipe out that student’s hold.

“Just imagine the look on our students’ faces when they are informed that UMKC alumni and friends had enough faith in them and their dream to pay off their holds — sight unseen, no questions asked, nothing needed in return,” he said.

You should have seen the more than 500 people in that room take up the challenge. Further, alumnus Leo Sweeney (B.A. ’51) partnered with the Alumni Association to establish the Sweeney Family Support Fund, which will aid worthy students with holds going forward. Other alumni offered to match gifts on the floor.

The result? Enough money was raised to wipe out the holds for the students represented in the room that April day and more. I’ll close by letting one of the recipients share what that gesture meant to her:

Dear UMKC Alumni Association,

First of all, thank you for your generosity in paying off my balances owed to the university. I cried when I saw the email! You see, I recently graduated with my master’s in social work. I have passed my state licensure exams but needed my transcript to actually obtain my license. I have an incredible opportunity for promotion at my job … it is contingent on my having a license in both states. In addition to the cost of the licensing exam, paying for a license in both states is very costly. I was planning to go to the bank today to apply for a small personal loan to pay off my UMKC debt and be able to pay for my two licenses. Imagine my surprise when I opened my email to the news that you all were covering my balance due.

I am a social worker; it’s my life’s mission and my husband is a firefighter. Thank you for helping us in our mission to serve the vulnerable citizens of our amazing city. You will never know what a blessing this was for us. We promise to pay it forward!

Thank you for the many ways you make a difference in the lives of our students!

Lisen Tammeus Mann,
Assistant Vice Chancellor, Alumni and Constituent Relations


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