Director of alumni and donor relations
When she was a Purdue student, Courtney Eash's passion for music drove her to play tenor saxophone for four years in several Purdue bands.
Now, she's translated that passion into incredible dedication to the Purdue Bands and Orchestras and unmatched tenacity in her job as the department's director of alumni and donor relations. Eash shares her enthusiasm for the department with other alumni and donors, whose contributions help keep it running.
What are your primary goals in your job?
As director of alumni and donor relations, it's my job to connect our alumni and friends with current Bands and Orchestras students and faculty. We communicate on a regular basis and attend events to allow them to experience who we are today while connecting with their peers.
To that end, the University Development Office has provided me with the names of about 13,000 alumni. I make a lot of phone calls, but I also travel to meet with alumni and potential donors, especially within the Midwest. I also travel to Florida once each year and have visited with alumni in California, among other states.
What kind of alumni events do you hold?
I plan and host several small-scale events in addition to larger, annual events. On the smaller scale, for example, I often coordinate lunches in Indianapolis for groups of alumni and donors so that they can meet each other.
On the larger scale, for example, I host alumni events each year during our Spring Spectacular in April. This year, I'll host receptions and dinners on all three days that will engage our supporters with our students and faculty. Another example is during Homecoming 2013, when we honored all of our alumni who performed at Radio City Music Hall in the 1960s.
Also, at the end of each April or early May, an alumni jazz band called Chameleon comes to town to perform. On Saturday, they play at the Lafayette Brewing Company, and I help coordinate that performance. On Sunday, during the Jazz on the Hill concert, the same group plays with our current jazz band students. Events like these are really fun because they help our alumni connect with students and keep up with what's happening in our department.
Who else gives to Bands and Orchestras besides individuals?
Recently, I've started getting corporate sponsors for our department. Right now, we have 14 businesses that support our ensembles. A lot of the time, businesses donate because they appreciate the positive effects our department and the whole University have on the community. Of course, we're very grateful for every donation, whether it's from a business or an individual.
As for corporate donors, some give money, but others give in kind or in service. For example, for our annual Jazz Festival — which is one of the largest jazz festivals in the Midwest — one corporate sponsor donates food. We have another corporate sponsor who repairs instruments for free.
How does your experience as a former band member affect your professional outlook?
It's fun for me because, since I was in band for four years, I understand our traditions and the goals we have for our students. When I meet with alumni, I instantly have that connection because they get it, too.
They understand how important donations are to Bands and Orchestras. Sixty-five percent of our operating budget comes from donations, so they know how much we need and appreciate them.
At the same time, they understand what it's like to be a student musician. They know how much our student musicians give of themselves — music isn't a major at Purdue, so student musicians are here because they want to be. They give so much of their time that it's inspiring. Consequently, when they become alumni, they immediately know what it's like and want to help current students as much as they can, such as creating new scholarships, for example.
What's it like for you to work for Bands and Orchestras as an alumna?
It's great to be able to work with people who have such a passion for the department. I have that same passion. Even though my major was animal sciences, my true love was playing in the bands.
When I graduated about four years ago, this position did not exist. When the position was created two-and-a-half years ago, I applied and was fortunate enough to land it, and I've never looked back.
Every day when I'm driving to work, I think about what I can do to make a huge impact on our students and the department. When I help alumni and donors make connections with their past experiences and with our current students, it's so rewarding. Everything I do goes back to that.