July 14, 2008

Standout Volunteer

Jonathan Ellis ’98 leads NYC alumni chapter and helps students with career exploration

Liz Kemmerer

Jonathan Ellis ’98 anxiously came to Lafayette for the opportunity to play NCAA Division I basketball. He never dreamed, however, of the academic and social opportunities that would come his way, nor that they would help him step into a job on Wall Street with Merrill Lynch immediately upon graduation.

The economics and business graduate also never imagined that he would receive Lafayette’s William E. Greenip ’44 Award as president of the New York City Alumni Chapter. The honor is presented to alumni chapter officers based on achievements “over and above” standard responsibilities.

“It’s important to give back whenever you can, as well as remain engaged with the school so as not to lose touch with the people who are important to you and helped formulate who you are today,” says Ellis. “The relationships I cultivated with my friends, peers, and professors have made a lasting impact on me. These are relationships you can’t recreate.”

As New York chapter president, Ellis acts as primary spokesperson and works with fellow officers to organize social events for alumni in the city with “no shortage of things to do,” as he puts it. Events have included annual wine tastings, presentations and talks by Lafayette professors, and trips to Yankees and Mets games, the U.S. Tennis Open, and jazz clubs.

Beyond his work with alumni, Ellis helps organize internships and externships at his company to give students opportunities to explore career options in New York and network with various professionals within their fields. His position as chapter president, he says, has helped familiarize him with the professional diversity of alumni based in New York, many of whom are leaders in their fields.

“I believe that the geographic positioning of Lafayette serves as a key advantage [for students] in seeking out internship opportunities in the finance industry given the relative lack of distinguished schools that are within such a short driving distance of New York City,” Ellis says. “This geographic proximity allows students to more easily stay in touch with their internship hosts even after the program has ended, which enhances the likelihood of ultimately receiving a full-time employment offer.”

He also has been involved in various fundraising efforts at Lafayette and served as his class treasurer.

Ellis, a member of Lafayette’s Alumni Online Community, believes that innovation is the key to the growth of the Alumni Association.

“The alumni network must reinvent itself to be relevant to the needs of current students and the local constituency,” he says. “We must evolve as the school evolves and utilize networking tools through the web and other technological means similar to what the school is using in order to connect more innovatively with students.”

Though playing basketball only complemented the array of academic and social opportunities Ellis was able to enjoy, he looks back on the lessons he learned from it and finds them applicable to his profession.

“Being part of a team requires an appreciation for the perspectives and strengths of other people, which is parallel to working in finance,” he explains. “It’s proven that individuals who have played on a team function better in groups and understand how to more efficiently work toward a goal.”

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