Michelle Vaeth ’98 first recognized the strength and depth of the Cornell alumni community when she was a member of the Big Red Band. She vividly remembers marching with her flute in the traditional Sy Katz ’31 Parade as red-clad Cornellians lined the streets of Manhattan and cheered.
“So many alumni turned out!” said Vaeth. “It was my first introduction to the incredible support alumni give to students and to the university. I saw that Cornell is lifelong. You’re on campus for a certain number of years, but you’re a Cornellian for life. The connections you make after your student experience are incredibly enriching.”
Vaeth now leads the way in building lifelong connections among Cornell alumni, parents, and friends, and between Cornellians and the university. She started on June 18 as Cornell’s new associate vice president for the Office of Alumni Affairs, stepping in as Jim Mazza ’88 retires.
“Michelle will add a terrific new dimension to our historically strong alumni relations program with her expertise in communications, her passion for Cornell, and her experience as a volunteer leader,” said Fred Van Sickle, vice president for the Division of Alumni Affairs and Development. “All these qualities will be especially valuable as she leads efforts to develop and execute a new set of five-year goals, drawing on our heritage and taking us in new directions, as the Cornell alumni community grows and changes.”
Vaeth returns to her alma mater with a deep background in global marketing and communications, having spent 18 years at consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble, where she held various roles with increasing levels of responsibility. Her final assignment was leading the brand communications, public relations, and crisis/issues management team for P&G’s $5 billion health care division. A winner of multiple professional awards, Vaeth led P&G’s global effort Protecting Futures: Keeping Girls in School. She also served as vice president of public relations and corporate communications for Aspen Dental Management, Inc.
Vaeth’s extensive volunteer commitments keep pace with her professional accomplishments. Looking for meaningful connections beyond her work at P&G, she got involved with the Cornell Club of Southwestern Ohio as soon as she moved to Cincinnati. Through that organization, she met Kelly Brown ’88, MBA ’91, a champion for Cornell alumni engagement, who encouraged Vaeth to join the club board.
“Kelly is, in my mind, the model of an alumni volunteer,” said Vaeth. “Thanks to her and other alumni, I had the Cornell network with me after graduation, even though I was no longer on campus. That added tremendous value to the degree I had just received.”
Through the Cornell network in Cincinnati, Vaeth discovered other volunteer opportunities with the Junior League, a women’s community impact volunteer organization which operates in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. Eventually, Vaeth became president of the Junior League of Cincinnati, and she is now on the board of the 150,000-member Association of Junior Leagues International. Outside the Cornell community, the Junior League gave Vaeth valuable experience in fundraising and managing volunteers.
As associate vice president of alumni affairs, Vaeth aims to combine her volunteer leadership experience with her professional know-how to expand opportunities for Cornell alumni.
“When I joined a Cornell club in Cincinnati, I wanted to expand my network in the city I had just moved to,” said Vaeth. “Other alumni tell me they were inspired to get involved because of a passion for the university’s mission. That mission is the reason I continue to engage now, two decades after I graduated.”
Her first priorities will be getting to know the Cornell staff and volunteer communities and relaunching the five-year strategic planning process for alumni affairs.
“Cornell has an extraordinarily loyal and engaged alumni base, with deeply committed volunteers all over the world acting as ‘brand ambassadors,’” said Nicole DelToro ’91, incoming chair of the Cornell University Board of Trustees’ Committee on Alumni Affairs. “I am excited to work with Michelle as she and the entire alumni affairs staff develop innovative ways of drawing alumni into even closer and more meaningful engagement, no matter where they live and no matter what their interests are.”
Vaeth is grateful for the university’s decades-long tradition of alumni engagement. She said she is eager to contribute: “I think Cornell alumni truly see the vision of what the university can and should stand for in the world.”