Vicki Hartman ’78 was a new Cornell graduate when she tentatively called the head of the Cornell Alumni Association of Westchester, where she was living, to volunteer. She thought she might be too young to contribute, but club members were delighted to welcome a new graduate.
Hartman had vowed to keep learning and to surround herself with a diverse group of friends after graduation. What she didn’t anticipate was that Cornell would give her that opportunity for many years to come.
“Cornell was boot camp for your mind,” she says. “You get to participate as an alum; It’s lifelong learning. It’s such a great opportunity.”
Hartman supports Cornell in ways that have stretched her knowledge of the university and its people, on campus and off. Her first work was as an ambassador for the Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network (CAAAN). She interviewed students and for decades represented Cornell at college fairs. When she moved to New York City, she joined the Cornell Club of New York. In addition to her participation in CAAAN, Hartman participated in and hosted dinners for juniors and seniors who planned to move to the city. These were lively discussions of the pros and cons of New York life, and they opened her eyes to the wide variety of career paths fellow alumni had taken.
Hartman has been her class treasurer since 2018. She is serving her third term on Cornell University Council (CUC), where she has worked on various committees, and she served as a vice chair of the Administrative Board of Council. She recently returned as a member of the administrative board. Council is “the gift that keeps on giving,” she says: At Trustee-Council Annual Meetings, for example, faculty and students present research findings and new initiatives, and administrators share details of the strategic plan.
Hartman says through volunteering she has explored areas of the university she previously knew little about. She is a liaison from Cornell University Council to the College of Veterinary Medicine Advisory Council, where she assists in developing best practices for the Vet Council and mentoring students from the college. The experience has opened her eyes to extensive research and collaborations in the college and beyond that are turning the dial on animal and human health, the environment, and agricultural policy.
As a member of the Library Advisory Council since 2012, Hartman has found a service role that touches all areas of the university. She also co-chairs the library’s ad hoc campaign planning committee, which is now focused on raising funds in support of the university’s To Do the Greatest Good campaign. Committee members offer a sounding board and outside perspectives as the library plans for the future and establishes priorities.
“I like the library work because it cuts across the entire university,” she notes. “I’ve always identified strongly with Cornell at a university level, and the library has to service all the different colleges. That’s been very rewarding.”
Hartman says she’ll continue finding ways to do the greatest good—and to keep learning—as a volunteer.
“I strongly believe Cornell will be around in a hundred years and longer. It’s producing progressive leaders, and it’s an investment in the future,” she says. “I feel a strong connection to Cornell, and the way I connect is to volunteer. I want to give back. It’s a very important part of my life.”
Written by Sally Parker, freelance writer