Cheerful, warm, hardworking, highly competent, a great manager, and exceptionally dependable, Laura Fratt ’81 has distinguished herself over more than thirty years of volunteering for her alma mater. She has created wonderful events, new friendships, stronger alumni connections, and has provided a model of lifelong dedication.
Laura herself had excellent models to follow. Her abiding love for Cornell began in her childhood in Northern California, when her Cornellian father, who would later serve on the Cornell University Board of Trustees, brought Laura and her family along to every Cornell alumni event the region had to offer. He introduced Laura to other loyal alumni, including future Rhodes awardees, the late Mac and Carol MacCorkle ’64, University benefactors Ron ’58 and Susan Lynch and Art Gensler ’66.
As a young adult, Laura interned for Chuck Feeney ’56, capitalizing on her fluency in Mandarin by working in his operations in Honolulu and New York and focusing on researching business opportunities in China. His quiet humility and generosity—he is Cornell’s foremost benefactor—inspired her. “He’s always giving back and changing the world,” she says.
After earning an MBA from Stanford, Laura began her business career at Apple Computer and left to marry and start a family. Her children, Alexander Isby ’15 and Laura Isby ’16, MEng ’17, are Cornellians too. At home, her volunteer work has been focused on building community with the League of Women Voters and Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.
Laura has served as president of the Cornell Alumni Association of Westchester, running and overseeing numerous events every year for nearly twenty years. She is an unfailing supporter and chair of the Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network, through which she has cohosted admitted student receptions every April. She has served as vice president of the Cornell Alumni Association and as a member of the Committee on Alumni Trustee Nominations—among her many other committee positions over the years.
“In spite of the huge amount of work involved in organizing 20 to 30 alumni events every year in her role as co-president of the Westchester Cornell Alumni Association. Laura could always be counted on to support CAAAN events which were beyond her responsibilities as a chair,” says longtime General Chair of the Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network (CAAN) of Westchester, Lawrence Rubenstein ’66. “She lived Cornell every day and always cheerfully. I can’t imagine that there are many alumni who have given as much of themselves as Laura has for as many years.”
In addition to her dedication, Laura is also a valuable model in her nimbleness and insistence on keeping pace with technological and cultural changes. “What I’ve learned at Cornell,” she says, “is nothing that I’m doing now, but Cornell taught me to continue learning and reinventing oneself for the better. As we move into the future, I would hope that a volunteer can keep up with all the different volunteer opportunities—on social media, with CUeLinks. Cornell volunteer opportunities are increasing, which is just a chance to learn more and to leverage. You have to always be adding tools to your toolbox. You have to stay relevant.”
Written by Emily Hopkins, freelance writer in Ithaca, NY.