Laura Fratt ’81 is a longtime Cornell volunteer in Westchester County. Graduating from the College of Arts and Sciences with a major in Romance Studies, Laura has had incredible impact on the Cornell community ever since. She currently serves as a chair for Cornell Alumni Ambassador Network (CAAAN), Council Member for the Class of 1981, Co-President of Cornell Alumni Association of Westchester (CAAW), and as a Cornell University Council Member. In 2020, Laura was a recipient for the Frank H.T. Rhodes Exemplary Alumni Service Award—an award that recognizes alumni who have demonstrated extraordinary service to Cornell through long-term volunteer activity.
How did you start your journey as a Cornell volunteer?
I have always been aware of Cornell volunteering and the strength of Cornell alumni connections. Growing up in the SF Bay area in the ’70s, I was keenly aware of Cornell. My dad, Poe Fratt ’53, was among the few Cornellians on the west coast at the time and my family would always attend Cornell events. These events were where I was first introduced to dedicated Cornell volunteers who always seemed to be having fun and reminiscing about their alma mater. After finishing business school, I joined the SF Board and helped to organize events in Silicon Valley in the late ’80’s. The most memorable was a chocolate tasting that was really well received. After relocating to NY and Westchester County, I was wearing a Cornell sweatshirt when a fellow alum asked if I was interested in coming to a Cornell speaker event. I eventually became the faculty speaker chair and took on more leadership roles in the Cornell Alumni Association of Westchester and now serve as co-president with Jim Irish ’74.
You were a recipient the Frank H.T. Rhodes Exemplary Alumni Service Award in 2020. What does it mean to you to have received it?
I am humbled and honored to have been recognized as a recipient of the Frank H. T. Rhodes Exemplary Alumni Service Award. It is an honor to be included and mentioned among the distinguished prior honorees.
Is there a Cornell program or initiative that is near and dear to your heart?
I love volunteering with CAAAN—both meeting with prospective students since they are the future of Cornell and organizing student sendoffs. I cherish sharing my knowledge of Cornell and am always excited when students are accepted and choose to go to Cornell and begin their own Cornell journey.
What has been your favorite volunteer moment?
Serving on the Committee for Alumni Trustee Nominations, I was awed at the talent and experience of those Cornellians nominated by fellow Cornellians to be considered for alumni elected trustee. The breadth and depth of their Cornell volunteer experience and commitment to making Cornell even better is amazing. We can all take pride in being part of the Cornell family.
How has Cornell impacted who you are today?
One of the greatest joys I have gained from volunteering for Cornell is the lifelong friends I have made along the way. We are all part of the Cornell family and share that common bond of having gone to Cornell. I have learned so much from my fellow volunteers, who span generations.
What has motivated your lifelong philanthropy?
My father was a role model, always reminding me that I am fortunate to have been given the opportunity to go to Cornell, but with that opportunity came a responsibility to give back to others.
Do you have a favorite class or extracurricular from your time at Cornell?
While at Cornell, I studied Chinese in the FALCON (Full-year Asian Language Concentration) program. It was a year program of intensive language training. I was very close to my professors and fellow students. I continued to pursue studying Chinese and learning about the Chinese culture and traditions in Taiwan.
Do you have a message for newly graduated alumni looking to volunteer?
It is a bit of a cliché, but you gain so much more than you give when volunteering. I would encourage you to get involved in a Cornell alumni organization, your class, or CAAAN. These are all great ways to meet fellow Cornellians and start your Cornell volunteer career.
If you’re interested in learning more about volunteering or giving at Cornell, please fill out this short form and a member of the Northeast Corridor Team will reach out to you.