Victoria Hartman ’78 is a Vice Chair of the Administrative Board of the Cornell University Council, a council member for the Cornell University Library Advisory Council (CULAC), and the Treasurer for the Class of 1978. She graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences as a Government Major. A lifelong Cornell volunteer and donor, Victoria is a staple of the New York City Cornell community. Outside of Cornell, she impacts New York City as a board member of the City Gardens Club of New York.
What was your favorite class as a student?
One of my favorite classes was Intro to Political Theory and then Liberalism and its Critics—those are both government classes taught by Professor Isaac Kramnick. Not only was he a good lecturer but I particularly found the content very interesting.
How has Cornell impacted who you are today?
I like to think that Cornell was kind of a boot camp for the mind. It really was so hyper stimulating in terms of wanting to learn more to expand my horizons. It taught me how to multitask, as you know, there was a lot of work.
Is there a Cornell program or initiative that is near and dear to your heart?
I don’t think there’s any one [program] I love at the university, because it has so many diverse offerings. But there are a bunch of different initiatives I love. The Cornell Library has a program to get textbooks into the hands of students who can’t afford them—the library has numerous initiatives. I’ve also supported in the Expanding Horizons program at the Vet School which gives grants to students in the Vet School to study in developing countries. I think it brought back a lot of my passions for developing countries and a love of animals. It helps enrich and expand a student’s experience and really gives the opportunity for them to be ambassadors for Cornell in these countries. The College of Arts and Sciences has freshman advising seminars, which I think have helped students getting settled and I think that it’s been successful. That’s another good initiative, but they’re just so many different initiatives.
What has motivated your lifelong philanthropy?
I think that’s a good question and I don’t know how easy it is to answer. I think that it’s just in my nature, I enjoy helping people and I enjoy trying to make an impact in the community. I think that Cornell has so many opportunities where you can have an impact and Cornell then impacts the community.
Where do you see Cornell growing?
I have a high degree of confidence that Cornell will be able to meet the challenges that we’re going to be faced with. I feel strongly they’re preparing students. I know it’s a great investment, they’re preparing students to be leaders to handle these [challenges]. I think that we’re really well positioned because we’ve always been this multi-disciplinary school that has strengths across so many different disciplines.
What kind of impact do you want to have on the world?
I would like to think that I made a difference in inspiring other people to foster more understanding among Cornell’s diverse population. It’s important to bring different people together. It’s our secret sauce—how we have all different types of talents and people of disparate backgrounds coming together and contributing in different ways.
How did you start your journey as a Cornell volunteer?
I tutored students when I was in undergraduate school. I didn’t do a tremendous amount of volunteering while I was at Cornell, but it was soon after when I graduated, I very quickly signed up to be part of the Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network (CAAAN). It’s a great way to start at first. I thought they wouldn’t want me, but the person who is heading it up said, “no, we love having young alumni!”
Do you have a favorite memory from your time as a volunteer?
I don’t have any one, I have a bunch of them! [I joined CAAAN] when I moved into the city. I think I covered Queens, which is a very diverse area and I met students who were first generation applicants. It was always great to be an ambassador for the school and to interact with these kids when I volunteered. We also had an alumni network in the city that had senior dinners. I really enjoyed connecting with the students and hosting dinner. The alumni would go around the table, and we would talk about what we were doing—and people’s journeys were so fascinating. It reinforced for me that you weren’t necessarily wedded to your major. In fact, usually when you’re talking about what you’re doing you hear about people’s journeys in their careers—and what they wound up doing was fascinating. It was reinforced that we all got such a great grounding at Cornell. Particularly, I have to say in Arts and Sciences, because I strongly support liberal arts education, but it really gave people a solid grounding. It was amazing what people parlayed with that education into their careers and other volunteer work.
What inspires you to give back to Cornell through volunteering?
I just think it’s a great institution. We’re educating such bright, diverse, and talented people—and I feel as if I’m investing in the future of our country and our world. And I feel as if Cornell will be there as other institutions come and go. You’re investing in such bright, young people. I haven’t mentioned the professors, but obviously also the faculty.
Do you have a message for newly graduated alumni looking to volunteer?
I strongly support when you’re first getting involved, you can settle in with your local Cornell Regional Club, and it’s great to start staying in touch with the university. As you’re giving your time to Cornell, you’ll find that the university is giving back to you in so many ways. It’s a great way to meet people, not only for career purposes, but outside of your career. There are people you’ll meet with whom you can establish a bond. Wherever you go, you’re kind of out on your own and you’ve lost that Cornell identity, volunteering is a way of bringing that back into your life.
This interview took place verbally, and the text has been lightly modified upon transcription to clearly convey the intent.
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