A sold-out crowd of more than 400 Cornellians who graduated in the past 10 years gathered at the Bowery Hotel in New York City March 2 for the first Duff Ball-NYC gala, the largest young alumni fundraiser in Cornell's history. Alumni Duff Ball-NYC built on the success of the undergraduate Duff Ball, Cornell's "senior prom," which takes place annually in Duffield Hall. Tickets to Alumni Duff Ball-NYC raised nearly $45,000 for the Cornell Annual Fund, designated for student and academic services.
In 2008 Jonathan Feldman '08, then member of the cabinet of the Cornell United Way Campaign, and others established the undergraduate Duff Ball, first held for graduating seniors at the beginning of Senior Week. Duff Ball had two purposes, Feldman said: "I wanted to create an annual capstone event for the Cornell United Way student campaign to raise funds and awareness while simultaneously bringing together my classmates for one last hurrah."
Now in its sixth year and more popular than ever, the undergraduate Duff Ball raises more than $20,000 a year for the United Way of Tompkins County.
A year and a half ago, Feldman approached Student and Young Alumni Programs in the Office of Alumni Affairs with the idea to create a New York City event that would give young alumni a chance to have fun and give back to the university.
"We want to make engagement as easy and accessible as possible for our often cash-conscious young alumni," said Pat Burns '09, associate director of Young Alumni Programs. "The commitment of time and resources by young alumni is essential to the future of Cornell, and this event gives them an opportunity to make a gift and have a 'ball.'"
Susan Murphy '73, Ph.D. '94, vice president for student and academic services, made brief remarks, followed by a toast and words of thanks from Robert S. Harrison '76, chair of the Cornell University Board of Trustees. Kent Hubbell '69, the Robert W. and Elizabeth C. Staley Dean of Students, and trustee Eileen McManus Walker '76, MBA '78, also mingled.
But the night belonged to young alumni like John Rhee '12, who said: "It brought back the nostalgia of Duff Ball on campus in an upscale, classy location at the Bowery Hotel that appealed to alumni, making a perfect night celebrating the continuity of the Cornell experience."
Margaux Neiderbach '99, director of Student and Young Alumni Programs, said: "Duff Ball-NYC capitalized on a student tradition and provided a phenomenal engagement opportunity for Cornell's most recent grads. We look forward to working with Jonathan Feldman and the Duff Ball-NYC Committee and hope to make this an annual event."