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2019 RSE Alumni-Junior Member Networking Forum

 Members listening to RSE Networking speaker

We did it!  On Saturday September 28th, 2020 we held the first RSE Alumni-Junior Member Networking Forum.  The Networking Forum began immediately after the RSE Fall Trustee and Society meetings at the RSE Clubhouse.

The Forum was well attended by almost 30 members alumni including:  Paul Lee ’19, James Lee ’19, Don Thoma ’83, Rich Gonyea ‘99/’03, Matt Buck ’05, Wes Lord ’72, Adam Orsi ’03, Jerry Szilagyi ’84, Dave Hall ’80, Mark Anderson ’79, Steve Nichols ’98, Nick Sosin ’11, Eric Stover ’04, Tom Keating ’75 and Junior Members: Marc Fellbaum ’19, Jake Hodgson ’20, Inwon Kang ’21, Matt Binshtock ’21, JT Swetman ’20, Marcelo Lazo ’20, Joseph Stillo ’21, Allen Bekov ’21, Will Zieman ’20, Harry Smith ’20, Brendan Donnelly ’20, Will Furst ‘19/’20, Jonathan Stadler ’20.

The Event was developed and managed by co-chairmen Jonny Koppleman ‘20 (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and James Lee ’19 (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) with the support of Don Thoma ‘83

The event was structured to give the opportunity for alumni to share their interests and career paths with the Junior Members (JMs) and other alumni.  The Forum began with a reception to allow the members to register and mingle.  Members were seated by at tables according to their graduation major.  An ice breaker exercise, a 15-point trivia contest on RSE that pitted tables against each other for the honor of leading the line at the buffet, started the organized portion of the evening. 

A brief presentation followed where Don Thoma ’83 and other alumni shared some of their experiences in networking and career development. 

The group then engaged in an exercise where Junior Members could prepare and perfect the 60-second networking pitch. The JMs practiced their pitch on the alumni.  It was great to watch the presentation get better with every interaction.

Networking continued through a wonderful buffet dinner provided by Chef Adam.  The JMs swore that they don’t eat like that every day.  Dinner was followed by a networking speed dating event where JMs had the opportunity to practice networking skills, gain career and job search advice, expand their own personal networks, and hopefully obtained leads for their job and internship searches.

Both Alumni and JMs all agreed that the event had a powerful impact on the relationships between members and highlighted the importance of maintaining these bonds between all members of RSE. RSE has over 800 living members that share a common set of experiences and values.  This network is an incredible resource for JMs and alumni alike.

Steve Nichols '98 addresses attendees

All agreed that this will be the first of many Networking Forums and we plan to hold similar events in conjunction with future Society Meetings.

For those of you who missed the event and have opportunities or experiences you would like to share with the JMs, you can find a copy of the Junior Member Resume Book on the website or by clicking here. (Need link)


Don Thoma ‘83

Opinion: How social distancing will help us find happiness

Greg Woodman is the owner of Affinity Connection, the communications company used by RSE. Greg recently published this article. We thought it might be of value to our members so we've republished it here, with Greg's concurrence.

Opinion: How social distancing will help us find happiness

by Greg Woodman

This op-ed appeared in the April 3 issue of the Centre Daily Times.

Twenty years ago, I bought a company on the premise that strong personal connections and lasting friendships lead to happiness. If you’re struggling with social distancing, I’m here to tell you that you’ll be better for it if you do one thing: stay connected to other people.

In 2000, I read Robert Putnam’s groundbreaking “Bowling Alone,” which argued that Americans had become disconnected from the people in our lives. Over 25 years of research, he found that people belonged to fewer organizations, knew fewer neighbors, met with friends less frequently, and even socialized with family less often than previous generations.

He called it loss of social capital. Social capital carries value: trust and cooperation, along with tangible health and happiness markers. In fact, Putnam said that participating in one group cuts your odds of dying in the next year in half.

Soon after reading “Bowling Alone,” I purchased a small State College company, Stewart Howe Alumni Services, which I renamed Affinity Connection. Since then, we’ve been creating communications in the form of emails, newsletters and appeals for support for organizations like State College Food Bank, Meals on Wheels, fire companies and hundreds of alumni organizations at Penn State and across the country.

These groups enjoy strong, consistent support from dedicated donors. But since COVID-19, those donors and many new ones are doubling down: giving more, getting involved as volunteers and reaching out to fellow alumni to check on their well-being.

“Social distancing has shown us how important friendship is—the strong bonds we created as fraternity brothers are coming through now that we’re so isolated,” says one alumnus. Donors are giving time and money at record levels to food banks and other relief funds for people who’ve lost their jobs.

What does this mean?

In Robert Waldinger’s TED Talk “What Makes a Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness,” he asks, “What keeps us healthy and happy as we go through life?”

A professor of psychiatry at Harvard, he is the fourth director of the longest-running study of adult life. Since 1938, the Harvard Study of Adult Development has been following a group of 724 men through work, home, family and health. At the time of his TED Talk, 60 of the participants were still alive.

Over 80-plus years, some experienced meteoric success, some epic failure. Who was happiest?

“The biggest lesson we learned is that it isn’t wealth, fame or hard work that matters. Good relationships keep us healthier and happier. Period,” Waldinger says. The healthiest 80-year-olds turned out to be the ones who were most connected in their 50s. Those with good relationships had healthier bodies and clearer minds than their counterparts.

Waldinger’s findings are more prevalent now than ever, several weeks into the COVID-19 shutdown. I am teaching Entrepreneurial Leadership to Penn State students around the world via Zoom, alone in our once-bustling office. Restaurants are empty and we’re hunkered down at home.

You’d expect that we would all feel more isolated than ever. Yet. Somehow, social distancing has cut through all that busy-ness, making more space for authentic relationships with family, friends and neighbors.

My siblings are scattered, my wife’s mother is in her retirement home and my parents are in their own home. One of my sons is quarantined in Arizona (having tested positive for COVID-19), while another is working the front lines as a doctor in Baltimore. My youngest is ending senior year of college with no cap and gown. We are far apart, yet we have never been so close. We talk daily on Zoom and group texts. I feel more connected with the people I love today than I did two months ago!

Is staying home tough? Yes. But remember, the bonds formed in adversity are not just helping us get through this time, but they are also making our future bodies healthier, our future brains sharper, our present self ... happier.

Right now, connect. Make the call, send the text, mail the card. Plan future dinners at your favorite restaurant. Give to your church, your favorite museum, the charity that’s helping kids and families. Giving back and connecting with others not only changes us, it changes the world.

Greg Woodman is an Instructor of Entrepreneurial Leadership at Penn State University and CEO of Affinity Connection. Affinity Connection, in name and mission, promotes human connectedness and purpose. The company believes that organizations are being called upon by their members to rise to the occasion of improving the world. Greg can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

COVID 19 Impact on the House and Saturday's Trustees & Society Meeting

Due to the recent public health directives concerning the COVID-19 virus and the closure of the RPI campus, the Trustees & Society Meetings will not be held in person at 1501 Sage. The Saturday (3/21/2020) Trustee meeting will be held virtually beginning at 9 AM EDT.  Anyone interested in participating should contact a Trustee prior to the start.

The Society Meeting is cancelled.

All Junior Members will have left the House as of Friday (3/20/2020) at 4:00pm, in accordance with RPI policy and the direction of the RSE Trustees. RPI is conducting the remainder of the semester using their online education tools.