PBHA Honors Alumni in Service

Phillips Brooks House Association celebrated its second annual alumni weekend with panels, meetings, a bike auction, and a dinner to present its Outstanding Supporter and Outstanding Alumnus awards.

The weekend was a continuation of Sustainability Week and marked a reorganization of the PBHA Alumni Association (PBHA-A) with events on service and networking.

According to PBHA-A leaders, the association has a new structure intended to focus on bringing alums back to campus to provide current undergraduates with networking opportunities.

Grace C. Hou ’06, secretary of PBHA-A, said the weekend emphasized the goals of the alumni organization to promote professional networking and public service and public interest opportunities, especially in light of the current economic crisis.

“We want to help students pursue what [the Office of Career Services] calls alternative careers,” Hou said.

PBHA alumni discussed this kind of work in public service in a panel on Saturday afternoon. All the panelists described following unexpected paths that began at PBHA.

Toby N. Romer ’94, for example, is now the headmaster of Brighton High School, where he worked as an after-school tutor his freshman year.

Many panelists warned that they were wary of a Harvard degree when screening applicants. Romer said he worried about a lack of ability to connect theory and practice.

“I look for people with an ability to function in imperfect situations,” he said.

Sarah M. Link ’01 spoke of the necessity to maintain optimism in a job where salaries are small and thank-yous are rare.

The afternoon also included a panel on environmental justice and a bike auction that raised $3,200, according to Susan C. Collings, PBHA’s director of development.

PBHA-A’s Saturday night award dinner in the Taubman Building honored Los Angeles Times columnist Rosa E. Brooks ’91 as The Outstanding Alumna. Brooks said she felt at home at PBHA and spoke of the opportunity presented to current activist students.

“This is one of those rare chances when you won’t get stomped on, and you will actually get listened to because all the grown-ups said ‘whoops,’” she said.

The Reverend Peter J. Gomes was honored on behalf of the Memorial Church grants committee, which has repeatedly decided to support PBHA financially. Gomes expressed his enthusiasm for what he called “the best course at Harvard” and discussed his role at PBHA since 1974.

“A good thing cannot be killed, spoilt or ruined,” he said. “The best that is in Brooks House will always flourish and redeem Harvard in the long term.”