Donna Spinella ’78, MBA ’86
On behalf of the Johnson Club of Rochester, Donna Spinella ’78, MBA ’86, receives the Henry P. Renard ’54, MBA ’55 Regional Club of The Year Award
Among the smallest of Johnson’s regional alumni clubs, the Johnson Club of Rochester is, in the words of its president, Donna Spinella ’78, MBA ’86, “the little engine that could.” Under her leadership, club members have made a huge effort not only to engage Johnson and Cornell alumni in their region, but also to engage the broader business community and strengthen Johnson’s brand, providing more opportunities for alumni to network with the community. The recipient of this year's Henry P. Renard ’54, MBA ’55 Regional Club of the Year Award, the Club of Rochester owes its success to the dedication of its leadership, both past and present, and its active, engaged members.
According to Spinella, it is this dedication that has “maintained an outreach and activity level for this club in spite of our having a relatively low number of Johnson grads in the area, compared to New York City or Boston. We thrive on consistency, like always having certain events every year for our alumni to count on, but then [adding] a couple of other types of events to keep things interesting,” she says.
Spinella, who is co-founder of AlpenVista, Inc., explains that at the Club of Rochester, they like to get creative while planning events and are particularly proud of a green energy panel discussion they held a few years ago.
“We were able to get three upstate thought-leaders in different aspects of this field — wind, hydrogen fuel cells, and chemical nanotechnology — and have a Johnson faculty member, Mark Milstein [director of the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise], chair the discussion,” Spinella says. “We opened the event to the Rochester business community in addition to all the Cornell graduates and had 150 attendees.”
Given the club’s modest size, Spinella believes that the best way to achieve membership growth and success is to host programming that cuts across a wide spectrum of interests to attract a sizable audience of Cornellians, not just Johnson graduates.
“We hit that mark nicely this [past] fall by hosting Professor Bruce Ganem, who has a joint appointment at Johnson and in Cornell’s chemistry department,” Spinella says. “He gave a marvelous, very engaging talk about scientific business startups. We filled every available seat and no one wanted to leave.”
This is the kind of event the club will be aiming for in the upcoming months, Spinella explains: alternating between faculty members and local business leaders as featured speakers. Although she says she’s realistic about limitations, Spinella is very proud of her club and is optimistic about the future of the small but strong organization she currently heads.
Receiving the Henry P. Renard ’54, MBA ’55 Regional Club of the Year award is exciting for Spinella not only because her club is being honored, but also because of the name that the award bears.
“First, of course, I’m honored to accept this award on behalf of all the board members of this club, and we appreciate that our quiet hard work over many years has been recognized. [But] this award is also quite meaningful to me in a more personal way,” Spinella adds, “in that I have known Henry Renard for many years. He cares deeply about the institution and has worked both creatively and consistently over many years to help it along. His dedication to programs like the Club of the Year award shows us all that he understands the needs and interests of the entire range of the Johnson community.”
Maria Minsker ’13 is an intern in Marketing and Communications at Johnson.