By Jake Strickler, Co-Editor
The Thunderbird Independent Alumni Association recently announced that a selection had been made in their search for a new permanent Executive Director. The highly qualified individual who made the cut: Lenora Peppers Greene of the Class of 2002.
Lenora calls Austin, Texas home, and, in true T-Bird fashion, grew up moving all around the globe in a military family. She gained a wealth of international work experience in a broad range of fields, all before coming to Thunderbird. But I’ll let her tell you about that.
I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Peppers Greene (she’s Thunder-married to fellow alum Ron Greene, ’03, and they have two Thunder-kids) at the 70th Anniversary celebration a couple of weeks back, and she was kind enough to answer some questions for the readers of Das Tor about her time at the school, what current students should be spending time doing, and old movies.
Let’s start from the beginning. What did the path that brought you to Thunderbird look like? We all have our own story regarding how and why we ended up at this little place in the desert; what’s yours?
Before Thunderbird, I was in media and investor relations at a New York public relations firm, managed volunteers for the Boy Scouts of America, created corporate language training programs for Berlitz International in the Czech Republic, and taught in Japan, Germany and Alabama. I was in my 30s when I became a T-bird.
Prior to all of this, however, it was in a library on an Army housing post in Heidelberg, West Germany circa 1986, where I learned about Thunderbird. Many say they met Thunderbird through a friend or colleague. I met Thunderbird in a book. A book that changed my life.
What were the best and worst experiences you had while you were a student here?
The worst experience…having to dodge security when I’d bring my Hungarian sheepdog, Molly, onto campus. Those were the days!
The best experiences were working with the people – the students, the faculty, the staff, and most importantly, the alumni. And, of course, spending time at the old Pub with friends and my now husband.
Were you involved with any clubs during your time here?
I loved being involved with the Foundations Team. I was also involved in bringing the Graduate Women in Business to campus (changed to NWMBA) with another group of fantastic women. It was through these two groups that I got the opportunity to interact outside the classroom – and with alumni.
What has your career looked like since leaving Thunderbird?
Going into Thunderbird, my goal was to own a business. I received the entrepreneur scholarship and internship, and upon graduation, I started Kick-Start Marketing (KSM). At KSM, a strategic marketing firm focused on small and mid-sized businesses, we positioned our clients strategically for growth, sale or investment. I have thankfully worked with many T-birds over the years.
While at school, I also connected with a T-bird alumna mentor who helped me get on my first Board after graduating from Thunderbird, which led to wonderful new relationships. I also reached out to and met with numerous alumni who pointed me to new clients.
Our alumni have always been a key component of my success and the reason why I am now at TIAA – our alumni.
How did your involvement with TIAA begin, and what made you decide to pursue the Executive Directorship?
The alumni! I got involved because I wanted to help and I want to always know that my children will have Thunderbird as an option.
How do you see TIAA evolving under your leadership? In particular, will there be an increased role that current students can play?
TIAA is dedicated to serving our fellow alumni and future alumni – you, the students! We will continue our trajectory addressing high-quality professional development (conferences), personal growth (monthly webinars), and policy issues (i.e. FATCA and NAFTA), in addition to serving the needs of our fellow alums as a stand-alone organization. My goal is to serve my fellow alumni through TIAA Membership and thereby serve the school with increased brand awareness and an even stronger professional alumni network.
Indeed, current students need to, first and foremost, join. (Ed. Does this sound familiar? I’ll remind you, it’s free until graduation! You can sign up right here.) We have amazing alums all over the world willing to help both current students and fellow alumni. All it takes is a simple email asking if they have time for a quick chat or even if you can take them to coffee.
What’s the best piece of advice that you can give to all of us here about preparing to leave the nest? What are items that we should be expending more energy on? Less energy?
Spend your time connecting with alumni. I’m happy to offer tips on how I did that – maybe that could be a webinar!
Life’s not all about career trajectories, so can you tell us what some of your personal passions and hobbies are? What do you do for fun?
I’m a mom of two bi-lingual Thunder-kids, Grant (9) and Gideon (6). This means, in our free time, we are usually at a football game, baseball game (I “coach” the 5-6 year olds!), Scouts, air shows, making jam, skiing, or traveling. We love road trips. And, we recently started on the Star Wars journey.
I discerned from an offhand comment that you made at the 70th Anniversary Gala that you’re a fan of Jimmy Stewart movies (an appropriate topic due to his early involvement with Thunderbird Field and Southwest Airlines). I’ve never met another person who loves Jimmy Stewart as much as I do, so what are your favorite movies of his? Mine is a constant fight between You Can’t Take It With You and It’s a Wonderful Life (OK, maybe Bell, Book, and Candle and Rear Window sneak in there too).
Indeed! I was impressed with him as an actor and a person. Like you, Jake, my favorites are difficult to choose, but if I get a chance to re-watch one of his movies, I’ll always choose Rear Window, Shop Around the Corner, or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. It’s time for a movie night!
Any closing words for our readers?
Yes, I do hope every student will join TIAA. (Ed. Just click those little blue words up there!) Student membership is complementary and allows those proactive students to meet fantastic alumni. I’ll give you an example. Last year, a student took a chance to come to the TIAA in Houston Energy Panel in January. She registered, paid her way and showed up. She walked away with offers to explore internships. She took a risk and it paid off. It may not be the same avenue for every student, but those who connect with our alumni increase the chance of maximizing the value of their Thunderbird degree.
TIAA is going great places with our amazing alumni members and Board. We have planned exciting initiatives, events and conferences, so the future is very promising. I personally invite each of you to join! I hope you will. We look forward to for your registrations!