Rekindling friendships through volunteering: Pioneer alumni organize Crown’s 50th

Pictured from left to right: Susan Nerton, Lisa Rose, and Jim Lapsley (photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

For pioneer alumni Lisa Rose, Jim Lapsley, and Susan Nerton their love for UC Santa Cruz grew stronger after graduating from the university. 

The trio were a part of the first cohorts of students at UCSC, Lapsley and Nerton graduated in 1971 and Rose in 1972. Now five decades later, the self-named “Gang of Three” have spent countless hours planning events and raising funds for Crown College, becoming some of the most active members of  the UCSC alumni community. 

Through volunteering their time and talents with Crown College, the trio not only found a cause to give back to, but also developed a deep friendship with one another that will last them a lifetime. 

“It sounds so trivial, but it’s fun,” Nerton says. “And once you have fun one time you just want to continue to see your friends. It's really great working with people that you thoroughly trust. We can work together and there's mutual trust and respect.”  

The pioneer classes of UCSC were significantly smaller than the almost 20,000 students that attend the university today, leaving students with a strong, close-knit sense of community with each other and with the campus. Although Lapsley, Nerton and Rose weren’t close friends when they attended the university as students, they knew of each other as fellow students.

It wasn’t until 2017 during the 50th celebration of Crown College’s opening that the trio worked together for the first time. They found themselves among a group of alumni wanting to modernize the Crown Library as a study space for students, and worked together to raise over $75,000. After this celebration, this group has continued to work together to support Crown students as part of Crown Provost’s Advising Committee (CPAC).

I never saw it coming,” Rose says. “I didn't sign up for it at all. We have this joke that if you had asked people 50 years ago, ‘who do you think's gonna plan your 50th reunion?’ It wouldn’t have been us.”

Rose found herself roped into the role of an alumni volunteer much earlier than Lapsley and Nerton. In 2002, the year of Rose’s 30th reunion, she was contacted by a Crown College staffer looking for photographs of her college years. Rose had worked extensively with film photography while attending UCSC, and frequented the dark room that once resided in the basement of the Harvey House. 

She contacted fellow student photographers and found herself sifting through several hundred photos from her college years. “Thus began my volunteer career as a custodian of an unofficial photographic record of six early years at Crown College,” Rose says.

Their main goals are to support current students, bolster alumni engagement, and elevate the campus they once walked as students themselves. 

“Things have changed, everything's very crowded, and the college system that we knew has gone away,” Lapsley says. “And at first, we were wanting to bring it back, but we realized we couldn’t because the conditions aren't the same. What we can do is help Manel with some discretionary funds to help create a supportive community that can help students succeed.”

These funds have allowed Crown to enhance academic advising and Core, to help our students adjust to the disruptions caused by the pandemic, and to launch two new service-learning programs in the areas of entrepreneurship and applied ethics. 

Crown College’s 50th reunion for the classes of ‘68, ‘69, ‘70, ‘71, and ‘72 is the first of its kind. The trio hopes that in bringing the pioneer classes together they can inspire more alumni to rekindle their relationships with each other, their campus, and their community. 

“One thing that I hope will result from the upcoming reunion is that not only will old friendships be rekindled, but that new friendships will be made—much as what has taken place between Su, Lisa and me,” Lapsley says.

They’re hopeful that this year’s Crown College 50th reunion will set the foundation for reunions of its kind in the future. 

The “Gang of Three” is working to plan events familiar to pioneer alumni including folk dancingan event that once took place every Friday at the Fieldhouse. Other events include guided bus tours of the UCSC campus, a Crown 50th reunion dinner, an Alumni brunch at the provost’s house, and more. The 50th reunion will be held from April 21-24 as part of Alumni Week

Lisa Rose, Jim Lapsley, and Su Nerton are just three of several alumni volunteers working together to plan Crown College’s 50th reunion. Marilyn Shea-Stonum, Henry Chu, Roger Peters, Bill Allayaud, and Jennifer D comprise a core group of alumni planners and volunteers. 

If you are inspired by the Gang of Three’s support of students, Crown College, and the campus, visit UCSC’s Giving page to discover ways you can get involved.