Campus & Community

Harnessing the strength of the alumni community

3 min read

Outgoing HAA president Paul Choi and his successor, Martin Grasso, share a commitment to engagement

Bienvenue. Willkommen. Fáilte.

In any language, Paul L. Choi ’86, J.D. ’89 has enjoyed a warm Harvard welcome wherever he has met fellow alumni during his tenure as president of the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA). As he closes out his term, Choi says the best part of the job has been the opportunity to meet and interact with so many alumni — around campus and across the globe.

“It’s been an incredible privilege — and loads of fun,” he said. “I love that there is so much enthusiasm, even thousands of miles away from Cambridge. We have this shared bond as people who are truly appreciative of the education we got and who want to support the University and meet one another.

Harnessing the strength of the alumni community across the Schools and across geography and generations has been a point of emphasis, as well as a point of pride, for the HAA Board of Directors under Choi’s leadership. Incoming president Martin J. “Marty” Grasso Jr. ’78 hopes to build on that momentum during his year in office, pledging to “always be alert to new ideas that meaningfully promote engagement throughout the alumni community.”

“Paul and the immediate past HAA presidents have been excellent mentors for me through their exemplary service and candid advice,” said Grasso, who has served on the HAA Board’s Executive Committee since 2013, including the past year as first vice president. “I am certain that my tenure as president of the HAA will always be at the top of my list of unique and fulfilling lifetime experiences.”

Grasso plans to expand the HAA’s conversations around engagement, exploring the idea that alumni engagement is not only good for Harvard but can also improve the quality of life of alumni.

“This premise is especially important at this time when advances in technology and life sciences have the potential to significantly lengthen the long end of the actuarial curve,” said Grasso, noting ongoing studies of health and happiness by Harvard researchers who are examining how positive social experiences, such as close personal relationships and a sense of connection to community, may enhance one’s emotional and physical well-being. “I plan to engage the HAA Board and the greater alumni community in a yearlong discussion about these issues through programs that feature faculty and students focusing on these disciplines at Harvard.”

As Choi prepares to hand over the reins to Grasso, he offered the same advice that he received from his predecessors: “The year goes by very quickly. Enjoy it. Make the most of a very short 12 months.”