Since 2010, Gail (Koechling) Cordy ’82 has made it a priority to return to campus regularly – to see old friends, make new ones and check on the growth of the university. She’s a fixture at major events such as PALS, Homecoming, Fellows Day and many others.
Traveling west on State Route 18 and nearing Tiffin, she starts to get all the feels. “I see the sign that says Tiffin, and then the sign that says Heidelberg, and it feels like coming home,” says Gail, a retired elementary school teacher from Elyria. “It’s my happy place.”
When she retired in 2012 after 30 years teaching in the same Elyria school district, Gail decided it was time for a new adventure. And she decided to make Heidelberg part of it. Since then, she’s found herself on that familiar drive to campus many times, and she’s found ways to give back to the university that means so much to her.
“My 17-year-old self came here with tremendous trepidation. I had no idea what I was getting myself into,” Gail recalls. After a semester as a theatre major, she switched to elementary education as a better career path. While she had always kept Heidelberg close to her heart, work and family life prevented her from coming to campus much in the years after graduation.
But in 2016, a call from Ashley Helmstetter, executive director of Alumni Engagement and Major Gifts changed her level of involvement. Someone had nominated Gail to become a member of the Alumni Council.
Perhaps with somewhat less trepidation, she said “Absolutely!”
“I was fortunate that I was at a place in my life where I now had time,” Gail says. “I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, but it was a way to be more involved at Heidelberg and possibly give something back.”
Just starting her third year on the council, Gail has found herself in the midst of “a lot of very dedicated, very accomplished people. Each of them knows different people and is connected to different networks.”
It’s a wonderful organization, she says, and an ideal platform to give back. With the council, “the sky’s the limit with all of the expertise and talent we have now.”
As part of her engagement with Heidelberg, Gail also has stepped up to assist with the HYPE Career Ready® Program – one of the council’s identified priorities. In November, she will assist Ashley in presenting a workshop for students on the importance and how-to’s of networking. It’ll be her second HYPE session.
One of the unwritten goals of the Alumni Council is that members are great ambassadors for the school. Heidelberg couldn’t ask for anyone better than Gail.
“When I come back to campus, I get that sense of welcome. The more you feel that, the more you want to call your friends and classmates and say, ‘You gotta come back!’”
Gail also supplements her ‘Berg philanthropy by supporting the Fellows Organization. “It’s fun to write that check and know that even a little piece is influencing the life of a student.”
Being on campus – meeting today’s students and reconnecting with people from the past – is a source of great joy. “Heidelberg really is a special place,” she says. “It’s fun to watch a place you love grow and flourish, and fulfilling to be here to watch young people thrive and to feel like you matter.”