Hope (Porta) and Jeff Sweeney
1989 BA in Education (Jeff)
1993 BA in Psychology and English and 1997 MA in Counseling (Hope)
Theirs is the classic Heidelberg love story: Excelsior guy meets Philalethean girl at a Greek party, makes her lunch the next day – “he’s an amazing cook, always has been” -- and 28 years later, they are still inseparable.
“I found the love of my life at Heidelberg,” says Jeff Sweeney, who married Hope Porta, ’93 &’97 MAC, the same year she graduated with her undergrad degree. Because they had such great experiences at Heidelberg, they were thrilled when both of their sons chose Heidelberg as well.
What’s even more rewarding is that Paul, a junior, and Will, a sophomore, are having the same great experiences their parents had. That has motivated Hope and Jeff to find ways to give back to Heidelberg.
The Sweeneys are active volunteers in support of their alma mater. For the past 27 years, Jeff has organized the annual Excelsior golf outing. “A lot of guys have made connections over generations through the golf outing. That’s been amazing,” Jeff says. For years, Hope stayed behind. But then, she realized what she was missing by not visiting campus, and thought she might be able to contribute as a mentor to Philalethean students. The couple started returning for Alumni Weekends, where they encountered alumnus and volunteer John Metz, who persuaded them to get involved on a larger scale.
Their involvement, rooted in their strong commitment to Greek life, has taken flight. A year ago, Jeff and Hope stepped forward to lead the Southwest Ohio Alumni Chapter, and they don’t plan to stop there. So far, they’ve spearheaded the Summer Send-off event for first-year students and their families and a highly successful alumni gathering in their region.
“Once we jumped back in, we’ve learned more and more,” Hope says. “We’re still trying to get a feel for the chapter. We’re open to ideas (for chapter events and activities).”
Their goals for the Southwest Alumni Chapter are two-fold. “We want to connect more Heidelberg people,” Jeff says. “Heidelberg may be a small college but there’s a vast network of people who know each other. And we want to rally the love for Heidelberg."
With their leadership, the Southwest Alumni Chapter will continue to thrive. “We want to get people to reach out, to send their siblings, children and grandchildren to Heidelberg,” Jeff says.
As Jeff continues to organize the Excelsior golf outing, Hope plans to spearhead support for the France Hall restoration/renovation project and its women’s leadership initiative with her Philalethean sisters. “When I heard about it, a light just went off. I thought, ‘We have got to be a part of this.’ the Phis want to take an active role in fund-raising for the France campaign and also find ways to support the HYPE Career Ready Program as a way to empower women students. “That’s a real passion of mine. It’s just a joy to see people succeed.”
- In a few words, how would you describe your first campus visit with older son Paul?
Hope: Shocking. He was not intending to go to Heidelberg because Mom & Dad went there.
Jeff: A joyful and proud moment.
- And with Will, how was it different?
Hope: Not surprising. He already had his ideas narrowed down.
Jeff: Sign him up! He loved it.
- What’s it like being back on campus as ‘Berg parents?
Hope: Rewarding. I love seeing how Heidelberg has changed – but it’s still Heidelberg.
Jeff: The same and different. When Will moved into King, it was like going back 30 years. But it’s beautiful to see the campus as an alum.
- What’s the best reason to visit campus now?
Hope: Seeing the boys and feeling like it’s my home, too.
Jeff: Seeing other alums and our kids, as well as people in town who we know.
- How many miles have you put on your car driving back and forth from Cincinnati to Tiffin in the past three years?
Jeff: Probably 10,000.
- Who was your favorite professor?
Hope: Mr. A (Jim Austin) and Dr. Susan Reed (both deceased).
Jeff: Mel Casler, John Bing and Pam Faber.
- What was your most impactful ’Berg experience as a student?
Hope: The silent march in response to some racial issues that had occurred on campus.
Jeff: Joining Greek life.
- Big, public school or small, private school?
Hope: Small private.
Jeff: Small private – definitely!
- Advice to parents considering Heidelberg for their child?
Hope: Don’t underestimate the small school.
Jeff: If you want your child to have a lifelong bond, you should send them to Heidelberg. A family comes with your diploma.
- Advice to parents of students whose kids have already enrolled for next year?
Hope: Welcome to the family! Avoid being the helicopter (or even bulldozer) parent and let your students make their own decisions once on campus. Encourage them to find a piece of the Berg to claim as their own.
Jeff: Let your kids do their thing.