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Arlene Holtzman is director of leadership gifts at Emma Willard School and an alumna from the Class of 1981! Previously, Arlene worked as a lawyer, built her own business helping women understand finance, and spent time in other nonprofit fundraising roles before returning to Emma in 2018. We asked Arlene four questions about her role at Emma Willard.

#1—What brought you to Emma Willard School (as a student and then returning as an adult in Advancement)?

I’m from Michigan, and I went to a private school there but I was in a rut. I really wanted to go to boarding school—I thought everyone wanted to go away to school, they just didn’t get to! I knew I wanted to go away, but I also had a teacher who had previously taught at Emma Willard and I loved the way she talked about her students. It was with this combination of love and respect and I thought: I really want to see that place. 

The minute I came to campus, I knew it was the place. I distinctly remember my tour with Hilary Norman ’81. She had cute little pigtails, and she was very sweet and kind of preppy! And everywhere we went on campus, people were saying, “Hey Hilary, hi!” Everybody was so friendly, and really spoke to everyone. I wanted to be around that. I felt it when I first came to visit. 

Many years later I joined the Alumnae Association Council and met Ann Dejnozka [head of advancement at Emma Willard], and she asked if I would ever consider working at Emma Willard and I said, “Would you consider having somebody work remotely?” It has worked beautifully! 


#2—What is a typical day-in-the-life at Emma like for you, whether on campus or off?

Well, I have no typical day, which is something I love! Every day is different, and I decide each day if I am going to be working on emails and sitting at the desk or be on the phone all day. To me, it’s really important to get to decide and choose. 

I come to campus about one week a month, and visits are focused on different things. Sometimes I meet with certain faculty who are working on a new program. Today I’m about to meet with someone in Admissions; it's about making connections on campus and learning what people are working on, how to help make things happen.


#3—What is one thing about working on the Advancement team at Emma that would surprise people?

The truth is, there is no one style or way to do fundraising. It tends to be very creative and individual, and it’s important to accept that. When I started out I thought there was one right way to do it all, and I kept asking for a manual or asking people how they do it!

But people in this field are so generous. I have called up colleagues I only met for five minutes at a professional association meeting who will then spend an hour on the phone with me. There is such collegiality in fundraising. We’re not competing against each other as institutions—there is a lot of ‘let’s raise the boat together.’ We really do help each other.


#4—What is your favorite space, place, or tradition on the Emma campus?

I guess it would be Revels.

Even though I didn’t get Revels when I was here. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. When I first came back, people would ask me my role and I couldn’t really remember. I wore a dress and we did a dance. I went to the archives and found the 1980 program, and there I was: my role was servant girl.

When I saw Revels again as an alumna, years later back at Emma, the servants came out at the beginning with the garlands and it was amazing! Iit was the same dress—40 years later—the same dance! I loved it! I time traveled and it all came back. I remembered a lot of the feelings of trying the dress on and getting it sewn to fit, and that memory of when you first come in through the doors and the whole place shakes! I had the full circle moment. 

Black and white photo of people in renaissance style costumes on stage.



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