Transforming the Association of Graduates Together

A letter from Mark Hille ’97 on January 4, 2022
President, Association of Graduates and Air Force Academy Foundation

What does transformation of the AOG look like? That question gets to the heart of much of the feedback shared recently in focus groups we held with Air Force Academy graduates. The eight focus groups brought rich, frank and informative discussions that are helping us plan the future of our Association of Graduates.

The focus groups revealed strong pride in the Academy and the prestige of being a USAFA graduate. Yet, many of us show our pride in different ways — some outwardly, some inwardly and others through a passion for connecting with fellow graduates. We also learned, not surprisingly, that many graduates maintain little connection, if any, with the Academy for a variety of reasons, some of them deeply personal; others stemming from career transitions. On the whole, the discussions underscored the imperative for the AOG to assess and adjust to keep up with the needs and expectations of our graduates, especially through more contemporary approaches to programming, communication and services.

The next step in this process is a survey of all graduates — our first such effort in 15 years. All USAFA graduates can expect to receive the survey in early February. Please participate. We want to hear from you.

While the forthcoming survey will be critical to informing how our AOG evolves, we are already taking steps in this new year to better serve you and support our Academy:

Expanding Membership to All Graduates: Thanks to the vision of our AOG Board of Directors and the enduring support of our more than 30,000 legacy members, the AOG has expanded membership to all graduates. Expanding membership to all graduates enhances and reenergizes opportunities to connect with and support each other, stay in touch with the Academy, and support cadets. We have set up an opt-in page for non-members to become members of the AOG at no cost to them, and efforts are under way to get the word out.

Reimagining the Graduate Experience: From reunions to the award-winning Checkpoints magazine, from networking events to career services, being an Air Force Academy graduate affords numerous benefits. Yet, we know the graduate experience needs to be reimagined. We are exploring many possibilities, and the survey results will inform our strategic priorities.

Leading this important work will be Naviere Walkewicz ’99. Naviere joined the AOG in July and has quickly made an impact through her passion for connecting with fellow graduates, her strategic thinking and her future focus. Following an initial search for the successor to our friend, Marty Marcolongo ’88, who stepped down in September as the AOG’s chief alumni officer after a distinguished 20 years with the organization, we are delighted that Naviere has accepted an expanded role. As senior vice president of alumni relations and business development, she will focus on developing a contemporary, relevant portfolio of value-add programs, experiences and offerings. Her charge will include leading graduate programs, including events, reunions, membership and career services, as well as engagement with chapters, parents and affinity groups.

In recent months, as we searched for a passionate member of the Long Blue Line who possessed the strategic and operational skills to lead our graduate engagement, we asked Corrie Grubbs to take on an interim role of expanded responsibility. Ever the selfless leader, Corrie performed magnificently in her interim capacity. With our lead graduate engagement role now filled, she has returned to directing AOG operations. Under her leadership, we are improving IT functionality, undergoing Doolittle Hall renovations and expanding the Heritage Trail – all part of the backbone of how we work to serve you. We thank Corrie for her dedication to serving our graduates.

Strengthening Academy and Community Relations: There is ample opportunity to strengthen and celebrate the Long Blue Line and better support our Academy through sustained focus on building relationships in the community and on the Hill. I am excited to announce that fellow graduate Paul Ackerman ’82 has stepped into the role of vice president of Academy and community relations. Some of you already know Paul’s name — he’s a retired fighter pilot who served as vice superintendent of the Academy from December 2006 to June 2010. He joined our Foundation, by the way of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee after retiring from the Air Force, to head up Academy partnerships.

In his expanded role, Paul will focus on Academy and community relations and on nurturing continued strong partnerships with all organizations supporting excellence at USAFA through private contributions. In addition, Paul will lead our heritage program, which is a key component of our Defining Our Future comprehensive campaign. There are few graduates more passionate about our Academy and the Air Force than Paul. I am delighted that he has agreed to take on this key role.

Before I sign off, I want to express to you what an honor it is to serve our Association of Graduates and our Foundation as president. I pledge to you that our team and I will work hard to serve you and bring value in your membership in our AOG. For us to do that, we need to hear from you. Please watch for the survey in February and take a few moments when you receive it to give us your feedback.

Your voice matters and will be taken into consideration as we plan and build for the future.

Best Wishes,

Mark Hille ’97


Mark Hille ’97
President, Association of Graduates and Air Force Academy Foundation

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