Class Year


Why I Give

The Alumni Leadership Circle is a group of outstanding alumni who choose to donate to COA $500 or more per year. Leslie Jones ’91, a consistent member of the ALC, shares her story:

When did you start giving back to COA? Why?

I used to think that giving financially was something you only started thinking about later in life. I’m so glad that mentors — younger and older — taught me that giving at all stages of your life is meaningful. The amounts you can give may change over time, but the power of giving, and the benefits, are there always. 

What field were you interested in when you attended COA?

What was I not interested in?!  Well, I could never get super excited about math, but I blame that on an ill-suited highschool geometry teacher. I dabbled in architecture and landscape design, land use planning, lots of policy and pre-law with Ken Cline, economics with John Buell. I even spent a semester doing Whales-on-Wheels presentations at island schools.

What field did you end up working in? 

I followed the path of pre-law and went to Vermont Law School, which has the #1 environmental law program in the country. I practiced for several years, then merged into a General Counsel role at The Wilderness Society. I recently left the Obama Administration as Deputy Under Secretary for the Forest Service at USDA where I focused on forestry and agriculture policy including leading the teams on five new National Monument designations.

How did your experiences at COA affect the work you did after COA?

COA is full of people who are committed to influencing their world. If you are part of COA you are not content to just ride through life; you want to shape, influence, and encourage. COA helps direct and refine that passion and desire by exposure to critical thinking and by challenging you to be practical on the one hand and visionary on the other hand. Sure, there is a lot of idealism at COA, but with the focus on internships, senior projects, and opportunities to get out into “the real world,” that idealism manifests not as naiveté but as grounded, ambitious experience. 

Why do you continue to give to COA every year?

I give to stay connected. I give to express my appreciation. I give to signal my belief that COA is on the right course. I give to lead in hope that others will follow. I give because COA is part of my family and part of my life experience and these days community—of all kinds—is more important than ever.