Donor Spotlight: Nancy Alexander and Ricardo Henriquez Complete 8 Years of Service on the Board

Dwight Hall is most thankful to Nancy Alexander ‘79, SOM ‘84 and Ricardo Henriquez for their completion of 8 years of service on the Board of Directors. Nancy and Ricardo have made enormous contributions as Board members from July 2009 through June 2017.  Nancy and Ricardo have offered valuable perspectives as residents of the Greater New Haven area, extended knowledge of best practices in the non-profit sector, and have inspired students and staff with their passion for social change.  We asked Nancy and Ricardo to share some thoughts after fulfilling 2 terms of service on the Dwight Hall Board. 

Nancy Alexander 

Nancy is an organizational development consultant and coach who works with organizations, teams, and leaders whose focus is making a difference in the world.​  Born into a theatre and film family and a graduate of New York City public schools, Nancy earned her BA in sociology and MBA from Yale and her MA in women’s studies at Southern Connecticut State University, and was a PhD candidate in religious studies at Lancaster University, UK. She is a a member of the Golden Seeds and Bulldog Innovation angel investor groups and Gamechanger Films.

Nancy began her career in brand management, marketing, strategic planning, and new ventures with Procter and Gamble and American Express. After serving as a Bank of America vice president, she became a social innovator and eco-entrepreneur and founded one of the first green consumer product and service companies in Connecticut.

Nancy is also an angel investor and experienced, hands-on non-profit leader. As vice-chair of the board of Dwight Hall at Yale (a role held from 2011 - 2017), she co-led the creation of its new strategic plan. Former chair of the Community Fund for Women and Girls of Greater New Haven and its grants committee, she led the fund through a major expansion of its mission, resources, and impact and the transformation of its grant-making process and criteria. She also serves on the board of Long Wharf Theatre. Nancy has evaluated hundreds of grant applications for the Community Foundation of Greater New Haven, United Way, and other grantmakers. She also co-chaired a record-breaking $76 million campaign for Emma Willard School. An active Yale alumna, Nancy was a founding member of the Women Faculty Forum at Yale, a founder of YaleWomen, the organization of all Yale alumnae, and one of the first women to serve on the Yale Alumni Fund board of directors. Nancy’s work on strategic philanthropy and women’s philanthropy has been presented widely in the US and the UK.

Nancy, Peter, and John at board meeting laughing

Nancy (second from left) at a recent Dwight Hall board meeting.
What was the most meaningful part of your experience serving on the Dwight Hall board?
There were many gratifying aspects to serving, but hands down, the most meaningful was watching students evolve into leaders. Dwight Hall volunteers devote themselves to causes and contribute time and energy to filling real needs in the community; more than that, however, they think about the wider implications and impact of their work and the social problems they are aiming to solve. In addition to the work they dedicate to causes, over the past eight years Dwight Hall student leaders have increasingly demonstrated their understanding and support of the umbrella organization, Dwight Hall.
Why do you think Dwight Hall is important?
Dwight Hall is the most important bridge for Yale undergraduates to the realities and needs of the larger community. Working in Dwight Hall organizations, as a majority do, students get to understand the world in a less parochial and rarefied way and put legs under their desire to make things better. It’s a hallmark of Yalies that they care about improving the world; without Dwight Hall, the institution, however, it seems to me that their efforts would be more scattershot, less coordinated, and missing a holistic understanding of social need and social change.
Who or what inspires you to be a leader of social change?
My all-time favorite description of philanthropy says it “touches thought to spiritual issues, systematizes action, and insures success; it starts the wheels of right reason, revelation, justice, and mercy; it unselfs men and pushes on the ages.” (And it may be surprising to know this quote comes from religious leader Mary Baker Eddy.) These words perfectly capture why I engage in this work. I believe that humanity must and will progress, and especially must address the root causes and effects of inequity. 
What’s one thing you would like to tell to students who are passionate about public service? 
Throw your whole self into it - heart and body and mind.  But also be sure to take care of yourself, so you don’t burn out.
What was your favorite thing to do in New Haven and what is your favorite thing to do in New Haven now? 
As a student, I had a very dear roommate who grew up in Hamden and whose family had a small cottage in Guilford.  She would take me for rides in her little car and drive me places.  It gave me a different perspective on life in this area. Getting away, exploring, taking a break. Anytime I pass places that we went to, it brings back so many fond memories.  It felt like I had a real life in New Haven, and not just a University life. Now I love to go to Long Wharf Theater (currently on board), love offerings of International Festival of Arts and Ideas, love to pick up bread outside of Atticus and Book Trader Cafe after they close.  Once Atticus even had chocolate croissants!  A great haul.

Ricardo Henriquez

Ricardo was born in Tocopilla, a small fishing and mining town in the north of Chile. At the age of 17, he attended Universidad Católica del Norte, where he graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications. After working for six years as a political journalist, he decided to immigrate to the United States, looking for new opportunities, and a less hostile environment for LGBT people. In 2006, he went back to school where he graduated with a Master Degree in Nonprofit Management. His work as an activist, community organizer, and as a senior manager with United Way resulted in recently being recognized as one the top Latino leaders in the State of Connecticut by the Progreso Latino Fund. He is now the Director of Workforce Solutions Collaborative of Metro Hartford, which is a funders collaborative committed to developing an educated, economically self-sufficient workforce that meets employer needs, using a sector-based employer driven strategy.


Ricardo at Barnes and Noble signing his book

Ricardo at a book signing for his first novel, The Catcher’s Trap.
What was the most meaningful part of your experience serving on the Dwight Hall board?
Serving as a board member at Dwight Hall was a inspiring and educational experience. I was the first board member not connected to Yale and brought into the board as a community representative. At first this was a challenge and there were many occasions in which I felt like a fish out of water. With time I learned my voice was an important to inform the Dwight Hall decisions. The passion and the dedication of the students was what inspired me to stay on the board and be as active as I could. Witnessing the work that young adults do through the Hall; their dedication and passion is inspirational and uplifting. 
Why do you think Dwight Hall is important?
Yale is an institution where privilege is abundant. An organization dedicated to teach the important of service and social justice is pivotal to give students the opportunity to understand their responsibility with society as citizens and leaders. Dwight Hall not only give the opportunity to serve and advocate for great causes, but also educates and provide the tools that future leaders will use to make this world a better place. Yale is the cradle of many  of many Presidents and international thought leaders, Dwight Hall has the opportunity to shape the way the future leaders will see the world. 
Who or what inspires you to be a leader of social change?
My experience as an immigrant was what brought me into social justice and poverty issues. I was one of those workers, with two minimum wage jobs who did not have enough to make ends meet. I witnessed and experienced discrimination and, like many others doing the work I do, I got angry enough to decide to act. Once I started working in social change, it was the story and strength of disadvantage people what kept me pushing forward.

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