After 23 years of service, Virginia “Ginny” Darakjian, the assistant dean for Alumni Relations, announced in July her plans to retire August 31. She has been the voice and friend of alumni at the medical school at Northwestern University since she began her role as director of Alumni Affairs and Annual Giving in 1990.
With a desire to better serve the medical school’s 16,000+ alumni, Darakjian tripled the size of her team, which initially began as a startup group with one employee. Together they published annual giving reports to recognize alumni donors and produced three alumni directories before establishing an online version. They also created a website for the alumni association. She expanded and elevated what began as the Alumni Council into a National Alumni Association Board with elected officers who had more responsibilities. Including student and faculty participation, Alumni Weekend was expanded, with attendance doubling to more than 600.
In 1999, she was named assistant dean for Alumni Relations. Darakjian traveled regularly to strengthen ties with alumni, and partnered with leadership to introduce five new medical school deans to graduates across the nation. During her tenure, medical alumni contributed approximately $35 million in support of their alma mater.
With an appreciation for students as future alumni, she increased the number of student events that were sponsored by the Office of Alumni Relations and began an annual program through which alumni could connect with and mentor current medical students.
On behalf of the medical school, Darakjian shared her leadership skills, serving on several University-wide committees and task forces, as a member and then chair of the Northwestern University Staff Advisory Council, and as president of the Association of Northwestern University Women. In addition, she was a frequent presenter at the Association of American Medical Colleges Group on Institutional Advancement, of which she served as vice chair.
“Although we are delighted for Ginny and her well-deserved plans to enter a new and exciting chapter in her life, we will miss her leadership and her exceptional capacity to connect with and engage so many alumni across the country,” said Alan Krensky, MD, vice dean for development and alumni relations. “We also will miss her intellect, wit, and steadfast dedication to Northwestern and our medical school.”
In Her Words
When I came to Northwestern in January of 1990, I had no idea I would leave nearly 24 years later with so many wonderful friends I’d meet over those years. The work itself has been creative and gratifying but the real pleasure has come from getting to know so many alumni and colleagues, meeting their families, helping solve problems, and bringing new ideas to fruition.
Our alumni leadership – especially Walter Doren, David Sanderson, Richard Heller, Andrew Bunta, Suzan Rayner, Walter Huurman, Bonnie Typlin, Doug Carr, James Hill, David Winchester, Bruce Scharschmidt, Mary Ann Malloy, Betty Hahneman, Sandra Olson, Melvin Gerbie, Marvin Peiken, Irwin Benuck, Finley Brown, among so many – have provided tremendous support for our programs as well as for me personally.
I’ve also had the great fortune of working with wonderful people in the Alumni Office – Laura LaSata, Beth Dwyer, Chris Staton, Arthur Hill, Olympia Asimacopoulos, Jewel Herrell, Erin Mater Hogan – as well as six deans and their entire administrative teams, especially Jonathan Lewis, Cathy May, Jeff Miller, Ellen Soo Hoo, Janet Stevens, and Michele Weber; two vice deans; and two University presidents. We’ve worked together, laughed together, and even cried together when we’ve lost dear friends like Lou Boshes, Ken Viste, Howard Traisman, Alan Yasko, Harry Miller, Paul Urnes, Cliff Raisbeck, Harry Beaty, and so many more.
Now that it’s time to say good-bye, I leave with profound gratitude for the treasured memories, dear friends, and happy knowledge that we all, together, have been a part of, and contributed to the life and success of this great institution.
To honor Darakjian’s dedicated service, Feinberg has launched the “Ginny Fund” Medical School Scholarship. Alumni, friends, and colleagues are encouraged to support this effort to attain a tuition-free medical school.