Dave Fletcher: I Used to Hate Reunions

 

Stanford GSB 1980 classmate Dave Fletcher devoted his career to small business management and real estate development.  He currently works with Project Redwood and travels with his wife, Leah, to their vacation home on the west coast of Mexico.  He loves spending time with family, which in addition to his three grown children (two daughters and a son) now includes a daughter-in-law, a son-in-law, and two granddaughters.

 

 

 

 

 

I used to hate reunions.

Hate is probably too strong, but I sure didn’t love them. Reunions were something I felt I ought to attend but I didn’t have much enthusiasm for them. I had kept up with a few classmates, but I felt I hadn’t gotten to know most as well as I could have. I didn’t know what many folks were doing. I assumed I was the only non-billionaire in the class. Reunions were not much fun and I didn’t look forward to them.

In 2005, things changed. At my class of 1980’s twenty-fifth reunion, a significant number of classmates decided that we wanted to do something together, something positive. Shortly thereafter, Project Redwood was formed. Since then, our class has given over $2 million to non-profits dedicated to alleviating poverty. Our class formed a virtual non-profit that finds, funds and assists promising non-profits that increase human capital in impoverished populations primarily through education and training.

After Project Redwood was formed, I gave some money most years but didn’t get very involved. In 2008 I had the opportunity to visit one of our grantees, HOPE worldwide, while on a family trip to India. HOPE’s sponsor, Dave Blenko set it up. My wife, son, daughters, and I visited a health clinic, school, orphanage, and a settlement for people infected with leprosy. To see the good work that was being carried with Project Redwood’s grant was extremely satisfying to say the least.

Sometime later, I got a call from classmate, Carol Head, who gently but strongly suggested that I might enjoy getting more involved with Project Redwood.  I started with the Grant Review Committee and later worked in other areas as well. This year, I am the Co-Chair along with Donna Allen.

In 2013, I travelled with Jorge Fernandez and three other GSB classmates to see the work of Compatible Technology International (CTI), Jorge’s sponsored grantee. CTI works with local water committees to install simple, effective water chlorination systems in small villages. It was a great trip to some very remote areas in Nicaragua. Due in large part to Project Redwood’s grant and Jorge’s guidance, CTI’s systems are now providing safe drinking water to over 328,000 people in Nicaragua.

I’ve learned quite a bit about the non-profit world in the time I’ve spent with Project Redwood. I’ve also learned a few other things:  not all my classmates are billionaires. Classmates’ kids are getting married, just like mine are. Those kids are producing beautiful grandchildren, just like mine are. My classmates are warm, generous, smart, and hardworking. I’m getting to know this group in a way that wasn’t possible in the two pressure filled years of the GSB.

It’s difficult to stay connected with classmates. Most of my high school and college classmates have drifted into the fog. Some sort of meaningful glue is needed to keep people together; a common task, a common goal. Not something where the goal is to catch up and get to know one another, but rather a worthwhile endeavor in which we get to work with some great people and get to know them along the way.

When I joined Project Redwood, I thought I would get a lot of satisfaction out of trying to help some people in dire conditions. That has been satisfying. What surprised me, and what keeps me enthusiastic about Project Redwood is how much fun it has been getting to re-know the people I went through such a transformative experience with many years ago.

At my last reunion, I wasn’t in a half-panic hoping I could read the name-tags of the many classmates I knew, but didn’t know now. Instead I was surrounded by friends, many of whom I had spoken with during the previous month. I loved it.

The Project Redwood concept works. The combination of providing both dollars and guidance to innovative social entrepreneurs has proved to be very effective. To top it off, partners get to work alongside great people who have a strong common bond. Up until 2015, PRW was made up with alumni from the GSB class of 1980. In 2016, members of the class of 1987 funded a project. Project Redwood now welcomes and encourages participation from all GSB alumni. The current partners have found this effort to be very rewarding and we are confident others will as well.

One Comment
  1. Ann McStay Reply

    Wonderful article, Dave–thank you! You’ve expressed beautifully what PRW means to me and to so many others.

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