I view my role within Wharton External Affairs as a bit of a personal concierge, helping alumni navigate the vast resources available to them. Wharton was a great two-year experience for me as a student, but the personal and professional satisfaction I have gained through my interaction with the School and its alumni after graduation is what really has made a difference in my life. In my new role for Wharton, I want to help other alumni realize the power of the Wharton community.
The benefits of the network don’t magically appear by going about your daily routine, but those alumni savvy enough to think about tapping into the network in creative ways soon discover how 91,000 potential new friends can really improve your quality of life.
In this blog I hope to feature some of the incredible alumni I meet throughout the world, giving examples of the diversity and quality of our community. The toughest part of my job will be choosing which alumni to select. Not a day goes by when I am not astounded on multiple occasions by the individuals I meet. Every alumnus has an amazing story to tell and incredible knowledge to offer us.
On occasion, I am fortunate enough to hear these stories as an invited guest in an alumnus’ home. Gael de Pontebriand, WG’74, welcomed me into his quintessential Paris flat during our meeting this winter. While Gael has been active on and off with the Wharton community in France, most of his Wharton outreach has been with alumni based globally. He often attends the Global Alumni Forums, and most recently I had the chance to see him again and meet his lovely wife Evelyne (more on her later) at the Global Alumni Forum in Milan.
After Wharton, Gael joined an American bank and worked in the United States, Germany and France. He then joined PWC and was a financial services consultant for 20 years. He retired more than four years ago and now is a student (of philosophy and theology) and a teacher (as an independent member of corporate boards and by delivering lectures at PWC on corporate governance). Given his vast experience, he welcomes the opportunity to help younger alumni in all industries, particularly outside of France.
He has long hosted annual events at his country house, inviting his Wharton friends from around the world. These weekends are a great example of Wharton alumni getting together to share common interests. In addition to fine food and wine, they have visited local businesses to combine business insight with pleasure.
Gael has taken his generosity one step further this year: he and his wife will open up their Loire Valley estate to a Wharton alumni group. Working with the Wharton Club of Paris, he is creating a once-in-a-lifetime experience where we will have the chance to participate in the wine harvest (“I Love Lucy” foot-stamping included), bottle the juice and taste Evelyne de Pontbriand’s library wines. We will also have a dinner at Une Île, a Michelin-star-winning restaurant, with Loire wines and food pairing presented by the Chef Gerard Bossé. Sunday morning, alumni may visit the 14th century tapestries at Angers Castle, take a boat trip on the Loire or tour the area by bike. (Wharton alumni may register at www.whartonparis.com.)
Gael is passionate about arts and culture and mentoring the next generation, so I would advise alumni visiting Paris who have a keen interest in these subjects to connect.