Lolita Jackson, C’89, currently resides in New York City where she works as Director of External Affairs for Sandy Recovery. In 2007 Jackson was awarded the Alumni Award of Merit, Penn’s highest honor for alumni. As chair of her 25th reunion this May, Lolita would like to invite all back to campus, and would like to highlight the Gospel Choir performance on Sunday, May 18, where she will perform along with her fellow classmates.
What attracted you to Penn?
I loved the fact that Penn was very good academically, but was also located in a city while also having a vibrant campus life. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Penn and many of my closest friends are from that time of my life.
What are some of your fondest memories from your time at Penn?
Singing at Spring Fling in front of several thousand people, representing Penn on Wheel of Fortune College Week in 1988, and being at the game when we won the Ivy League Championship in football my senior year, with people storming the field and carrying the goalposts to the Schyulkill River
What do you do now and how did Penn prepare you for your career/post collegiate life?
I work in New York City government as Director of External Affairs for Sandy Recovery. Penn thoroughly prepared me for my work in government, because being in the Engineering School taught me how to problem solve and to think―particularly, how to take complex concepts and break them down so people can understand them. My entire career has basically been that: taking things that are hard to understand and making them digestible. I had a very similar role during my 14 years in finance.
What are you doing to prepare for your 25th reunion?
I am the Reunion Chair of my 25th reunion, so I am overseeing the committee to ensure that we have a fantastic weekend planned! We have two evening parties, the showing of our class movie―we have footage from senior year and every reunion―Walnut Walk 2014, where we will re-create a mini-version of Walnut Walk, and other goodies. We are also having five pre-reunion parties around the country and have identified 60 affinity liaisons to help get everyone excited about coming back.
It is a lot of work but will be worth it when everyone comes back and has a fantastic time.
As an extremely active volunteer, what feeds your drive to give back to Penn in so many ways?
Penn was a lifeline for me. No one from my immediate family circle had gone to college and there were no expectations made of me to go to a place like Penn. Penn afforded me opportunities that I simply did not think possible for someone from my background. To me it is not a question. I have to give back so that other girls like me, who spent part or all of their childhood on public assistance, living in public housing, and no parents, can see themselves as success leaders of their communities and society as a whole.
How would you encourage your fellow alumni who are not as engaged with Penn to get involved?
Get involved with something that matters to you. What are you passionate about outside of the workday? It is likely that there is some area of Penn that is involved in that arena. The Netter Center for Community Partnerships is very involved in community service and that is a great way to engage, as just one example.