Vogel '95 Sponsors $1 Million Endowment Gift

April 25, 2014

When Andrew Vogel '95 talks about his relationship with Wesleyan, it's a story of the importance of alumni connections—forging them, fostering them, and following them into the next generation of graduates.

A partner with ZM Capital, a partnership founded by Strauss Zelnick '79, Vogel recently sponsored a large gift—$1 million—to the Wesleyan endowment from that firm, generated by one of the investments he had led. It was a gift that Zelnick and his other partners fully supported, Vogel notes, and adds that this gift came on the heels of, as he puts it "stepping up my own personal financial commitment to Wesleyan."

Vogel wasn’t always so involved with his alma mater, however, and feels that many times as a young alumnus the connection might have slipped away, were it not for a lucky meeting or chance opportunity.

For instance, he met his "résumé double"—and now friend—Stu Ellman '88. Both Vogel and Ellman were outstanding Wesleyan economics majors and both were awarded the Clee Scholarship. This gave them each the opportunity to intern at McKinsey with Ron Daniel '52, trustee emeritus and former chair of the Wesleyan board. Additionallly, both Vogel and Ellman went to Harvard Business School. Seven years separated the two, though, and they never connected through typical Wesleyan routes. It was only at a Clee Scholarship reunion event that the introduction was made.

These days, however, he sees the University taking an active role in forging connections between alumni: "Personal relationships with individuals passionate about Wesleyan foster energy in the alumni body," says Vogel. He notes that his own meeting with Strauss Zelnick '79, through the private equity firm Ripplewood Holdings, proved to be one of the key events bringing him back to alma mater: "I served as Strauss' liaison at Ripplewood, and when I first met Strauss, I knew that was the beginning of a strong friendship. I also went to some NYC-related events and found that Strauss's enthusiasm and deep connection to the University re-energized me. And Michael Roth's vision is inspiring. He's such a great ambassador for the University.”

Additionally, he recalls the friendly Wesleyan face that Tom Ullian '85 gave to Lehman Brothers when Vogel was a young applicant. Because of this, he makes a particular effort to channel his passion for Wesleyan into working with soon-to-be-grads seeking information about careers in finance.

"I’m an advocate for the Career Center," he says. "And I always return calls to Wesleyan students with great enthusiasm. I think it’s one of the most important things that Wesleyan alumni can do for students—offer advice and guidance."

What he finds particularly enjoyable is getting to know the current Wesleyan students and following their burgeoning careers. "I always push to find out why they want to go into a certain field—what do they think they will like about this career? And they amaze me," he says, "because they have so much more self awareness, so much broader a vision than I had at their age. For instance, the father of my girlfriend at Wesleyan had a telecommunications venture in Eastern Europe—and I’d studied Eastern European markets with one of my favorite professors, John Bonin. At one point her father offered me an opportunity to work for him there. I didn’t take it; I took what I thought of as the safer path. In hindsight, I think, 'Why the heck did I not do that?' So I encourage the current students: 'Don’t have the blinders on,' I tell them. 'Do the things that differentiate you.'"

As an alumnus, Vogel’s passion, energy, and commitment has differentiated him. Currently, he serves as a member of the President’s Council, a two-year commitment. "I was looking for a way to get more deeply involved at Wesleyan and I spoke with Vice President Barbara-Jan Wilson," he says, noting that he’d first met her when he was a high school student applying to Wesleyan and she was the dean of Admission. "She suggested the council to me—it’s a body of folks who wish to meaningfully support the University, who want to be interacting with the University administration from a broad policy, vision and initiative standpoint."

The twice-yearly visit to campus is a plus: "I get to see alumni and join them in discussion," he says. "We are grappling with questions and ideas that are front and center in President Roth's mind."

For those inspired to deepen their own connection to the University, Vogel notes that many paths are available. He recommends attending local Wesleyan events and getting involved with the Career Center. "One of the most important things a Wesleyan alumnus can do for students is offer the advice and guidance that only someone who has been in the field can give them. Network value is huge; It’s a duty—and a joy—to help out. We—the alumni—are the ones who make the Wesleyan network strong."