Era of Ara will be a legacy

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Friends, donors, faculty, staff gather to offer their gratitude to the outgoing fundraiser
Donors Bill and Jeanne Firstenburg (right) and Clark faculty, gather around Ara Serjoie (center) at his farewell reception.

Donors Bill and Jeanne Firstenburg (right) and Clark faculty, gather around Ara Serjoie (center) at his farewell reception.

More than 100 guests gathered to say goodbye to Clark College Foundation’s Ara Serjoie, who has accepted a position in California, and shared funny and touching memories of their relationships with him during an August reception at Gaiser Student Center.

Jan Oliva, a generous philanthropic partner of Clark College and community leader, said Serjoie is a visionary who excels at inspiring others to give of their time and treasures. “You cannot say no to Ara. He has a vision and shares it with everyone.”

Oliva also expressed what many in the room had experienced: Serjoie’s genuine compassion for others and deep belief in the mission of Clark College has left a legacy at the college.

Jeanne Firstenburg, also a major donor to Clark College, said Serjoie has become a personal friend who she will greatly miss.

Serjoie, senior vice president at the foundation, announced his departure to California State University, East Bay, in Hayward, Calif., in June. He will serve as the vice president for university advancement and president of the foundation.

Bob Williamson, vice president of administrative services at Clark College, said “The era of Ara is over, but he will be more than remembered, he’s a legacy. We are a better place for Ara being here.”

Williamson referred to several facilities and programs on campus that have been created or enhanced due to Serjoie’s fundraising adeptness and strong community relationships—the Oliva Family Early Learning Center, Little Penguins’ Gardens, Firstenburg Family Dental Hygiene Education and Care Center, Columbia Credit Union Simulation Pharmacy and student scholarships.

Greg Wallace, Clark College Foundation Board of Directors chair, said “Ara is a remarkable talent. Ara has a quick wit, he’s engaging, very bright and he knows everyone from the region and remembers each of them.” Wallace also noted that Serjoie’s ability to visualize the future for Clark College has resulted in bountiful philanthropic leadership with the donor community.

Lisa Gibert, president and CEO of Clark College Foundation, said that when she was searching for a vice president of development seven years ago, she was looking for a partner who would work side by side with her. “I needed someone who could bring the foundation to a new level and could teach me about the amazing world of development.”

She said she found that and more in Serjoie. “He has my deepest respect and admiration. The community holds the college in high regard because of his professional ethics, responsibility to philanthropy and his unwavering belief in the mission of Clark College.”

“This evening is not about me; it’s about you,” said Serjoie. “It’s about the students and the wonderful work faculty members and staff do every day in service to our students.” He added that donors invest “thoughtfully and generously in the college,” because they want to ensure a bright future for Southwest Washington.

“All of you have been kind to me over these past seven years, and for that and more you are forever in my heart,” he said with tears in his eyes.


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