In photo: Elliot Goldberg, WGF Class 4, presents Karen Collum with a book of gratitude from WGF Alumni, and thanks her on behalf of the entire WGF Alumni community.

At the 2017 Wexner Graduate Fellowship Alumni Institute, whose theme was “Eleh haDevarim: Words that Matter,”  WGF alumni had the opportunity this week to express two words that matter: “Thank You,” and present Karen Collum with a book that includes a collection of WGF alumni’s notes of gratitude.

Karen Collum just completed nearly 25 years of service at the Wexner Foundation.  In the Wexner Graduate Fellowship’s “universe,” she has literally interacted with every single Wexner Graduate Fellow who has come through The Wexner Foundation’s doors to date.  While she started “only” with WGF Class 5 and “only” 25 years ago, Karen has managed to build relationships with hundreds of Wexner Graduate Fellows and Alumni, many of whom owe her more “thank-you’s” than can possibly be expressed. 

A selection of notes from the book are below and give insight into the immense impact Karen has had.  Fellows from the earliest years to the most recent have appreciated her attention to detail and care for their experience — from coordinating their travel to making sure all of their needs are met at institutes, to asking how they are doing and talking about their families and their lives.

There are not many people who have touched the lives of so many in the way that Karen has.  Furthermore, Karen has become the standard of professionalism that Wexner Graduate Fellowship Alumni try to model in their own leadership, and expect and demand of their colleagues.

The entire staff at The Wexner Foundation joins 25 years of Wexner Graduate Fellowship Alumni in expressing those two words that matter most to Karen Collum on her retirement:  Thank You!

Andy Koren, WGF Alum (Class 1)

Thank you for your support during my years as a Wexner Fellow and Alumnus.  Thank you for the work that we did together when I was on the staff of the Foundation.  Thank you for your patience and guidance when I was a young professional; you helped mold me into the Rabbi that I am today.  Thank you for also being a listening ear and a loving soul when Michal and I became parents for the first time.  Most of all, thank you for the smiles and laughs that we have shared over the past few decades.  God’s blessings to you as you take these next steps in life.

Elliot Goldberg, WGF Alum (Class 4) 

I’ve learned many lessons from my time in WexWorld.  Some of the most important, I learned from you:  Treat people kindly, always greet them with a smile, take time to get to know them, and a little tough love is OK, especially when the bus to the airport is leaving and they might miss their flight.  You’ve been an important member of my Wexner family — the fellowship will not be the same without you.  Wishing you all the best on your next adventure.

Matthew Berkowitz, WGF Alum (Class 6)

Karen, so hard to believe that it has been 24 years since we first met!  You have been such a blessing to The Wexner Foundation and community.  We could never thank you enough for investing heart and soul in all you have done.   Thank you for showing all of us the way — in professionalism, in kindness, in friendship, in wisdom, in talent and in a smile that illumines the world.  

Wishing you love, blessing and good health in the journey ahead! 

Elana Paru, WGF Alum (Class 7)

Since we first met in 1994, you have served as a role model and mentor to me.  Through your actions, you taught me the importance of paying attention to detail, providing outstanding customer service and the true value and impact of superb administration.  Throughout my career,  your tremendous support, encouragement, and wisdom have helped me become a stronger professional.  Most of all, thank you for your kindness and friendship. Wishing you great joy always.

Joshua Cypess, WGF Alum (Class 9) 

Thank you.  Profoundly, thank you.  Like the sun and the sea, it is easy to take for granted a person who provided everyone with help, support, devotion, and all with an aplomb that made the extraordinary feel expected… which meant it was too easy to overlook.  Rav Chaim Soloveitchik taught me that Rashi — despite being on every page of the Talmud and Bible and commenting on every key word — built bridges over difficulties that we wouldn’t know we even had until he was missing.  Karen,  you were WGF’s Rashi.  Thank you for every bridge of help, seen or unseen.   

Miriam Heller Stern, WGF Alum (Class 13)

Thank you, Karen, for being the backbone of this incredible organization. Your warmth, kindness, attention to detail and organizational acumen helped make every Wexner encounter a success. Wishing you much fulfillment in your next chapter!

Adam Cutler, WGF Alum (Class 17)

I communicate with many Jewish organizations. Sometimes I’m neutral about the interaction. Often I dread it. The Wexner Foundation has always been the exception to the rule. The dedication, professionalism and warmth shown by the entire staff, as exemplified by Karen Collum, is outstanding. In her retirement, Karen should tour the North American Jewish professional world teaching others how to be more like her!

Jessica Marglin, WGF Alum (Class 20)

Karen, your incredible work made every single institute run so smoothly, from the minute I left my house to the minute I returned.  If only all of life could be organized by your expert hand!  With great appreciation for your talents and dedication.