Alumni Spotlight // Philanthropy

Leslie Klonoff

UCSB GreekFest Chairperson Leslie (Solomon) Klonoff `80 helps foster service and advocacy across generations with fellow Gaucho Greeks

Communications major Leslie (Solomon) Klonoff `80 pledged as an Alpha Phi Sorority sister during her sophomore year. Since then, Klonoff built her career using the values of Greek life – a dedication to community service, philanthropy and advocating for a better world.

Now a mother, community organizer and events planner, Klonoff returns every year to galvanize the campus community she loves most, as the co-founder and co-chair of the All Gaucho Reunion’s GreekFest. She continues to be the guiding spirit of the yearly celebration of Gaucho Greek life organized by the UC Santa Barbara Alumni Association and is a dedicated mentor for students and young alumni as an active member of the Department of Communication Alumni Council.

What drew you to study at UC Santa Barbara?

I grew up in Los Angeles and both my parents attended UCLA. I had strong interest in leaving LA, had visited SB the previous summer, and just loved it. I entered college as a psych major and intended to be a psychotherapist. A close friend came to visit after declaring communications as his major -- when I looked at the coursework I realized I was far more interested in studying all aspects of communication.

Why did you choose to be part of Greek life on campus? How did this organization impact your student experience?

My parents were both Greek in the 50s and were only welcome to join the Jewish chapters at UCLA. I thought they had a lot of fun in college and wanted that for my college experience too.

I rushed in my sophomore year. I was unsure I could afford to be a part of Greek Life and honestly didn't have the social poise and confidence to go through rush as a freshman.

After a year in the dorms, I longed to be part of a sorority as I knew the friendships would be less transitory. I really loved being an Alpha Phi -- living in that beautiful house, and having smart and fun women to hang out with. I honed my leadership skills as a Panhellenic Rep and learned about marketing, strategic planning, team building, and event planning.

Favorite memories would be our philanthropy projects for our sorority non profit, American Heart Association. And of course all the exchanges and formals. I loved practicing with our volleyball team and getting ready for the Inter Sorority Volleyball Tournament, created by Lambda Chi Alpha.

How did your UCSB education impact your career path?

My professional background is recruiting, event planning, and community building -- all skills I developed and honed as a Communication Studies major and member of Alpha Phi. Rush is exhausting on both sides -- BUT you learn how to meet new people and connect instantly (perfect for a professional business person), identify the uniqueness of your particular brand and how to "hire" and train people to sustain and take your business to the next level. The most vital lesson is to both work really hard and live someplace beautiful that offers the lifestyle you crave.

Additionally, learning to live in the world and make it a better place is key to Greek life. Greek chapters and philanthropic focus are intertwined. Each chapter has a dedicated nonprofit they support with time and money -- and members learn how to identify need and create fun/fundraisers. I have chaired or been a key committee member of countless successful fundraisers with the skills I learned being a member of Alpha Phi.

How did you start being involved as a Greek alumni at the All Gaucho Reunion - and how have you observed GreekFest's growth over the years?

I came to my first All Gaucho Reunion in 2011 when my son was a freshman at UCSB. John Lofthus, associate director of the Alumni Association, was the one person I bumped into who I knew! We had met years previously when our family attended the Family Vacation Center. He asked if we could set up a phone meeting and mentioned that there was discussion for years about better organizing the Greek alumni -- and would I be interested in helping?

As I was thinking about how I wanted to offer my leadership and organizational skills, I went to a Cal football game with my husband. I noticed all the Greek chapters being open to their alumni and having so much fun. I began dreaming of having that happen on a smaller level in Isla Vista, during All Gaucho Reunion.

In 2012, I attended the Greek Brunch on my own and was invited to join the SAE table as the Alpha Phi table was completely overflowing from a key reunion before my era. We all acknowledged that the event should be much bigger and started brainstorming about how to do that. Gary Rhodes SAE '83 ended up co-chairing the first GreekFest with me at All Gaucho Reunion.

This year, we are celebrating our 4th Annual GreekFest. I didn't realize the extent of the lack of chapters focus on alumni engagement and thus the lack of organization. Most alumni chairs were working without an alumni master list or a list of current emails that only included less than 20 percent of alumni. Some more resourceful alumni chairs would set up Facebook events as an invite – but that only worked for those connected together through Facebook. Lots of alumni were not being included – or even aware!

Collegian Alumni Chairs are organizing alumni master lists and social media to connect all collegians and alumni socially and professionally. Alpha Phi has led the way. Post-reunion, I further mentor the chapters who partner with me in creating Professional Development days and alumni mentorship programs. We have just started our program at Alpha Phi -- and already collegians have found great employment as a result!

As for GreekFest, each year we have more chapters participating, more alumni returning and having a blast…and have cultivated more philanthropic support of the AS Food bank and the UCSB Alumni Scholarship Fund. (The UCSB Alumni Scholarship Fund is primary recipient of the All Gaucho Reunion events. The AS Food Bank is the primary recipient of GreekFest fundraising.)

As an alumni leader, what are some of your biggest challenges - and what are your proudest accomplishments?

Absolutely the biggest challenge is in recruiting strong alumni and collegians to be a part of our GreekFest planning committee and act as strong Independent Contributors. My proudest accomplishment is to see the net result of the chapters, mostly Panhellenic, who are elected to their roles as Director of Alumni Relations and really step up and own it. They understand that with their alumni, they can have mentors and advisors -- and an easier path to post-UCSB employment. They set and actualize strong goals -- which is exciting. Those who are most successful work closely with me as a team and understand that together we are truly better. My professional background is perfect for this project and I am happy to mentor others to strengthen our alumni programs.

What inspires you to do what you do?

I feel VERY fortunate that both my children have had an outstanding UCSB and Greek life experience.

And this is the largest gift I will ever give to UCSB: connecting the 20,000 Greek alumni with both their chapters and UCSB.

What advice would you give current Greek Gauchos about the importance of the bonds fostered by a sorority/fraternity?

These friendships, both socially and professionally, can -- and should -- last your whole lifetime. Many of the Alpha Phis, when I started to organize us four years ago, had fallen out of touch. In my case -- and many others -- it had been a disconnect of 20 to 30 years. But when we are back together, our friendship is stronger than ever as collegians. We provide insights for each other that are only possible from people who knew each other in the springtime of our youth.


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