“My CGS Family”
For Distinguished Alumni Award winner Meghan Fay, CGS is far more than a college—it’s a family.
When Meghan Fay (CGS’97, COM’99) needs an editor for a writing project, she sends her manuscript to College of General Studies Professor Natalie McKnight. When she’s looking for advice on leadership or work-life balance, she turns to CGS Dean Linda Wells. And when it’s time to pack up and move to a new apartment, she relies on help from fellow CGS alumna Courtney (McIlhenny) Megliola (CGS’96, COM’98).
Though she completed her studies at the College 14 years ago, Fay—who recently received CGS’s 2010 Distinguished Alumni Award for her commitment to the College—still considers herself part of the CGS community. In fact, she calls the people she’s met through the College “my CGS family.”
Fay admits she wasn’t always so appreciative of CGS. When she came to Boston University as a first-year student, she felt she belonged at the College of Communication and marched into then CGS Dean Brendan Gilbane’s office to tell him so. Gilbane convinced the spunky young redhead that CGS was, in fact, the best place for her. Neither of them realized then how right he was.
In that fall of 1995, Fay arrived at BU having recently lost both her parents. After having been the center of sympathetic attention in her New Jersey hometown, she was looking forward to the anonymity of BU’s big, urban campus. Instead, she found herself in the small, close-knit community of CGS. “I walked smack dab into this environment where you just couldn’t hide,” she says. “It was this wonderful, loving, supportive community that embraced students.” Over the next two years, she says, the College provided her a place to heal and then to thrive: “It became the family that I didn’t know I needed.”
With her characteristic confidence and the support of CGS, Fay closed out her sophomore year by running for president of the BU Student Union with a slate of other CGS students. She and her slate won the election handily and throughout their term, she says, they saw themselves as “ambassadors of CGS who could help change the impressions of those who didn’t quite understand the magic.” After completing her studies at the College of Communication (and being chosen as COM’s student Commencement speaker), Fay worked briefly as a journalist before once again becoming a CGS ambassador at the invitation of Gilbane—by then a trusted friend and mentor—who encouraged her to apply for a job as the alumni officer for the College.
Those who met Fay during her years representing CGS know how well suited she was for the role. “She loves BU. She loves CGS. Her heart and passion for them is incredible,” says Sami Nawas (CGS’85, SMG’87), a devoted alumnus himself, a past Distinguished Alumni Award winner, and a member of the CGS Dean’s Advisory Board. “I think people see her passion and her love for BU, and it gets contagious.” In addition, Nawas says, “You have some people who go out there and just do their nine-to-five job. Meghan goes beyond that and develops relationships with people.”
This talent for relationship building has since led to an impressive career in the field of nonprofit development. As a fundraiser for CGS, Fay helped to increase donations to the College by 172 percent. She was then recruited to the Lahey Clinic Medical Center, a Massachusetts teaching hospital, to raise funds for patient care. She later returned to BU and helped bring in millions of dollars to support faculty and students. Today, Fay is director of development for the Mind Brain Behavior Initiative at Columbia University in New York, where she connects generous philanthropists with world-renowned neuroscientists who are working to better understand motor neuron disease, mental illness, and memory disorders. “The scientists keep me on my toes,” she says, and raising funds to support their research is “really rewarding work.”
Despite her move from Boston to New York, Fay remains a cheerleader for BU and CGS. While she realizes her personal circumstances made her especially receptive to the College’s warmth, she insists she’s far from the only student to benefit from it. “My story is not unique,” she says. The faculty and staff of CGS have a gift for recognizing what each of their students need—academically or more holistically—and helping them find it, she says. “You are not invisible at CGS. That is what’s special about CGS and what makes CGS different.”
Fay recently began serving a new role within the CGS community, as a member of the CGS Dean’s Advisory Board. She was pleased to accept the invitation: “I am forever at the service of the College,” she says. “If my development experience or passion for the school can in any way help the dean or the CGS community, then I am more than happy to contribute my talents.” Fay will also use the role to encourage others to remain active in the CGS family. “I challenge my classmates and fellow alumni to be engaged with the excellence that is happening here and give back to CGS,” she says.