According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the word “alumni” means, “a person who has attended or has graduated from a particular school, college or university.” They are not joined by age, race, nationality or ethnicity, but are joined by one common bond, which is their alma mater. For young alumnus and Houston Chapter president, Sean Gentry, membership in the Arkansas Alumni Association provided an opportunity to meet others with similar interests, young and old. Hoping to provide that same welcoming feeling that he received, Gentry admits there are challenges to sparking the interests of recent graduates moving back to the Houston area.
“It is my job to find young people and get them motivated, involved and to one day take my job,” Gentry said, regarding his position as president of the Houston Chapter. Graduating in 2006, there was no question as to whether or not he would remain a member of the Alumni Association.
Growing up in Houston, he admitted to falling in love with the University of Arkansas after a visit to campus his senior year of high school. Realizing his future career path would include business and sales, he went on to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration, with an emphasis on finance.
Working in his hometown of Houston, Gentry is a wealth management adviser for Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management. While helping people plan for their future, he admits the reward is, “in times of crisis, I can help solve a person or family’s problem and guide them through the crisis.”
Although devoted to his profession and its rewards, he still wanted to be around people who shared a passion and common bond. After discovering the Houston Chapter, he admits, “it led me to get involved and start thinking that it may help with business…like a networking tool.”
After joining the chapter, Gentry served as the social chair, organizing happy hours and watch party events. A year later, he remembers the board saying, “Sean, we’d like to make you president.” Becoming president in 2010, he realized the difficulty that can come with the position. “It is a very altruistic job being president. But, you feel as if you’re giving yourself for the greater cause,” he said.
As president, his duties include overseeing the process and outcome of various events, including the Houston Chapter Golf Tournament. Known as the biggest fundraising event for the chapter, this year marks the 20th anniversary for the tournament. “I’m pretty much a helper, which means I make speeches, introduce people and basically, act as president,” he said.
Seeing that things get done, he appreciates the work of the Association and chapter board members. “Graham Stewart has done a tremendous job helping to ease the stress level. He did a great job of getting us a great speaker as well,” Gentry remarked.
Determined to spread the word about the Association and the Houston Chapter, he hopes to inspire and inform young alumni moving back to the area about the benefits of getting involved after graduation. “When someone tells me ‘I’m new to town,’ I tell them about events, the golf tournament, happy hours, community service opportunities and ask them what they’re interested in. For me, it is more about how we can get that person involved,” he remarked.
“When you’re first starting out after college, you need all the help you can get. The alumni base will bend over backwards for you. They’ll advise you and support you, and they always have your best interest at heart.”