Behind the Scenes: Questions for Lisa Stoffer
By Jennifer Potanka ’11, Staff Writer
What is your position at the College? What does a typical day at work entail?

I direct the Foundation and Corporate Relations office, which is part of Advancement at Amherst. My two colleagues and I look for grant funding from foundations, government agencies and occasionally from corporate giving programs to support institutional priorities, such as financial aid, faculty-student research, community-based learning, the library and museums and new course development. We also work with faculty members to help them locate outside funding for their research and teaching.

A typical day is a mix of meetings, correspondence and phone calls, some Internet research on potential funding sources and writing. Lots of writing. I travel a few times a year, mostly to New York and D.C., for conferences and meetings with foundation program officers.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up mostly in Amherst — so I’m a townie, though I have not spent my whole life here.

What was your childhood like?

Until I was 10, we moved almost every year. My father was transferred a lot for work. But in fifth grade, we landed in Amherst, and we stayed here until I graduated from high school. This is a pretty good place for a kid, with plenty of open space and just enough opportunities for adventure, courtesy of the various colleges.

Where did you go to college? How similar is where you went to Amherst?

I almost went to Amherst. During my senior year in high school I was able to take two courses in the Amherst French department, with the late Elmo Giordanetti. He was an amazing teacher, really engaging and at that point the most cosmopolitan person I had ever met. So I seriously considered Amherst. But in the end I chose Haverford. I liked the idea of being right outside Philadelphia, and I was curious about its Quaker traditions. Haverford turned out to be a good place for me — a bit smaller and more subdued than Amherst, but with a great sense of community.

What is your family like?

I live in South Amherst with my husband, a writer who teaches at Hampshire, my daughter, a high school freshman, and assorted animals. My mom still lives in Amherst, and my younger brother, who spent several years in San Francisco, moved back to the Valley a few years ago and now works in IT at Mount Holyoke.

What is your favorite place in the world?

Maybe Budapest, where I studied for a while during grad school. Or Copenhagen, which I just visited in October and loved. I really like cities that lend themselves to wandering.

Do you have a favorite Val meal?

Val did a special lunch with West African food last week that was nice, flavorful and spicy.

I want to mention that I have a family connection to Val too: my grandfather ran the food service here at Amherst from 1939 until 1972. Before that, he was chef at the Lord Jeff. He was proud to have introduced some foods to Amherst that in the 50s and 60s were not yet mainstream: bagels and lox, yogurt and kiwi fruit.

What is your favorite movie? Why?

I have many favorites, but “The Big Lebowski” and “Miller’s Crossing” are right up there.

Who is one person you would love to meet?

The Dalai Lama, for his role in history and his perspective on life.

What is your favorite hobby or activity?

Reading, writing, cooking and cycling.

How many years have you worked at Amherst? What is your favorite memory at Amherst?

I started work at Amherst in February 2007, so I don’t have many years of memories, but reunions have been memorable. Everyone in Advancement helps out during reunion because there are so many events happening at once. It’s very different from my usual work, but it’s mostly a great pleasure. Reunion can be a nice chance to work alongside students and to hear the faculty speak about their research. The alumni are delighted to be back, and the panels they lead are often fascinating. It’s a reminder of the broader community that is Amherst - and also of the lasting impact Amherst has on the people who go here.

— Jennifer Potanka ’11

Issue 11, Submitted 2010-12-08 21:04:13