Julie Serres ’91 remembers arriving at Marlboro College from Seattle, having no idea what cold really meant until Thanksgiving hit. So when a current student posted on Facebook that she needed a pair of boots to get through the semester, Julie was empathetic. Fortunately, she also works at KEEN, a footwear manufacturer known for giving back to the community, and came up with boots to send to the student.
“Marlboro offers great financial aid, but that doesn’t cover clothing, and good shoes are worth their weight in gold during cold Vermont winters,” says Julie, who has worked in the IT department at KEEN for 11 years. “Based on my experience, I figured there were a few students who could use some winter boots up on Potash Hill—students who couldn’t fathom cold until they experienced their hair freezing and breaking while walking to class.”
Julie found a mound of assorted boots in various sizes that needed to be donated, and sent a gift box with instructions to find students who needed them. There was one condition: that literature professor Geraldine Pittman de Batlle had first dibs.
“Geraldine is my most beloved teacher of all time—she was my rock,” says Julie, who completed a Plan in psychology and literature titled “Women’s Ways of Knowing.” “Geraldine possesses the ability to reflect back upon students their strengths and gifts.”
She also possesses a shiny new pair of hiking boots, just her size, as do several delighted students. Julie’s gift is in keeping with KEEN’s reputation for giving back: the company has donated $15 million to nonprofits around the world, and each employee gets 40 hours of paid community service leave. Last spring, Julie and 11 other employees partnered with Oregon Natural Desert Association to monitor sage grouse populations.
“Who else gets paid to volunteer and count sage grouse leks for a week in southeast Oregon?” says Julie. “Geraldine would send us onto our next venture a bit more whole than we were before we met her. I learned that from her, and I have tried to embody that as I walk through this world.”