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Harvard's "Wider Communities"

September-October 2005

The new president of the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA) Yuki Moore Laurenti ’79, plans to expand on the organization’s theme—“Participate in Harvard’s future”—by pinpointing more innovative ways to engage alumni, especially the younger ones. “I want to reach beyond the existing networks and formal structures of alumni organizations,” she explains, “and to the wider communities where Harvard alumni might make a difference.”

The Harvard Club of New York City, for example, has compiled volunteer opportunities throughout the city, including many at organizations with existing ties to club members. “It’s a way to do outreach that does not directly involve Harvard activities,” she says, “but in which the Harvard connection can provide alumni with a clearinghouse to become active in the Harvard community and outside of it.” Laurenti also cites the Early Awareness Program begun by the Harvard-Radcliffe Club of Maryland (and subsequently emulated in New York, Boston, and Chicago). Alumni volunteers meet with seventh- and eighth-grade students and their parents to “expose them to what it means to go to college and what you have to do to be prepared, such as taking exams and understanding financial aid,” she says. “This takes what we know and translates it in ways that are helpful to a larger community.”

Yuki Moore Laurenti
Photograph by Stu Rosner

Laurenti also wants to see those already in alumni leadership roles “rediscover and experience what is so special about this place.” The three regular HAA directors’ meetings held during the current academic year will focus on the “demographics of democracy” (in October), engineering and science instruction at the University (in February), and a celebration of the arts (in May). “I’d like to help alumni get out and see what’s happening at the University—and have some fun!” she adds.

Laurenti’s own experience at Harvard helped provide an entrée into her chosen career: banking. A native of Princeton, New Jersey, she is the daughter of an African-American letter carrier and a second-generation Japanese-American “social worker turned caterer.” “Princeton was a very accepting town,” she reports. “But my parents wanted to prepare me for entering this ‘white’ world of business and social relationships, which they knew very well was hard for someone of minority background to penetrate. They always said that if I could get the best education possible, they hoped that would level the playing field for me.” In college, the Eliot House resident concentrated in economics and managed the men’s ice-hockey team throughout her four years. “ I was an only child,” she says with a laugh, “so it was quite an experience with the gentlemen.”

A few months after graduation, she took a job on Wall Street at U.S. Trust Company of New York, where she is now a senior vice president in private banking. Early on in her career, Laurenti says she and her then-supervisor, Thomas C. Clark, M.B.A. ’71, attended lunches to introduce her to clients. “He would always weave into the conversation that I had gone to Harvard,” she recalls, “and when I asked why he kept doing that, he always said to watch how it would change the conversation and help you. And he was right.”

The University also soon turned up a mate. Yuki Moore met Jeffrey Laurenti ’71, a senior fellow in international affairs at The Century Foundation, while volunteering for the Harvard Club of New Jersey’s schools committee. They married in 1981 and live in Trenton with their teenage son, Mario. Yuki Laurenti is a former member of the Trenton School Board and of the board at Princeton Day School, her other alma mater, and recently stepped down as president of the board at Isles Inc., a nonprofit community development and environmental organization. She remains on the board of the philanthropic Princeton Area Community Foundation.

In addition to her longtime work for the schools and scholarships committees of both the Harvard Club of New Jersey and the Harvard Club of Princeton (where she is currently committee chair), Laurenti became an HAA elected director in 1994, and has filled various alumni leadership roles since then. She has especially enjoyed scouring her New Jersey region for “diamond-in-the-rough” candidates from backgrounds not usually associated with the Ivy League, including the son of an Atlantic City croupier and another successful applicant from a predominately Puerto Rican public-housing project in Perth Amboy. “I’ve felt very close to the University and excited about the young people I see, and glad to help shape the student body,” she explains. “The committee and alumni work has also forced me to be more engaged with what’s going on at the University, to come back to campus and meet with students, and get to know other alumni. The truth is I’m more connected now than I ever was as a student here.”