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Ben and Joanna Nummy share their Syracuse story

Ben NummyBen '91 and Joanna Nummy '90 have deep connections to Syracuse.

Not only are they both alums, but they also met on campus during their undergraduate days. Several members of their extended family also hold Syracuse degrees. Now Ben, a Whitman graduate, is a member of the Chicago Regional Council, and he is excited to to help more local students choose Syracuse, while giving back to the school he loves so much.

The couple’s Syracuse story began with a chance meeting. “We lived next door to each other for a year on Comstock,” recalls Joanna, who graduated with dual degrees in human development and education. “Our paths never crossed until a mutual friend introduced us. I had the worst grades that year!”

Despite the distraction of a new relationship, Ben and Joanna completed their studies, absorbing an education that went beyond textbooks and into real-world skills.

“I now really appreciate a curriculum that helps you present and support an opinion,” reflects Ben, a partner in Ameritus Real Estate Investment. “My business law class was excellent in that regard. Plus, working at the Annual Fund taught me that if you can successfully cold call people at dinner for money, you can do anything.” 

Likewise, Joanna draws upon her classroom experience when she works with parents and teachers in two Chicago-area schools. As a special education services facilitator, she relies on the presentation and communication skills she developed through her undergraduate studies.

Beyond academics, Ben and Joanna’s memories of SU encompass moments of pride and a time of sorrow. “I remember like it was yesterday,” says Ben, “when we rushed out on the football field after SU upset Penn State during the 1987 undefeated season.” Another exciting moment was when Joanna, a student marshal, had the honor of carrying her college’s flag at Commencement.

But Ben and Joanna also recall the entire campus community’s shock and terrible sadness when they learned of the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 on December 21, 1988, over Lockerbie, Scotland. The tragedy took the lives of 270 people, including 35 Syracuse students returning home from a semester of study abroad. The University had never before suffered such an enormous tragedy; and it is a memory the Nummys will not ever forget.

For Ben and Joanna, their network of friends on campus was an important support system, during that time and beyond. “The enduring friendships and personal connections I made as a student are most meaningful,” notes Ben. ”We keep in touch no matter where we are in the world, and a dedicated group of us still attend a Syracuse basketball game together.”

And the Nummy family, naturally, also takes in a game or two together. “Our boys have always grown up cheering for Syracuse. Whenever the Orange play in the Chicago area, we get tickets and we all dress in orange,” notes Joanna. “But a few years ago, we had a dilemma when SU was playing Northwestern. We had gone to many NU games, and worried that the kids might want to root for them. But in the end, there was no debate and everyone put on their Orange sweatshirts!”

On trips east, the family would also stop by campus, taking pictures of their children in front of the Saltine Warrior statue or sitting on Abe Lincoln’s lap by Maxwell. The Nummys would also go down to Marshall Street and stop by Varsity Pizza and Manny’s.

Reflecting on his time at Syracuse, Ben notes that he and Joanna had chosen Syracuse for different reasons, but both appreciated the breadth of academic offerings. “The size of Syracuse is perfect,” he continues. “It offers the energy of a big school, with Division I athletics and the school spirit that goes with it. Syracuse is also small enough where you can make personal connections with your professors.” 

And that is just what he wants to share with Chicago-area high school students. He’d like to see more prospective students visiting campus to see for themselves. “Both Joanna and I visited Syracuse for the first time in the fall. The Hill has to be one of the prettiest college campuses during that season. I walked on campus in September 1986, and knew that was where I wanted to spend the next four years!”

Thinking about Syracuse’s positive impact on him, Joanna, and their extended family, he is eager to step up and share his experiences.

“The opportunity to stay connected at a deeper level with Syracuse is very appealing,” declares Ben. “I am honored to join the Chicago Regional Council, and I love the idea of becoming an ambassador. I can help grow Syracuse’s reputation in our region and give back to the institution that has made such an impact on our family.”