In 1971, Diane Esser was 23 years old, working part-time as a laboratory technician at Franklin medical Center, and a divorced single mother of a five-year-old. she had always expected to go to college right after high school, but life diverted her for a while. in 1971, GCC gave Diane the opportunity to follow her dream of college, to start on the path toward a professional career.
Diane took that opportunity and ran with it. From GCC, Diane transferred to the university of Massachusetts where she finished her bachelor’s degree. she then went on to Boston university to study for a law degree. Diane has practiced law in Franklin County since 1979 and currently focuses her practice on family law. In addition to her work as an attorney, Diane has been active in many professional associations including the Franklin County Bar Association, the Massachusetts Bar Association, and the Massachusetts Bar Foundation. She has served on the Board of NELCWIT (New England Learning Center for Women in Transition) and was the co-chair of the Franklin County Reinventing Justice Initiative.
In 2005, an opportunity from GCC for Diane came again in the form of a simple, powerful statement by Robbie Cohn ’71. Robbie said to Diane, “You have never given to GCC even though you’re an alumna, and I’m here to change that.” Not only did Robbie invite Diane to give a donation, he invited her to become a volunteer fundraiser for the GCC Foundation. Remembering how GCC helped her, Diane was pleased to say a resounding “Yes!” to Robbie’s invitations. When Robbie asked Diane why she’d never given to the GCC Foundation, she said, “No one had asked.
Robbie picked a good time to approach Diane because she had recently reduced her participation in the local and state Bar Associations and had time and energy to devote to GCC. Diane was drawn in by the dedicated GCC Foundation staff and the opportunity to support students as they got their start in life. In 2005 President Bob Pura and Executive Director of Annual Giving Allen Davis asked Diane to join the Foundation’s Board of Directors. Very quickly, Diane stepped into a leadership position in the Foundation. In 2007, Diane co-chaired the Annual Campaign with Jean Simmons ‘65, and in 2008 served as Campaign Co-Chair with Ira Mitchel ‘78. Since 2009, Diane has served as Vice President of the Foundation where her input as an alumna and a community leader has been invaluable. “Diane’s voice on the board rings true, regardless of the topic,” said GCC Executive Director of Resource Development Regina Curtis ’86. “She has known the College across the decades as a former student and as a community leader and brings the intelligence of those perspectives to every discussion.”
Through her involvement with the GCC Foundation, Diane has become aware of the College’s impact on the community, and how many people in Franklin County and western Massachusetts have GCC connections. Diane said, “Like me, many professional people in the area got their start at GCC. The more we talk about being proud to be GCC alumni, the more we’ll help students and their families see there are no limits to where you can go from GCC.”
GCC President Bob Pura observed that the group of alumni Diane refers to are “the backbone of our community. Their willingness to give back now, with their time and donations, to the college that enabled their start,” he said, “is the bedrock of support for those being served today – the students who are the future leaders of our community.”
Now, in 2011, forty years after Diane started classes at GCC, GCC is giving her a different opportunity, the opportunity to serve as President of the GCC Foundation Board of Directors. Diane is thrilled to be able to continue supporting the College’s mission. “I know that if you’re not connected to the College on a daily basis, it can be easy to lose track of what really goes on there. Our role in the Foundation is to make sure that everyone in our community keeps the GCC Foundation in mind when they consider making charitable donations. No matter how small or large a gift is, it is essential that we continue to provide access to affordable and excellent higher education. Without the community’s help, GCC and the community suffer. When GCC can fulfill its mission, the whole community benefits.”