Forty-six years ago Perry Brandt arrived at Vanderbilt for a seven-year experience that remarkably changed the trajectory of his life.
“I owe Vanderbilt a huge debt of gratitude,” Brandt says. “Thanks to scholarship support, I was the first member of my family to attend college. I arrived as an unmolded blob of clay, and left as a lawyer ready to practice in a big law firm.
“Along the way I formed lifelong relationships with professors like Don Hall and Bob Birkby,” he adds. “I formed a powerful, emotional connection to the university that grows stronger each time I see our black and gold.”
Brandt has turned that loyalty into advocacy as a model volunteer.
He is a leader for the Vanderbilt Kansas City Chapter, interviews applicants for both undergraduate and Law School admissions, inspires his classmates to come back and give back for Reunion, and even teaches Law School classes covering practical career advice. He juggles these roles along with civic and charitable activities in Kansas City and the demands of being managing partner of the local office of Bryan Cave law firm. Not including football or basketball games, he is on campus at least 12 times a year.
Brandt’s emotional tie to the university reached new heights after his daughter, Betsy Brandt, BA’13, became a Commodore. “She had a tremendous experience and is now a successful investment banker on Wall Street. I give all of that credit to Vanderbilt,” he says.
In July, Brandt became the new president of the Alumni Association Board, a 23-member group leading efforts to connect more alumni to the university.
“People live busy lives, and it is easy for their loyalty and dedication to their college to wane over time. You really need to promote their engagement,” he says. “One of the best messages we share is the simplest: Go, give, help. Alumni get excited when we tell them how attending events, making a gift and volunteering do so much for our university.”
Brandt’s involvement allows him to see many sides of Vanderbilt, but the part that excites him the most is meeting students.
“I keep up with the undergraduates I interviewed as a CoRPs volunteer,” says Brandt. “They are all so impressive. While on vacation in South Africa, I even had the good fortune to take one student to lunch who was there for study abroad.”
He also maintains relationships with the Law School students he’s interviewed. “They are bright and personable, just fantastic people. I stay in touch with them and later try to hire them.
“I have seen so many great students pass through Vanderbilt,” says Brandt. “It’s just great to get to know them. Because, ultimately, all we do for the university is about them.”