Legacy of inspiration: Spike Gummere’s enduring influence on alumni and beyond


Francis “Spike” Gummere has a legacy at Lake Forest College that touches thousands of alumni, inspired the formation of crucial campus programs, and encourages people to continuously give back to the College.

A certified Forester Legend, Spike started working in the Office of Admissions in 1968. Along with his wife and children, Spike moved to Lake Forest from New England and quickly became an integral part of the Lake Forest College story. 

As Dean of Admissions, Spike aimed to know the name of every student on campus and succeeded more often than not, which students marveled at. 

“I took great pride in that. I would say to them, ‘You forget how many times I’ve seen your name by the time you arrive here,’” Spike said. “I read every application and signed every acceptance letter—I wasn’t going to admit or deny somebody without knowing them.” 

For decades, Spike also traveled across the country to recruit students and spread the word about Lake Forest College’s opportunities and unique strengths. At a college fair in Massachusetts, he met Holly McHenry ’18. She had been trying to locate a different college’s booth but made “awkward” eye contact with Spike, went up to speak with him, and ended up having a 45-minute-long conversation. 

“I loved the way that it felt like he was really getting to know me,” McHenry said. “I didn’t feel like I was just a student or that he was trying to meet a quota. He clearly cares so much about the students that he makes connections with, and for a student like me who was so terrified, he really made me feel confident and worthy and like I would belong at the College.” 

McHenry described how Spike continued to be committed to her success throughout her college application process and after she arrived on campus. 

Many other alumni have a similar story, like Bruce Taylor ’79. “What was special about Spike is how his relationship with you continued on campus,” Taylor said. “Whether it be an athletic event or other activity I was part of, Spike was there. And it wasn’t just me—you could ask 1,000 different alumni and you’ll get very similar responses about Spike.” 

Even after students graduate, Spike remains in contact with and supports alumni in their post-graduate lives. McHenry looks forward to receiving an annual Christmas card from Spike and is still touched that Spike emailed her when she got married. After Taylor moved back to New Hampshire post-graduation, Spike made an effort to see him every time he was in the area. 

“He greets everyone as if he saw them last week, and he’s got a memory that puts us all to shame,” Taylor said. 

For Spike, being a part of so many alumni’s lives is a special part of the job. 

“It’s wonderfully rewarding,” Spike said. “I really did get to know people as applicants, and then to see them as students, stay in touch with them, watch them grow and stay connected after they graduate, it’s very gratifying.” 

After working at the College for 56 years—he volunteers now in the Office of Advancement—Spike has even been around to see the applications from children and grandchildren of alumni. He never dreamed he would still be at the College after so long, but it’s become a fundamental part of who he is. 

“People say, ‘You don’t look your age!’ and I say, ‘Well, I’ve hung around college kids all my life,’” Spike said. “Being here keeps me young, and an occasional beer doesn’t hurt!” 

In 2016, the College honored Spike at Homecoming and formed the Spike Initiative as part of its fundraising efforts. Spike chose how the money given to the Initiative would be used: one-third of the funds were to go to the College’s annual fund for financial aid, and two-thirds were to establish an endowment to be used by admissions for student recruitment. 

In the years since, the Spike Initiative has raised more than $1 million and is a prime example of Spike’s dedication to the College and the extent to which he has made a mark on the lives of alumni. Because everyone knows how impactful Spike has been, the positive reception of the Initiative wasn’t unexpected. 

“I’m not at all surprised by the success of the Spike Initiative, and I’m sure it’s going to continue for a long, long time,” Taylor said. “Someone once said he’s the best ambassador that any institution could have. He represents the school in so many different ways.” 

Due to the Initiative’s success, the Gummere Fellows program was formed in 2018. The Fellows serve as representatives of the College as part of its recruitment and advancement efforts. Their duties include local and out-of-state travel on behalf of the College and outreach efforts to prospective students, donors, alumni, and friends of the College. 

McHenry was one of the first Gummere Fellows in 2018, and when she was asked to be a part of the program, she knew her answer right away. “It was an immediate yes, because I loved how he made me feel when I was applying to colleges,” McHenry said. “I thought that if Spike was able to help me through the transition from high school to college, I would love to be able to do that for someone else.” 

The Gummere Fellows program has grown since 2018, with 13 Fellows this year. Forty-seven applicants competed for the four spots held by graduating seniors. While Spike is not involved with the selection process or oversight of the Fellows, he attends their meetings each year and gets to know them. Emília de Paula Fonseca ’26 is a current Gummere Fellow and is passionate about the work she does for the program. 

“The program is about making the good things that we have on campus even better,” de Paula Fonseca said. “It’s great being more active in helping develop the College and getting funds and support to improve campus.” 

One of the most important roles of the Fellows is to recruit the next class of Foresters. Many prospective students want to engage with their future classmates, and the Gummere Fellows share their lived experiences and help them understand how they can find their place and thrive within the Forester community. 

“Spike’s legacy is his care for students and the countless ways he improved their lives,” Vice President of Enrollment Chris Ellertson said. “The Gummere Fellows’ ability to demonstrate the same care as Spike did, to affirm and see the potential in prospective students, has been key to our enrollment success.” 

In return for their commitment to the College, all Fellows receive a $1,000 Fellowship annually. In addition, senior Fellows are awarded a $500 professional development stipend, and all Fellows participate in ongoing professional development and networking opportunities. While the Fellows serve the College by being its ambassadors, they are also rewarded with real-life experiences that they will carry with them beyond graduation. 

The success of both the Spike Initiative and the Gummere Fellows program is due to the passion that Spike has for the College and its students. 

“The College is so fortunate to benefit from Spike’s passion, dedication and enthusiasm for our alumni and our current students,” Vice President of Advancement Katie Spieth said. “I’ve never met a more passionate fundraiser than Spike, and I’m deeply grateful for his unwavering commitment to the College and for the relationships he’s cultivated and stewarded for decades.” 

It’s nearly impossible to put a figure on the number of lives Spike has affected, but one thing is for sure: Lake Forest College, and the students he has supported throughout the last 56 years, would not be the same without him. 

“Spike is an incredibly special person, and I feel extremely lucky to have been able to cross paths with him,” McHenry said. “He’s a once-in-a-lifetime person to have in your corner. He came into my life at an important time, and I feel so lucky that he continued to stay in it.” 

Spike turned 85 on April 5; that means he has spent over half of his life working to further the mission of the College. His dedication is unmatched, and we are endlessly grateful for his years of service in support of our students and alumni. Thank you, Spike.


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