"Cornell students dream bigger dreams."

--Frank H.T. Rhodes, Cornell University Commencement, May 28, 1995

Monday, May 18, 2015

2. Matthew French and Alison Torrillo French

Every few weeks, Cornell '95 Faces features a profile of our class officers. This week, meet the Class President and Vice President. 

Vienna, Virginia · Engineering and Agriculture and Life Sciences


Tell us about what you're doing with your life.
We currently live in suburban Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC. Our daughter Sarah was born in January 2011 and our son Ben in October 2012. 

After Cornell graduation, Alison lived in NYC for a while doing some hospitality consulting, then moved to DC to work for a nonprofit. After 5 years, she went to work in marketing at American University, got her MBA, got married to Matt (not in that order), and went into consulting. In January 2014, she started up her own consulting company, Alto Solutions, LLC, which helps organizations and their people manage through change, improve their leadership and communications and build strong teams. Being an entrepreneur has truly been a breath of fresh air and has allowed her to do the work she loves while achieving balance and flexibility. When she's not working or spending time with her family, she is privileged to serve as the President of the great Class of 1995! 

By day, Matt is Assistant Director at the University of Southern California’s applied research lab called Information Sciences Institute, which oddly, has a campus in Arlington, Virginia. He has the privilege to lead a great team of researchers in the embedded computing area. By nights and weekends, he's Dad to two high-energy kids. And of course, there’s being a husband to a certain President of the class…

What are your duties as class officer and what have you enjoyed about the job?
The Vice President is one of the more malleable roles and has generally been in charge of ‘special projects.’ The special project that I’ve enjoyed the most was to lead the development of our Class Council. While we have a great set of Class Officers, we wanted to expand our outreach to be more comprehensive and representative of the class. The Class Council is a great way for us to not only have extra helpers for the officers, but also serves as a great way to train future officers or retain previous officers as advisors. I have been really impressed with the people that have volunteered for council. They have really extended the class’s capabilities and brought a lot of new energy, enthusiasm, and great ideas.


I have served as a class officer since our senior year at Cornell. One of my fond early memories, which helped set my path as a volunteer leader, was getting on a bus at oh-dark-thirty  from Ithaca to New York City for what was then the CACO (Cornell Association of Class Officers, now CALC) annual meeting. Here, our officers were joined at our lunch table by former President Frank H.T. Rhodes, who encouraged us to dream those bigger dreams by giving back through alumni service. After three terms (15 years!) as Class Correspondent, wherein I connected with and learned so much about so many of our classmates, taking on the role of President these past 5 years seemed the logical next step. In this capacity, I lead a phenomenal team of 9 other officers and 14 Council members, supporting all of our class activities, from dues payer recognition to fundraising to managing our budget to communicating via our website, listserv, Facebook page, class column, and this blog to planning for our 20th Reunion. It's been a fantastic journey and I can't wait to see the fruits of these efforts on the Hill in just a few weeks! 

What was your favorite class at Cornell, or the one you found the most useful?

Can I cheat and say The Big Red Marching Band? It was after all a gym class! Seriously though, while the Engineering courses I took were all of excellent level, Band allowed me to meet a ton of great people on Day 1, learn the ropes at Cornell, get advice from upper classmen in my major that I normally wouldn’t have met, and provide opportunities for leadership.

What is your favorite memory of your time at Cornell?
It's incredibly difficult to pinpoint just one. A few that come to mind are: performing with the Cornell University Chorus and its a cappella subset, After Eight - in particular, arch sings and the time we serenaded Frank and Rosa Rhodes during Trustee weekend; shooting a Cinderella-meets-the Godfather spoof in multiple parts of campus as part of a Comms video production class; wine touring during senior week; and all the wonderful friends made along the journey.

What advice would you give to a student starting at Cornell this year?
 If I were to be starting Cornell today, on the surface my experience would be completely different – they remade West Campus, renovated Phillips and Duffield Hall, heck even the Marching Band has a new building. But what doesn’t change at Cornell is the excellent all-around education they provide – and it’s not just the classes but the opportunities to be involved in so many high quality extracurriculars. Make sure to graduate taking advantage of these and becoming a well rounded person.

What random or surprising encounters with Cornell or Cornellians have you experienced since you left?
While on our honeymoon in Positano, Italy, in July 2003, Matt and I ran into classmate Azfar Hashmi at an ATM! I hadn't seen him since we both lived in Manhattan in the mid-90s. He and his wife were also honeymooning, and it happened to be the one night none of us had plans, so we all had a lovely dinner together and caught up on old times.

What are you most looking forward to at Reunion 2015?
It's so exciting to me that our 20th Reunion (holy cow, is it really our 20th?!) coincides with Cornell's Sesquicentennial. It makes me feel like we are really part of something big and important. I often think back to how we "graduated" with President Rhodes in 1995, and now our Reunion occurring the year our alma mater turns 150 is another pretty neat milestone. And, of course, I am also looking forward to catching up with old friends...and maybe even making some new ones!