Alumni Volunteer Award – Reunion 2010
When she’s asked how she came to Drew, Claudia Luecke says that Drew found her. After a year at the University of Texas she sought a smaller school; then she came down Madison Avenue from the College of St. Elizabeth to take a particular German course at Drew. She was so happy in The Forest that she transferred after one semester.
An activist at Drew, Claudia was involved in the anti-apartheid student groups that successfully protested Drew’s investment in South Africa. After graduation, she worked as a paralegal in New York City before earning a J.D. degree from the University of Richmond Law School in 1994. Her career as an attorney began with Bell Atlantic (now Verizon Wireless), where she worked for seven years before a post-9/11 layoff. After two years with a small law firm in her native Westfield, New Jersey, she realized that she preferred being in-house corporate counsel. She has worked with Citigroup since 2006.
Claudia’s experience in activism has served her well in her post-Drew volunteer work. Of Lithuanian descent, she was enrolled in summer courses at the University of Vilnius when Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia were trying to emerge from Soviet domination. After volunteering there, she lobbied the United Nations and the U.S. government as director of the Baltic Appeal to the United Nations in support of freedom. As she says, she helped liberate three countries!
A major challenge was still ahead. At the age of 31, Claudia was diagnosed with breast cancer, an event that has profoundly shaped both her volunteer interests. She has been active with the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s affiliate in Summit, New Jersey, where her involvement has included the Pink Tie Ball, now the largest non-political fundraiser in New Jersey. She has also served on the board of the New Jersey Chapter of the Young Survival Coalition, which focuses on supporting women who, like Claudia, develop breast cancer early in life. She has spoken at numerous New Jersey colleges, including Drew, to advocate early detection. Now that her cancer has returned, she finds herself increasingly interested in cancer research. Her primary involvement is now with the Institutional Review Board of the New Jersey Cancer Center, where she reviews study proposals and works to ensure that women participating in clinical trials, as she herself hopes to do, understand what their participation will involve.
Claudia has not allowed her illness to keep her from traveling the world (next stop, Southeast Asia). At home, she lives in Westfield with her parents. She appreciates their support, and that of her sister Nicole, a physician. She is still strongly connected with her Drew friends.