Eddie on a Zoom call

Eddie Beqaj ’08: Staying Connected: How RSGC’s Alumni Network Bonded During Lockdown

When Eddie Beqaj ’08 was in Grade 12 at RSGC, he landed the role of Social Prefect—surprising absolutely no one. According to his closest friend Geoff Martin ’08, he was an extremely friendly, well-known and well-liked student.
Eddie loved his time at the school and says it was the best time of his life, so it was an easy step for him to join the RSGCA Alumni Association back in 2014. He moved into the role of President in the summer of 2020, not knowing that he would spend at least his first year leading the association from his computer screen.
“It’s not exactly how I imagined things would be, but it’s been really interesting,” said Eddie. “We figured we’d be back in person in time to have our big mentoring and networking event in May, but as time went on, we realized that we weren’t going back anytime soon. That’s when we had to step back, figure out our new goals and objectives, and how we would deliver value digitally.”
The first step was moving the RSGCAA meetings to Zoom, which has led to a massive increase in participation. Without the members having to rush to campus at the end of a long workday, it has been an easy and successful transition. Eddie has a great relationship with RSGC, and ensures that the meetings are effective and efficient by having his team come prepared.
“I’ve told them: ‘Don’t come to the meeting to brainstorm; brainstorm in your portfolio group and then come tell us how we can support you.’ So, they’re meeting on their own and coming back to us, which has been really beneficial when it comes to time management,” said Eddie, who works as Senior Relationship Manager of Enterprise at Flinks. “I think that’s how we’ve really excelled. Everyone is chipping in outside of our regular meetings. We’ve all had to pull up our socks and do this as a team to lead the ship. It takes a village.”
Their approach has worked, successfully engaging a broader segment of the alumni network in directing the work of the organization. From virtual reunions and Knights Talks to online cooking events, there is no doubt that Georgians have still found ways to connect despite the pandemic. They, in fact, crave it.
Eddie, who started at RSGC in Grade 4, knows that virtual events can’t replace in-person gatherings—especially RSGCAA staples like the Old Boys’ Dinner and the Carol Service. There is no substitute for getting together with Old Boys for a drink or a catch-up chat in Ketchum Hall. But he’s been blown away by how strong alumni engagement has remained through the shift to virtual events.
“We did a few speakers’ series where people were able to listen and learn. We’ve changed and adapted the way we’ve done things and we’ve seen some really good uptake,” said Eddie. “The two On-Screen Cuisine events with Afrim [Pristine ’99] were a massive success. The first one had 150 people, the second had 270 people. And it wasn’t just alumni who participated, which is what was really amazing. It was the RSGCAA putting the event on for the school. It was alumni parents, current parents, staff. My sister even did it. We’re connecting people. I think we’ve been able to knock that out of the park.”
RSGCAA Past President Drew Blanchette ’96, who now runs the events portfolio along with Scott Ackley ’04, David Clarke ’08, Peter Antonoff ’82 and RSGC Advancement team members Maria Jordan and Marin Anderson, is impressed with what the RSGCAA has managed to pull off.
“We’ve really had to think outside the box in what we want to do—and we’re not done yet. We’re trying to think of something related to golf. We want to do something related to art with Michael Antonoff ’86 and the McMichael Gallery. We’re going to do a musical event with Otis Moore ’15 in the late Spring,” said Drew. “We learned that all of our events don’t have to happen in person, and it shows you that people are craving community. I know I’ll take anything right now. If RSGC is a means for us to have a dinner as a community, then let’s do it. I can’t wait for us to have our Old Boys’ Dinner back, but until then, we’ll keep doing this.”
Drew, who led the RSGCAA for four years, including during the early days of COVID-19 last year, says it has been an easy transition with Eddie, largely because he has been so upbeat about everything.
“Eddie is a very positive individual— his demeanor, his attitude, everything is so upbeat and positive. It’s been nice,” said Drew. “He’s very good at empowering his troops. It’s a group effort and always has been, but Eddie allows the gentlemen under him to shine. It keeps us moving in the right direction. He is putting his stamp on things in a great way and we’re moving forward in such a positive way.”
And while Eddie’s best friend Geoff Martin isn’t on the RSGCAA, he knows that no one is better suited for the role of RSCAA President and the challenges that have come with it during the pandemic.
“Eddie has always been outgoing and personable—always staying in touch and reaching out to his wide network of friends and former classmates,” said Geoff. “The challenges with the pandemic and not seeing one another as often has made Eddie work even harder, to stay connected and keep tabs on what’s going on with the people in his life. He is very sociable and loves to entertain, so the cooking class, for example, was the closest way he could pull off something like that.”
The friends, who met at RSGC in Grade 7, are grateful for their friendship. Geoff was in Eddie’s wedding party when Eddie got married in 2019 and Eddie will be Geoff ’s best man if his wedding can go ahead as planned this summer. Pandemic or not, not a day goes by without them speaking to each other.
Geoff summed their friendship up perfectly when he said: “You have to put a little bit more work in these days, but technology allows you to do it, which is great.”
Words to live by!