From Longmeadow to Capitol Hill: Meet Lori Roop '79
"I didn’t really have a path in mind after graduation; I knew what side of the brain for me was active (I was a very detail-oriented individual, I knew I enjoyed that kind of work, wherever it would take me). Because of support from my Bay Path mentors, I started thinking about working in Washington, D.C. The summer after graduation, I volunteered in my home state of Connecticut for Nancy Johnson’s congressional campaign, and after she was elected, Nancy called to see if I would be interested in being on her staff in D.C. Within a day, I said yes!”
And with that, an unplanned -- but long and storied -- career in Washington, D.C. began. Lori held three roles in Nancy’s office, working as her executive assistant, personal secretary, and office manager. Lori reports that working for Nancy was an extraordinary experience: she was cut from the same cloth as Dr. Leary, taking opportunities to help her staff learn and experience things they otherwise wouldn’t. “I was fortunate to spend time with the Bush family and with President Reagan; it was just incredible. But I felt that I needed to move on and get my bachelor’s degree, so I enrolled at George Washington University. I went back to school a week after I was offered a job at the White House; I turned it down because I knew my focus needed to be on school.”
While at GWU, Lori took a job with the American Bakers trade association, working as the assistant to the president and treasurer of its political action committee. She took classes at night, and while the Association had originally said it would pay for her schooling, that turned out not to be the case. When George Bush Sr. took office, many of Lori’s friends from Connecticut ended up working at the Department of Labor, and she received a call to gauge her interest in working as Deputy Director of Scheduling for Labor Secretary Elizabeth Dole. Elizabeth personally interviewed and hired Lori, and the role saw Lori traveling with the Labor Secretary all over the United States.
When Secretary Dole left her position, Lori remained on to work for new Labor Secretary Lynn Martin, who promoted Lori to Director. As part of a team of six Lori traveled domestically and internationally, giving her experiences that were previously unimaginable to this young Bay Path alumna. Unfortunately, the rigors of her schedule meant that Lori couldn’t continue earning her bachelor’s at GWU, but she was still learning like crazy. On a three-week, multi-country trip, Lori traveled to places like Russia and Italy, even meeting Shirley Temple Black, who was US Ambassador to Czechoslovakia at the time. She took a day trip to visit a renowned Arabian horse farm in Poland – and learned that vodka was served with every meal like water. It was a political and cultural education like no other.
When President Bill Clinton and the Democrats took office in 1993, Lori suddenly found herself out of a job. A former supervisor at the Department of Labor was working to open the United States Holocaust Museum, and contacted Lori asking her to volunteer. Lori originally said no, but eventually signed on to work as an event consultant to help with 12 opening events at the US Capitol, in Virginia, and at the Museum itself. As part of this work, Lori coordinated the appearances of celebrities like Barbara Streisand and Michael Jackson, and managed the logistics for a 10,000-person event where the President, Vice President, and Supreme Court were all in attendance. Lori continued as a consultant for the Museum, but eventually, she would become Director of VIP Guest Services, then Deputy Director of Special Events and VIP Guest Services, and finally Director of Museum Services, overseeing six divisions that included operations and volunteer management.
Lori stayed with the Museum for eight years, and then for the next ten, she and her husband Jon moved nine times throughout the country and in Europe. Her husband was in the Air Force, and his work took them to South Carolina, Alabama, and eventually Germany. While in Alabama, Lori worked as the Director for the local Habit for Humanity office, which she describes as “the hardest nine months of work in my life.” She helped get two new homes opened, ran a golf tournament, and did television appearances to raise awareness for the organization and its work. “There was a lot of prejudice in Alabama and South Carolina, which was very heart-wrenching, but the people I worked with all became family.”
In South Carolina, Lori had discovered what an invaluable resource Officers’ Spouses Clubs are for women married to military men. Lori describes them as places where professional women who fell in love with enlisted men come together to bring their resources to work, raising money for schools, children’s organizations, and scholarships for the children of Air Force personnel. This was especially true in Germany, where language barriers and an unfamiliar country brought American women together. Under Lori’s direction, the Stuttgart Spouses Club brought in $1.6 million from a one-weekend fundraiser, all of which went back into the military community. Lori also served as the Vice President of the German-American Women’s Club, which gave her the support she needed while her husband was deployed to Iraq.
After Germany, Lori and her husband did a brief stint in the St. Louis area, and then wound up at Andrews Air Force base in Maryland. Lori didn’t think that she and her husband would stay long in the Washington D.C. area, but Jon suggested that they not move for the 10th time in 10 years. Her former boss was now the director of the Holocaust Museum, and Lori reached out to her for a job reference, which she refused to give – and instead asked Lori to come back to the Museum full-time. Lori has been at the Museum ever since, coordinating over 200 events a year in Washington D.C., New York, Los Angeles, and in other cities across the country. These events commemorate the Holocaust, while also drawing attention to – and awareness of – issues of modern-day genocide.
The keys to Lori’s success? Her family, her faith, and the education she received in Longmeadow: “I credit where I am to Bay Path; even with an associate’s in executive secretarial work, if I didn’t have these tools, I wouldn’t be where I am.” When not busy with work, Lori and Jon mentor young couples in their church about the tools needed for a successful marriage. You may also find Lori on the Bay Path campus; she is currently serving as member of the Board of Trustees, and also as an event chair for Bay Path’s annual President’s Gala. In this way, Lori’s story comes full-circle, bringing her back to the very place that gave her her first start.