December 02, 2019
Showing Up for CMU
Alumna Rachel E. Keeler leads the charge for the CMU community she loves
By Sarah Burke
Shortly after her graduation from Carnegie Mellon University, Rachel E. Keeler (TPR 1994) received a piece of mail that caught her attention — an invitation to join the Pittsburgh Women’s Clan, a group of local CMU alumnae.
“I had no idea what to expect, but I showed up for the meeting anyway,” she says.
Rachel has been showing up for the CMU community ever since, tirelessly volunteering her time, talents and leadership skills. Today, she serves as president of CMU’s Pittsburgh Network, which was honored as Large Network of the Year in 2018. She also received the Alumni Service Award in 2014.
In addition to volunteering, Rachel gives back to CMU as a loyal donor, from fueling her favorite CMU programs on #givingCMUday to supporting the expansion of the Cohon University Center.
From the very beginning, Rachel has been committed to her alma mater. At the first Women’s Clan meeting she attended, the discussion focused on fundraising plans for the Pittsburgh Women’s Clan Scholarship, which was established in the 1930s to help rising junior women pursue their education.
At that time, the fund had approximately $5,000. To raise money, Rachel and her fellow alumnae sold cookies, scarves and T-shirts. They also hosted events and sent letters to past scholarship recipients asking for contributions.
“We had some phenomenal years,” Rachel says. “Every bake sale, dinner fundraiser and direct campaign really added up.”
Thanks to their efforts, today the scholarship is an endowed fund with more than $135,000.
For Rachel, advancing this cause has been especially meaningful because she received significant scholarship support as a CMU student.
“Scholarships are near and dear to my heart. I could not have come to CMU if I had to pay out of pocket,” Rachel says. “These students work so hard, and I want them to be able to focus on their work instead of worrying about money.”
“These students work so hard, and I want them to be able to focus on their work instead of worrying about money.”
Another award, the Pittsburgh Loyal Scot AID (PLAID) Scholarship, was created in 2012 to recognize the Pittsburgh Network’s efforts during the Trustee Loyal Scot Chapter Challenge. It is given to a rising junior each year.
Soon after joining the Pittsburgh Women’s Clan, Rachel became vice president. In 2000, the local men’s alumni group was revitalized to form a new Pittsburgh Network that welcomed all CMU alumni. Rachel took on a new role as sponsorship chair for that group.
In that capacity, Rachel has helped businesses connect with Pittsburgh’s CMU alumni community in a variety of ways — donating food and materials, hosting their own educational programs and attending network gatherings like the Highland Games and Scotch tasting events.
Rachel says what she loves most about the Pittsburgh Network is the long-term friendships that have developed and how group members help and support each other.
“If you start talking to someone else with a CMU degree, it doesn’t matter your background, social status, age difference — there’s a connection right away,” she says.
Rachel says that being exposed to so many new people, ideas and perspectives at CMU fostered her growth and development. In addition to learning valuable business and management skills, she felt encouraged to speak her mind and challenge the status quo — lessons that have served her well in her career in financial advising and real estate.
“You have to ask questions at CMU, or you’re not going to do well,” she says.
In addition to leading the Pittsburgh Network, Rachel stays connected as an active member of the Ballroom Dance Club’s competition team. She also serves as an assistant teacher for a Carnegie Mellon Athletics ballroom dance class for CMU students.
“These students are so motivated to succeed in their classes and career paths, but they also need joy,” Rachel says. “Dance is such a great stress reliever.”
For Rachel, showing up for CMU — as a supporter and volunteer — has become a way of life. She says she’s extremely proud to be a Tartan, and describes the accomplishments of her fellow alumni as “jaw-dropping.”
“CMU is doing so many positive things to improve society, technology, health, the environment — things that will really make a difference for the human race,” she says.