Nov 6, 2020
Q&A With Meredith Corporation
One of Dreyfoos’ beloved communications alumni, class of ’08, Alison Schwartz (also known as Ali) worked for PEOPLE magazine as Director, Digital Platforms until her untimely passing at the age of 29 in April from COVID-19. In May, her parents, Richard and Robin, and brother, Adam (also a Dreyfoos alum) set up a scholarship with the Foundation in Ali’s memory. Since creation, we’ve had more than 200 unique donors to this scholarship thanks to tributes written about Ali in PEOPLE magazine by her colleagues.
Meredith Corporation is a publicly held media and marketing services company that happens to own PEOPLE magazine. Ali’s colleagues started making donations to the scholarship in her memory, and soon Meredith Corporation was matching donations. But their generosity grew as they took it one step further, donating $25,000 to help endow the Alison Schwartz Memorial Scholarship.
Zoë Ruderman, Editor of People.com worked with Ali and speaks further on the matter.
Q: Can you talk about Meredith Corporation and PEOPLE’s philanthropy program?
A: Meredith donates about $1.7 million to nonprofits over the course of a year through something called the Meredith Corporation Foundation. And beyond that, the company has a corporate contribution budget that donates over $1 million annually. Plus, the Edwin T. Meredith Foundation donates another $1 million. And this past year we also donated $100,000 each to five organizations doing social justice work. And beyond financial donations, many of our employees are very engaged in nonprofits. And we give in the form of advertising space: local media spots and ad pages in our magazines.
Q: Please explain your matching employee donation program.
A: Meredith also offers gift matching for financial donations—up to $5,000 per employee—and volunteered hours. It’s really wonderful as an employee to see our donations go even farther thanks to the company.
Q: Did Ali ever speak about Dreyfoos?
A: It’s rare for me to be aware of where members of my team went to high school (much more typical to know where they went to college), but with Ali, I knew where she went to high school too. That’s how important Dreyfoos was to her.
Q: Covid has struck us all in different ways but your organization’s generous donation has made a huge impact on us. Why was it important to not only match the employee donations, but also make a large generous gift?
A: I’m happy to hear that the donation to Dreyfoos [School of the Arts Foundation] has been so impactful to you all! Ali attributed so much of her success to her education and I know she loved Dreyfoos as did her parents. It was with that knowledge in mind that the company decided to make the donation. Ali meant so much to PEOPLE and Dreyfoos meant so much to Ali. It’s also incredibly important to us as a brand and as a company that we foster creative talent like Ali’s and we view this as a way of doing that.
Q: How important was Ali to the workplace?
A: Ali was one of the most creative and talented editors I’ve ever worked with and as I wrote in the note to the PEOPLE team when she passed away in April, she was always the first person I went to when I needed a brilliant idea, a strong edit, or just a smart solution to a problem. We couldn’t stop promoting her! I think sometimes people forgot she was only 29 since she oversaw a team, worked closely with high-ups in other departments, and had presented to the executive leadership. I truly felt like I learned more from her than she did from me. I was so lucky to work with her—and I know anyone on the team who crossed paths with her even for a moment felt the same way. Those who worked closely with her adored her, but also those who simply sat near her or worked with her on one or two things. Someone on the Crime team mentioned how wonderful it was to sit near Ali since she brought so much humor and joy to their section of the office where the news is often grim and grisly.
Ali is responsible for the incredible success we had and continue to have on Snapchat. She crafted a voice and a vision for the platform and helped bring the PEOPLE brand to younger users. She was an incredible manager and an incredible person to manage. Plus, she was just smart and funny. She’s responsible for some of the best lines ever written on People.com. Ali also seemed to always have a smile on her face. Even after working an awards show that kept us all up and working until 3am…or later.
Q: As a professional working for a renowned publication, do you have any advice for current Dreyfoos students looking to follow the same path or in Ali’s shoes?
A: Ali started out at PEOPLE as an intern and she really dazzled everyone on staff. For students who want to land a job similar to Ali’s or work in this field, I highly recommend an internship if that’s an option to you. It’s good for your resume and networking, but it’s also really useful in figuring out what you want to do since you get to sort of test out departments and roles. And stay in touch with everyone! It doesn’t have to be formal—staying in touch on Instagram counts! Ali definitely did that—though I have a feeling she amassed a fan club wherever she went and everyone just wanted to stay in touch with her.
Donations to the Alison Schwartz Memorial Scholarship can be made here.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if interested in learning more about establishing a scholarship or endowment.
Be sure to read PEOPLE’s articles on Ali here:
- Remembering One of Our Own: PEOPLE's Alison Schwartz, Lost to Coronavirus at 29
- PEOPLE Staff Pays Tribute to One of Their Own: Alison Schwartz, Lost to Coronavirus at 29
Written By: Marion Randolph