By Kathleen Parrish
The fabric of Cathy Ahart’s life is leopard print. You can see it displayed in the scarves she wears with panache around her neck, on sweaters, handbags, pumps, and even her umbrella.
“If they make it in leopard print, we have it. That’s all I’m going to say,” says Ahart P’97 P’03. “My family has the market on leopard print.”
The design is more than a fashion statement. It symbolizes her family’s devotion to Lafayette College, where she met her husband, Ed Ahart ’69, chair of the Board of Trustees, on a blind date on Valentine’s Day his senior year. Ed’s date to a concert backed out at the last minute because she had advanced to the finals of a beauty pageant. His roommate offered to fix him up with his girlfriend’s roommate at Kutztown University.
“‘She has a nice personality and all the girls like her,’” Cathy says he told Ed about her. “Talk about the kiss of death.”
Meanwhile, Cathy had a boyfriend in the military who was stationed in Alaska, so the prospect of a platonic night out with a mutual friend was welcome.
“I went to Chi Phi and walked into the rock room to meet Ed for the first time,” she recalls.
Six months later, they were engaged.
Ed, who grew up in Phillipsburg, N.J., went on to attend Cornell Law School. When he graduated, the couple moved back to the area and Cathy, who graduated with a degree in education from Kutztown, worked at Skillman Library for a summer before landing a teaching and media specialist job at a New Jersey elementary school.
Ed immediately began volunteering at Lafayette.
And when they started having children, the couple brought them along to campus concerts, picnics, and athletic events.
It’s no wonder two of their daughters, Amy ’97 and Alison ’03, followed in their father’s collegiate footsteps.
“We’ve always been totally ingrained in the College, but having our kids here has been really special,” Cathy says. “We knew the academic background they were going to get, the mentoring from professors, social offerings, and the protected environment of being at a small school.”
In fact, she says, Amy, who is COO of International Boys’ School Coalition, refused to apply anywhere else.
The Ahart family’s Lafayette connection increased when both daughters married Lafayette grads—Alison, senior vice president and executive producer of Columbia Artists in New York, to Shaw Williams ’03, and Amy to Tom DiGiovanni ’96.
Another daughter, Sarah, a 1999 graduate of Union College, who coached crew at Lafayette, married a Lehigh University alum, but the family has embraced him nonetheless. “Ed jokes she did that to bring diversity to our family,” Cathy says.
The couple’s youngest, Edward II, graduated in 2007 from Richard Stockton University and is a development officer at University of Delaware. He’s getting married next Saturday, Oct. 28, and even though there’s plenty to do for the wedding before then, Cathy says, the Ahart family didn’t want to miss Homecoming.
They have priorities, after all.
Now Ed and Cathy bring their five grandchildren to the College and are helping them accumulate their own leopard print collections. Four of the couple’s grandchildren attended the 150th Rivalry game at Yankee Stadium in 2014. “They’re already starting to be part of the Lafayette family,” Cathy says.
In looking back at almost 50 years of being involved with the College, Cathy can’t help but wax nostalgic.
“We’ve had such a rich life being involved with the College,” she says. “It really does feel like our home.”