“I’m an optimist, I like connecting with people, and I love hearing people’s stories,” explains Jonathan “Joe” Lines ’87. “I have this desire to get to know people better. I don’t really consider what I’m doing just fundraising, it’s more than that, it’s reconnecting.”
Lines has a great network of PSU friends and, as a volunteer with the Office of University Advancement, takes pleasure in connecting their collective memories with the experiences of today’s students. “I’ll say, look what we got out of this school, having this amazing experience that was the most satisfying and best part of our lives, and there are students at Plymouth State right now who are going through the same thing.”
Lines’s appreciation for Plymouth State’s impact has grown over the years. “The time spent at Plymouth growing as a person in this amazingly idyllic setting, making the friends and the bonds that I’ve had throughout my life, adds up to being one of the greatest influences in my life. It’s a worthy place to give back to.”
As a teenager, Lines moved from Liverpool, England, to Billerica, MA. The two communities have comparable working-class heritages, and Lines noticed a similar grit. “I sensed that there were a lot of people in Plymouth like those I had met in high school, street smart kids trying to get their educations.”
He continues to relate to the large percentage of Plymouth State students who are first-generation, below the poverty line, or otherwise highly deserving of a break in life. “Quite frankly, Plymouth gave me an opportunity I wouldn’t have had,” he says. “Very few people of my ilk got to go to university in England, and I was blessed to be accepted and have the ability to learn, get an education, and go into the professional workspace.”
Former Men’s Soccer Coach Gerd Lutter, a member of the Plymouth State Athletic Hall of Fall, stands out as a mentor and role model for Lines, who played four years of PSU soccer. “I was a child of divorce and he became kind of a father figure to me,” says Lines. “He was quite an amazing influence and not just for me. He gave lots of people personal guidance about life that I really appreciated.”
Lines went on to enjoy a 32-year career in the sports and fitness industry. He ascended the corporate ladder with leading global brands, including Adidas, Reebok, and Nike, advancing from customer service and sales and finally into product marketing.
Now he’s motivated by a deep desire to give back. That, and an inquisitive nature, led him to contact the University to offer his many talents as a volunteer.
Many of Lines’s Plymouth State connections were fellow student-athletes, and he has little trouble interesting them in the University’s plans for a new, state-of-the-industry Strength and Conditioning Center. “We remember the facilities that we had and want to give back to today’s athletes,” he says.
The benefits of a Plymouth State education remain clear to Lines through all of his outreach and conversations and serve as a continuous source of inspiration. “Ninety-five percent of the friends that I reconnect with have done incredibly well in life,” he says. This outstanding outcome is especially meaningful, he notes, given the relatively modest backgrounds of many.