Jake Menges ’87
Avon Old Farms wasn’t on the top of Jake Menges’s list. The last stop on his boarding school tour, Avon’s charm worked its magic at the very last minute on Jake, who was tired of looking at schools and dead set on attending another.
“As soon as I stepped on campus, everything changed,” recalls Jake. “I knew this was the place for me. The leaves were changing; students were moving about the Quad on their way to class; there was an energy on campus that I have never felt at any other school, and I still feel today when I visit.”
After an interview and tour with Director of Admissions Frank Leavitt ’52, Jake knew he had found his place: “I walked out of his office determined to go to AOF.” And he never looked back. With the guidance and support of many people along the way, Jake had a greatly rewarding experience at Avon. People like George Trautman – who Jake describes as “tough, but fair” – and Art Custer and Chandra Narsipur, who “planted the seed of history that has blossomed into the passion I have for the subject today,” reminded him to “behave like gentleman, be proud of your school, and represent your school with honor and dignity.”
A talented thespian while a student at Avon, Jake also credits former faculty member and drama advisor Jock Gracey, for pushing him to follow his passion on stage when he thought he had lost it, and former faculty members John Gelinas and Gerry McGinley, “who acted as supportive crutches to a young kid who at times was a little lost.”
Although he no longer counts acting among his hobbies, Jake’s daughter has caught “the acting bug” and he is enjoying living vicariously through her, recalling fondly his time in Avon’s theater program and reveling in its growth: “I love the fact that the drama and music departments are generating the interest they are,” he observes. “They will continue to diversify the Avon experience that produces well-rounded men. I have traveled to dozens of schools in the area and have yet to see a school that has as many beautiful facilities as Avon.”
Additionally, Jake claims that his training and experience on the Avon stage helped shape his decision to step into the political spotlight, as well.
After graduating from college, Jake got a job lobbying for the New Hampshire Ski Area Association and the Small Business Association. “I was walking the halls of the capitol by day and taking legislators skiing at night,” he explains.
“It was a great job, and I loved it, but I really wanted to get involved with political consulting, so I sought out one of the top political consultants at the time and asked him how to break into the business. He said to get on a nationally watched campaign and learn every aspect of that winning campaign. At the time, there were only two big races in the country; the governor’s race in New Jersey, and Rudy Giuliani’s long shot bid for New York City Mayor. I’m a lifelong New Yorker, so the decision was simple.
“I packed my bags and left the mountains of New Hampshire for the political rough and tumble streets of New York,” continues Jake. “It was the best decision of my life.”
Jake joined the Giuliani campaign in the fall of 1992; after an exciting upset, he went to work with the administration, “ready to change New York.” He served in various capacities throughout the administration for six years, in roles that included deputy chief of staff. He also ran Giuliani’s legislative office that oversaw congress, state, and local legislative bodies.
“It was an exciting time to be in government in New York City,” notes Jake. “It was an extremely satisfying and rewarding experience.”
Jake went on to open a political consulting firm, but still sees and works with Giuliani regularly; he even officiated Jake’s wedding to Nicole de Groot Robinson, the sister of Colt Robinson ’96.
Jake is a nationally recognized Republican political consultant who has won dozens of campaigns across the country for members of Congress, United States senators, mayors, and governors. He has advised emerging democracies in Eastern Europe, and Fortune 500 companies on crisis management, advertising campaigns, and government relations.
Yet, throughout all of his success, he is quick to cite Avon, and the many friends, teachers, and coaches who inspired him, as instrumental in helping him achieve what he has throughout his life: “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Avon, and reflect on how important the school was to shaping me into the person that I am today,” he comments.
“In these scary and uncertain times, it is comforting to know that there is a place like Avon teaching the next generation of leaders the importance of honor, dignity, respect, and values. Sometimes it feels as though people who cut corners and bend the law to get ahead of the next guy get away with it. That’s why it is important today, more than ever, to have a place like Avon where this next generation of leaders can learn how working in a community and playing by the rules does pay off.”
Jake lives in New York City with his wife, Nicole, and his three children. He is looking forward to attending his 25th Reunion this May, and hopes to catch up with many classmates from the Class of 1987!