Class agent Indhira LaPuma ’00 has a winning formula for engaging classmates

September 07, 2022 — When Indhira LaPuma ’00 took on the class agent role about a year ago, it was mid-pandemic and like much of the world, the class of 2000 was isolated and dealing with work and personal upheavals. 

Her classmates weren’t feeling chatty, so LaPuma, an intellectual property attorney, knew she needed something more innovative than a blank postcard asking for news. She wracked her brain, came up with a series of questions, and sent them out in 2021.

Indhira LaPuma ’00
   Indhira LaPuma ’00

“My first question got the ball rolling,” says LaPuma, enthusiastically. “‘How are you feeling? Great, good, so-so, terrible.’ After every question, I’d ask if you’d care to elaborate.” 

She thought of amusing stuff – Did you acquire a new living plant, animal, or human in the past year? Did you pick up a new hobby? ‘Are you currently wearing afterpants*? And she asked questions that took a little more thought: What’s the one thing you learned about yourself during the past year? 

Her survey was a hit. “We got more than 30 responses, which is a ton for my class.” She took the answers and made them into a witty and entertaining class letter. 

LaPuma and her husband, Andrew Moon, along with their two girls, ages 2 and 4, are based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Like many people, they moved closer to family during the pandemic. LaPuma works remotely for the Atlanta-based general practice law firm Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP.

A physics major at Grinnell, LaPuma grew up occasionally watching her trial attorney dad in the courtroom. “I was always interested in the law,” she says, “but more from a scientific perspective.” Her father told her about patent law, where she could interact with scientists and learn about new inventions. From high school on, she was focused on being a patent attorney. 

At Grinnell, the outgoing LaPuma was involved in student government, played tennis (she still plays 3-4 times a week), was co-president of Grinnell Women in Science, and a member of the bridge club.

“My advisor, (professor emeritus) Mark B. Schneider, had a huge impact on my life,” LaPuma says. “Physics is a largely male-dominated field, and he made sure that the women in the group were always included and provided with opportunities. He really took an interest in making sure I succeeded.”

LaPuma, whose family lives in Omaha, went on to University of Nebraska College of Law. She began her intellectual property career at a small firm, founded her own practice, and then went to a bigger firm. She worked in-house for several corporations, including Caterpillar and later VF Corporation, the parent company of North Face, Vans, and Timberland. She joined her current firm in April 2019.

“I love our clients, and I love learning about innovation,” says LaPuma. “Our clients cover a really wide range of technologies, and it keeps us on our toes to constantly be learning about them, ensuring that their inventions are protected, and all their intellectual property is secured and enforced as needed. I can’t imagine doing any other kind of law.”

And she uses her Grinnell education on a daily basis. “The stuff I work on is primarily mechanical and electrical engineering based, so all of those fundamental concepts of physics come into play, even 20 years later.”

Her class agent duties this past year were largely devoted to her class’s 20th reunion in June. The class of 2000 was part of a cluster with the classes of 2001 and 2002.  

“We did lots of Facebook posts with pictures from our class, getting people inspired to come back to campus. We got a great turnout,” says LaPuma, who’s been part of her class committee since 2005.

She’s currently working on Reunion follow-up and thinking of new ways to engage classmates. “I’d really like to do some individual focused pieces in our newsletter,” she says. “We’ve got people who have interesting jobs, have written books, and have done incredible things.”

— by Anne Stein ’84

* From the ECN Glossary File: “Afterpants are a state of mind, and sometimes a state of being, attained when wearing comfy pants (or equivalent) and thus putting a kind of homebody-focused personal comfort above other considerations. Often afterpants are sweatpants or pajama bottoms, but some people may achieve afterpants enlightenment while wearing skirts, shorts, skivvies, or nothing at all.”

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