Alumni Association marks 100 years

To celebrate its philanthropic legacy, the Alumni Association is presenting a new cheer to the University.

by Boa Lee

The University’s Alumni Association turns 100 today.

To celebrate its centennial anniversary, the 55,000-member group will give the University a new cheer and an afternoon pizza party.

But at the turn of a century-old existence, the Alumni Association’s staff said they intend to focus on the independent organization’s accomplishments.

In the 1920s, the Alumni Association collected more than $1.7 million to help raise Memorial Stadium and Northrop Auditorium, only to see the campus stadium fall into disrepair 50 years later. In July 1992, a group of alumni watched as the stadium was demolished.

A piece of the entrance still remains intact in the organization’s headquarters.

Before McNamara alumni center’s construction broke ground in 1997, the association had not had a permanent home for 80 years.

“It was a real challenge,” said Alumni Association spokeswoman Susan Diekman. “But we persevered in achieving that goal.”

Now, with a $2 million donation to the University in 2003 to support a new on-campus stadium and provide student scholarships, Diekman said it’s clear the Alumni Association “remains consistent to the values of the organization.”

As builders and keepers of the University’s heritage, the association has contributed to current students’ experiences, said Margaret Carlson, the association’s executive director.

To celebrate its philanthropic legacy, the Alumni Association is presenting a new cheer to the University.

“We thought about how we could give a gift of pride and spirit. Then we thought, ‘Why not a musical cheer?’ ” Carlson said.

Stokes, who said he wasn’t aware of the Alumni Association prior to the contest, said he is “becoming increasingly aware” of what it does.

“It’s the number one cheerleader for the ‘U,’ ” he said.

Carlson said getting graduates such as Stokes reacquainted with the University is one of the most important reasons for the association’s existence.

“At some point in most alumni’s lives, they want to get involved,” she said. “Alumni have lobbied the Legislature, recruited high school students and mentored.”

University President Bob Bruininks, who has been a member of Alumni Association since 1970 even though he’s not an alumnus, said the group plays an important role at the University.

“One of the strengths of American higher education is that we keep strong connections with alumni,” he said. “The Alumni

Association has a very pivotal role in strengthening the University’s future.”

As for the association’s future mission, Carlson hopes nothing changes.

“One hundred years from now,” she said, “I think we’ll see that, consistently, alumni have stood up and spoken out, and they did so without trepidation because they have a responsibility as permanent stakeholders.”