Alumni Association turns 100 years old

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In the early years, excessive singing was a problem.

Alumni attending sporting events and parties given by sororites and fraternities showed their school spirit with a song, and by 1932, singing was banned while dinner was being served at the alumni banquet.

Today, that association is celebrating its 100th anniversary with more than 111,000 members. While singing is no longer a challenge, school spirit is stronger than ever. And the association can point to some significant accomplishments that have helped both students and alumni.

Two hundred alumni attended the first dinner in June 1912 and Osbourne F. Gurney, a 1903 graduate, was elected president of the new association. By that time, colleges such as Harvard, Vassar, Smith and Wellesley had already formed alumni associations.

In 1942, the Development Fund was initiated. The following year, 15 $100 scholarships were awarded. Each year, the fund goal increased and more scholarships were awarded in larger amounts.

In the 1960s, alumni played a big part in financing the 1968 move of the RIT campus from downtown Rochester to Henrietta.

By the 1970s, the executive committee overseeing alumni activities became the National Alumni Council to represent the more than half of all alumni from outside of Rochester.

In the early 1980s, the office of Alumni Relations started a welcome wagon to connect with graduates in seven cities, says Roz Hawkins, administrative assistant for Alumni Relations from 1976-1986.

Through a survey conducted in 2001, RIT learned that alumni had a close relationship with their college and department. As a result, Brick City Homecoming & Family Weekend grew to include reunion activities for classes, athletics, Greeks, student clubs, and more.

In fiscal year 2012, nearly 40,000 people participated in more than 575 alumni events nationally and internationally. More than 30,000 graduates are members of RIT’s online community.

“Alumni today are increasingly enthusiastic about RIT,” says Kelly Redder, assistant vice president of Alumni Relations. “They want to make sure students coming after them have an even more rewarding experience than they did.”