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Taking shape

RIT alumni make a community

    Be True to Your School, warbled the Beach Boys in their anthem to academic life. RIT graduates, perhaps not quite as traditional as Brian Wilson, nonetheless enjoy ample opportunity for the "rah, rah, rah, siss boom bah," that Wilson croons about. Our alumni demonstrate their strong feelings toward RIT through their volunteer efforts on behalf of the Institute.

Mary Lou Hawkins O'Connor '50 and Ed Vidler '50 reminisce while perusing an RIT yearbook in Vidler's Buffalo-area store and also make plans for the Golden Reunion this June. (O'Connor is the female half of the couple in the photo at the back of the fall 1999 University Magazine.

    "Maybe the traditional image is one of alumni visiting the campus for the homecoming football game, while waving the school flag - but RIT alumni are much more diverse, more unconventional and more inclined toward personal involvement," says Edward Lincoln, executive director of the Office of Alumni Relations.

    Take this, Brian Wilson:

  • 19 alumni serve on the RIT Board of Trustees, with Bill Buckingham in the pioneering role as the first alumni chair
  • 14 alumni serve on the Alumni Network Board of Directors
  • More than 30 alumni serve as regional chapter volunteers, organizing events, receptions and general get-togethers
  • Thousands of alumni regularly support RIT through contributions of time, talent and donations.

        "Being true to RIT can take many shapes," Lincoln says. "The energy of our alumni pushes us to design events and programs that meet their needs and involve them in the life of RIT."

        The engine that drives much of the alumni activity is tucked away in a small suite of offices in a hallway on the second level of the Student Alumni Union. Seven staff members crowd the suite, answering phones, writing letters, tracking data, designing brochures and Web sites, making travel arrangements, and nurturing RIT alumni's lifelong relationships with the Institute and with each other.

        Affinity groups - alumni organizations and activities centered on a college, school or program-are Dan Hickey's charges. (Hickey earned his bachelor of fine arts degree at RIT in 1991 and his master's in 1998.) Hickey has worked with alumni on such varied events as the party for 550 alumni onboard the Intrepid after October's Big Shot, a reunion for the 1949 Photographic Technology graduates and an alumni reception held annually at SIGGRAPH, the world's premier computer graphics conference. "Each group is different and gets its personality from the volunteers," he says, and is galvanized by an alumnus or two who pull events together and give vitality to the group.

        The Hospitality Society gets its momentum from Jim Frederiksen '95 and Keith Shugerts '94, says Hickey. "Jim and Keith have been leading the Hospitality Society for some time. They believe in the mission of the society to promote the interests of RIT's School of Hospitality and Service Management and to promote interaction between alumni."

        Giving RIT alumni the chance to go back to school, without the anxiety of grades and deadlines, is the central point of Christina Mancini's work. Charged with directing alumni education programs, she plans such landmark events as Classes Without Quizzes. Scheduled for three Saturdays a year, the program provides a variety of courses in a broad range of subject areas that last from one-and-a-half to three hours. Mancini organizes other educational programs for alumni as well, including on-campus lectures and an online learning program. A new job perk for Mancini is travel: this year Mancini will visit Tuscany through the Alumni Travel Program's inaugural trip.

        "It's the alumni that drive this education bus," says Mancini, laughing. "Like Jon Kriegel '70, an engineering alumnus. He has presented at Classes Without Quizzes, as well as two special seminars on the Chandra Telescope. His most recent lecture drew over 350 people, and captivated them for over an hour."

    More than seven hundred students turned out for a career fair in March, sponsored by the Minority Alumni Advisory Committee (MAAC). MAAC sponsors an annual scholarship program and hosts several events, including the career fair and a college day to introduce local minority high school students to RIT.

        Out-of-town alumni frequently have the chance to enjoy the fruits of the office's work. Staff organize regional activities for alumni. Last year, they arranged receptions featuring President Simone in Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Dallas, Austin and Washington, D.C. Sporting events gave them a good excuse to cook up networking affairs in several large cities, including an NFL game between the Buffalo Bills and the Phoenix Cardinals for 60 alumni in Phoenix. In the Rochester area, regional activities have included mixers at the Memorial Art Gallery, Finger Lakes winery tours, Rochester Rhinos soccer games and Red Wings baseball games.

        "The number of chapters is growing--grads keep popping up to volunteer, saying they want an opportunity to meet with other members of the RIT community," Lincoln says proudly. "Stacy Kalisz '96 spearheads the Phoenix chapter, for example. In just one year she has organized an inaugural chapter reception, a financial planning workshop, a presidential reception, and alumni outings to see Cardinals, Rattlers and Diamondbacks games. Frankly, I have a hard time keeping up with her."

        Internet use among alumni is rapidly growing. Margaret Glitch '94, a College of Business alumna, handles alumni technical outreach. "I have to say that I love what I do," she says, pointing to a tall stack of 500 e-mail printouts sitting on a shelf near her computer. "Each one of those pieces of paper is a one-on-one meeting between me and another graduate," she says. "They take the time to let us know what they are doing. I get to connect with all kinds of people."

        The Alumni Network Web site, www.rit. edu/alumni, is Glitch's recent project that offers alumni users an online directory, yellow-pages listings, a shopping mall, home page creation tools and permanent e-mail addresses. "I enjoy the technical work, but the best part of this job is when I get to meet an alum face to face who smiles and talks about experiences at RIT," says Glitch. "It makes me remember that we are all a community, no matter where we are."

         For more information on alumni activities of all kinds, call 716-475-ALUM, e-mail ritalum@rit.edu, or visit www.rit. edu/alumni.
    All work... Members of the Office of Alumni Relations, top left to bottom: Christina Mancini, Margaret Glitch, Barbara Carney, Dan Hickey, Ed Lincoln, Barbara Miller.

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