Rekindled reunions designed to strengthen alumni ties
U-M leaders hope two upcoming events will help build a philanthropic tradition and lead to even more engagement from alumni by re-establishing universitywide reunions.
A Sept. 7-8 Recent Graduate Reunion will invite members of the undergraduate classes of 2001-07 to campus for entertainment, food and fun—complete with a football tailgate and optional attendance at the U-M v. Oregon game. Then, a Homecoming weekend reunion will celebrate the class of 1957. The Oct. 12-14 event also will include an invitation to those from classes prior to 1957, many of whom did not have a 50th reunion. Several events have been scheduled for the weekend above and beyond those already organized for Homecoming. The 50th Reunion takes the place of the Emeritus Reunion that was discontinued in 2002, primarily due to funding challenges and dwindling attendance. For details on both events go to www.reunions.umich.edu.
Although some schools and colleges over the years have held reunion celebrations, the history of universitywide events has been spotty, prompting Provost Teresa Sullivan to fund a new Office of Reunions & Reunion Giving.
“University of Michigan alumni are very proud of their alma mater and we want to build on that loyalty to establish and sustain a tradition of engagement and giving,” Sullivan says. “We welcome the interest and involvement of our alumni in the life of the University.”
Two years ago, the Alumni Association of U-M (AAUM) and the Office of University Development (OUD) began discussions about how to further engage alumni in the work of U-M, particularly recent graduates. At the time, the University was in the middle of The Michigan Difference campaign, during which Vice President for Development Jerry May says many generous alumni were happy to be a part of endowing the future of the University.
The Spring 2007 issue of the U-M philanthropy magazine, Leaders and Best, focused on a number of alumni 50 and under who make up 22 percent of the campaign’s nearly 285,000 donors to date. The article noted that: “Donors age 50 and under have given twice as much during The Michigan Difference campaign as donors in the same age group contributed during the Campaign for Michigan in the mid-1990s.” A number of the new generation of donors, May says, are interested in the President’s Donor Challenge, which matches dollar-for-dollar gifts or pledges made for need-based scholarships.
“Whether the gesture is out of appreciation for what U-M has done for them, a desire to help solve the world’s problems through education or to open a world of opportunities for others, we are finding that many young alumni are generous with their time and resources,” May says. “It is this kind of loyalty and interest in the work of the University that we hope to encourage by involving even more alumni through these reunion programs.”
U-M alumni long have been active through the more than 70 clubs in more than two-thirds of the United States and many international locations. AAUM President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Grafton says when he meets people at club gatherings many express a desire to know what is going on at their old campus.
“Re-establishing universitywide reunion events will provide another opportunity for our alumni to connect with the University by bringing them back to campus,” Grafton says. “Reunions and reunion giving are important to the overall success, now and into the future, as we build a legacy for the University of Michigan and its alumni.”
The goal of the Office of Reunions & Reunion Giving is to “engage groups from all generations of the Michigan family and provide them with opportunities to support their alma mater by attending a reunion and serving on reunion committees, as well as facilitating monetary support,” says Nic Katona, director of reunions and reunion giving.
“The reunion is an opportunity to look back on fond memories, but more importantly to take those memories and create new ones. We will work hard to welcome our alumni back and make them feel at home and show them the Michigan of today, the Michigan that they helped to build,” Katona says. “We look forward to a long lasting relationship with our alumni and to the success of a new and exciting tradition.”