The University Record, May 6, 1998

Alumni Association's national board supports U's commitment to diversity

By Noreen Wolcott
Alumni Association

Alumni Association membersThe national board of directors of the Alumni Association reaffirmed its support of the University's commitment to diversity during its semi-annual meeting in Ann Arbor April 2426.

"Throughout its history, the University of Michigan has followed its democratic founding principle that a quality higher education should be available to all," noted the directors in a prepared statement.

"As it has throughout its own 100-year history, the separately incorporated and self-governed Alumni Association of the University of Michigan desires that its voice be counted among those who wish to be heard above those who threaten to dismantle a founding principle of this great public University and thus offers the following resolution:

"In recognition and in full support of the democratic principles upon which the University of Michigan was founded; and

"In recognition of the richness that diversity brings to the University of Michigan learning environment; and

"In recognition of the value a well-educated, diverse society brings to our state and nation;

"Be it resolved that the board of directors of the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan reaffirms its unwavering and historically held commitment to the value of a diverse University community; and

"Be it further resolved that the board of directors of the Alumni Association fully supports the University's efforts to maintain and strengthen a diverse University community."

Founded in 1845 and incorporated in 1897, the Alumni Association today has more than 104,000 members. Members are primarily from the University's alumni body, as well as students, faculty and friends of the institution.

The Association historically has been a staunch supporter of diversity. "Michigan's claim to democracy lies in the fact that her doors are open to all who are qualified to enter," wrote Wilfred B. Shaw, '04, alumni secretary, in a 1910 issue of Michigan Alumnus, the Association's magazine.

"To the University there is no east, no west, no south. State, even national boundaries present no obstruction to the scattering of her instruction. But more than this worldwide invitation, implied if not extended, greater by far than this can be, is the spirit of true democracy existing among the many students gathered about her campus."

The Alumni Association initiated its own minority recruitment efforts in 1982 to help the University recruit and retain qualified underrepresented minority students in undergraduate, graduate and professional programs.

At that time, Executive Director Robert G. Forman, '59, stressed the importance of the University's minority recruitment/retention efforts in comments that hearkened back over the decades to those of his predecessor Shaw.

"This nation was founded on the premise that it would be a haven for men and women of differing political, religious, and social views, and that it would be a land of opportunity for men and women regardless of their race, color or creed. The founders of this nation recognized that if our republic was to work, men and women would need to be educated so that they might be capable of self-government. The University of Michigan has been a model across the country for meeting the obligations inherent in such a philosophy," Forman said.

"We must guarantee that deserving men and women, regardless of their social and economic background, have the opportunity to receive the quality education that Michigan offers. Unquestionably, underrepresented minorities must be a part of this community. Their numbers should be sufficient so that others understand that this is a University open to all who deserve to be here and, more important, that the institution has a commitment which goes beyond rhetoric to see that this is accomplished."

Alumni Association President Calvin Jay Tobin, '49, presided over the meetings of the 69-member board. "We are talking about what we think a great University should be," Tobin said. "The richness of this University is created by its diverse student body and its diverse faculty."