Alumni Association (University of Michigan) Records and Publications

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Alumni Association (University of Michigan) Records and Publications

The materials in this online repository form part of a larger University of Michigan Alumni Association record group held by the Bentley Historical Library. For a more complete index to the materials, please consult the online finding aids for the:

For questions or more information, please contact the Bentley Historical Library's Division of Reference and Access Services

The official Alumni Association of the University of Michigan, established in 1897 following a consolidation of the Society of Alumni with the alumni societies of the professional schools. This online collection consists of audio recordings; additional materials are available at the Bentley Historical Library.

Alumni activities at the University of Michigan began almost as soon as there were alumni. The Society of Alumni was formed in 1845, immediately after the first commencement. At first the society accepted graduates of any college as members, but by 1853 it had defined itself as the alumni organization of the University of Michigan, and specifically of the Literary College. The society combined social activity with promotion of the interests of the University in its early years, but was not particularly important to the running of the University. In 1874, however, the society began to take a more active role, establishing the Williams professorship fund, which was used for the support of retired professors.

In the 1870s alumni of the professional schools began to organize their own societies, law alumni in 1871, the Association of Medical Alumni in 1875, and dentistry, pharmacy, and homeopathic medicine alumni by 1884. After a financial scandal in the Society of Alumni came to light in 1889, a movement began to consolidate all the alumni societies, in order to improve confidence in the organizations. In 1897 the societies were combined into the Alumni Association.

The new society soon began to expand its activities. It bought the Michigan Alumnus, a private publication founded in 1894, to serve as its official organ. The number of local alumni clubs was expanded and an endowment fund was established to support the association's activities.

Although the University began to support the Alumni Association financially during Shirley W. Smith's tenure as secretary of the association (1901-1904), the University's support of the association increased greatly with the appointment of Harry Burns Hutchins to the presidency of the University in 1910. Hutchins saw the association as a potentially important source of funds for the University. The Association's ties with the University's development activities became even stronger after World War II, when the Phoenix Project, the $55 Million campaign, and other campaigns relied heavily on alumni support.

In 1923 the structure of the association was changed, with the local alumni chapters becoming the basic units of the organization. At this time a field secretary was also appointed, to stimulate the development of the local chapters and organization of districts.

By the end of the 20th century the Alumni Association boasted more than 104,000 members. The mission statement described the association as "an independent worldwide organization that nurtures lifelong relationships with and among current and future Michigan alumni. As a committed partner of the University, the Association offers programs of relevance and service to alumni and creates support for the University. Underlying all that we do is the belief in the value of education to the well-being of society, and a commitment to integrity, diversity, and service." Activities include organizing alumni excursions and lecture tours, coordinating reunions, operating a career assistance network, and offering lifelong learning opportunities.

Please note:

Copyright has been transferred to the Regents of the University of Michigan.

Access to digitized sound recordings may be limited to the reading room of the Bentley Historical Library, located on the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan.

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