THE ALUMNI ASSOCIATION
On the day when the first class was graduated from the University of Michigan, August 6, 1845, the newly created alumni body numbered exactly eleven. The smallness of this number, however, did not prevent the formation of an organization. Immediately after the Commencement exercises, at a meeting of the graduates of the different "collegiate institutions" in Ann Arbor, a Society of the Alumni was formed and an executive committee of seven was appointed to prepare a plan of organization and to "procure an orator and poet" for the next annual meeting. The following membership provision was adopted:
The graduates of all other colleges resident in the State desirous of becoming members of this society are requested to send in their names to any member of the executive committee with the name of the institution at which they were graduated and the degree and date of graduation.
Few records are available of the activities of this early organization, though we have an account of the second meeting in 1846, in which a poem on "New England," by William Pitt Palmer, was characterized as a "very handsome production." In 1848 Professor J. Holmes Agnew, President of the Faculty for that year, announced that the degree of master of arts would not be conferred on the graduates of 1845, in accordance with custom in colleges of that period, but would be postponed until the annual Commencement of 1849. The next year Merchant H. Goodrich, of Ann Arbor, and Winfield Smith, of Monroe, were given the degree. This practice was continued until 1882.
In 1853 the alumni met in the Presbyterian Church on the afternoon of Commencement Day, elected officers, and chose an orator for the following Commencement — the invariable agenda for those early meetings. A further action was taken, however, in the passage of the following resolutions, setting forth the objects of the organization:
Resolved, That as Alumni of the University of Michigan, feeling a solicitude for its success, and for the promotion and development of the educational interests of this State, — knowing that to those who have passed the portals of our University, it has a right to look for some effort for its welfare, — and, being satisfied that by this organization alone, can any united action be attained, we earnestly call the attention of our fellow graduates to its objects, and commend it to a more hearty support.
Resolved, That to its annual meeting and exercises we must, in a great measure, look for the promotion of friendly feeling among our graduates, and for a continuance of interest in the commencement exercises of our university.
Resolved, That the Executive Committee be instructed to consult with the Faculty of the University, and to make such arrangements for the social and literary exercises of our next meeting as will induce a more full attendance and general interest.
Resolved, That the Secretary be instructed to procure the publication of the minutes of this meeting in Detroit and Ann Arbor papers.
The active interest of the alumni in the administration of the University was shown in what was evidently a heated discussion of a second series of resolutions eventually adopted at the meeting in 1854, reflecting current dissension within the faculty. The attitude of the alumni is reflected in the second section:
[Resolved], That we have the utmost confidence in the integrity and ability of its Professors (both as men and as instructors), and are sanguine in the hope, that under their auspices, it will attain and preserve a high standard of educational excellence and fulfill the warmest expectations of its founders and the people of the State.
In the program of toasts, "drank in ice-cool lemonade," President Tappan responded to the toast, "The Government of the University," which "elicited much applause," for, although "he was severe upon some of the factious opposers of the University," "his severity was considered well timed."
Other meetings in the ensuing years evidenced an active interest on the part of the alumni in the progress of the University and in its problems. At first, meetings were held in the different churches and in the Union School Building; later, in the law lecture-room and in the University chapel. The dinners were held either at the old Franklin Hotel or at Hangsterfer's Hall. Officers and speakers were elected with regularity, but there is little evidence in the earliest years of any participation of alumni, except as critics, in the affairs of the institution. It is to be noted that the conventional master of arts degrees were often, if not always, conferred upon the alumni at the alumni meeting. The first master of science degree "upon examination" was conferred upon Professor DeVolson Wood at the alumni meeting in 1859, when James Craig Watson, later Professor of Astronomy, received the degree of master of arts. These were the first regular graduate degrees conferred by the University (see Part VI: Graduate School).
It is probably true that the alumni organization "was not taken very seriously" in these early years. Not until a movement for its reorganization was instituted at a meeting in the old Union School Building at Ann Arbor did the society seek to participate more actively in University affairs. At this meeting Merchant H. Goodrich, of the first graduating class, presided. A new constitution adopted on June 26, 1860, set forth the aims of the society in the following terms: "Improvement of its members, the perpetuation of pleasant associations, the promotion of the interests of the University and through that of the interests of higher education in general."
A year later a committee reported on efforts to raise a permanent fund and to have the society incorporated. Evidently little progress was made, undoubtedly because of the war, for no business was transacted at the annual meetings of 1862 and 1863, and practically all the officers were absent. In 1864, however, the movement which eventually resulted in the erection of Alumni Memorial Hall was begun through the approval of a plan for a memorial chapel, although the effort at first proved unsuccessful and was not revived for nearly forty years.
The dismissal of President Tappan just before Commencement in 1863 brought a storm of disapproval from the alumni which was reflected in resolutions adopted at a special meeting of the alumni and students in Ann Arbor on July 2, and at a similar meeting in Detroit. These led to a convention of about fifty alumni in Ann Arbor on July 9 to protest Page 363against the removal of President Tappan and to take "such measures as might be thought advisable to procure a reversal of the action of the Regents." This meeting was held in Hangsterfer's Hall, "the Chapel having been closed against them." A contemporary account reports that the discussions, "though spirited, were mainly in good temper." The indignation of the alumni at Dr. Tappan's dismissal, expressed in these gatherings and in a long series of resolutions, proved ineffective, however, and Dr. Haven became President.
In 1866 a committee was appointed "to memorialize the Legislature … on the subject of increasing the endowment of the University." This action was the result of agitation of this question on the part of the alumni as well as of the people of the state and very probably had its influence in the final establishment of the mill tax as a permanent source of support of the University (see Part I: Haven Administration; Part II: Financial Support).
This committee reported, at the meeting on June 25, 1867, that it was "known to all that the prayer of the petitioners was granted, and that the Legislature by the twentieth of a mill tax provided and secured to the University an increase of resources equal to about one-half of the increase of the present fund." At the same meeting a committee was appointed to ask the state constitutional convention to include a permanent one-twentieth of a mill tax in aid of the University in the organic law of the state.
At the meeting in 1868 the interest of the alumni in the financial position of the University was further evidenced in an oration by the Reverend L. R. Fiske, of the class of 1850, who protested against the lack of financial support from the state, pointing out the support given other public institutions. He cited the case of the University of Wisconsin, which, with an endowment fund greater by $200,000 than that of Michigan, had only about 230 students, as contrasted with Michigan's 1,200 students. The speaker set forth the favorable situation at such institutions as Yale, Harvard, Cornell, and Columbia universities, in contrast to that at the University of Michigan.
The resignation of President Haven in 1869 revived again the agitation for the return of President Tappan on the part of his former students. A resolution advocating his recall was laid on the table as the result of the opposition of some alumni, but the appointment of a committee of five "to confer with the Regents in reference to the vacancy" was authorized after "considerable filibustering, dilatory motions, and motions to adjourn." Evidently the sentiments of the alumni did not reflect those of the student body, for in the Michigan University Magazine (p. 403) we read:
If there are still any persons who have faith in the ability of the alumni as a body, to manage properly the affairs of the University, their confidence must have been sorely shaken by the business meeting on Tuesday afternoon … For the institution to place her destinies in the hands of the society of alumni would be simple suicide.
For many years the Society of the Alumni had functioned only as an organization of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts — or Department, as it was then called. But the establishment of the professional schools eventually brought about the creation of separate alumni organizations for the separate schools, or "departments." The first to be organized were the 1,024 alumni of the Department of Law, on March 29, 1871. Though the Department of Medicine and Surgery had been opened twenty years earlier, the Association of Medical Alumni did not come until 1875, when a Page 364resolution offered at a meeting of the Washtenaw Medical Society advocating such an organization was followed by a meeting of a few resident alumni in the office of Dr. William F. Breakey, and a constitution prepared by Dr. A. B. Prescott was adopted. The object of the organization was defined as "not only to enlist and muster the outgoing graduates, but to keep up lines of communication with them in the field and to invite them each year to come back." In a call to the medical alumni issued as a result of this action it was stated that the medical graduates numbered 1,200. The first meeting was held at the McGregor House in Ann Arbor, on March 23, 1875. Dr. Bolivar Barnum, of the class of 1854, of Schoolcraft, was elected president, and Dr. A. B. Prescott, secretary. Similar organizations soon sprang up in the College of Dental Surgery, in the School of Pharmacy, and in the Homeopathic Medical College, so that in the University Calendar of 1884-85 the officers of six organizations were listed.
As was to be expected, however, the Society of the Alumni in the Literary Department continued to evince the most signs of life. One indication of its strength was a meeting held at the Vendome Hotel in Boston in February, 1882. At this meeting John D. Pierce, who was then living at Ypsilanti in retirement and who died six weeks later, was an honored guest (Hoyt and Ford, p. 146).
The society was strengthened particularly after 1874, when action was taken looking toward the establishment of a fund of $25,000, the income from which was to be used for the support of George Palmer Williams, Professor of Physics, the first member of the faculty actually to teach classes, who had retired in 1871. The fund was known as the Williams professorship fund, and $26,000 was subscribed within a short time. For some years it served the purpose for which it was raised, but in 1889 Professor Calvin Thomas, as chairman of the auditing committee of the Alumni Association, insisted upon examining the bankbooks and securities called for by the report of the treasurer of the Association. The result revealed a sad state of affairs. Not only had the treasurer, Zina P. King, embezzled a good part of the funds, but the affairs of the bank in which they were deposited were also in a questionable state. King for years had been balancing the books of the society with the use of his own money.
At the meeting held in June, 1890, the deficit, which amounted to $19,054.05, was the chief topic of discussion. The audit revealed that the books had not been posted since 1881, a period of about eight years, and that there had been no entry since 1882; the defalcations did not begin probably until 1880 or 1881. Moreover, the treasurer's bond was made in 1878 and had not been renewed, and since some of the bondsmen were dead and had left insolvent estates, collection on the bond was considered most doubtful.
In the meantime a committee had made a settlement with King, following a similar settlement made by the bank. King turned over all he possessed — his home, stocks, bonds, and law library — and gave a note of $10,579.04 to balance the deficit. A criminal action was unsuccessful, since the directors had already made a settlement. The remainder thus left in the fund, some $15,000, was turned over to the Regents in 1897 for administration. For many years the interest was allowed to accumulate, until the fund now amounts to some $36,000. In accordance with an action of the Alumni Society in 1897, it is now used to provide allowances for members of the faculty upon retirement.
This episode in the history of the society is important, not only because it led Page 365eventually to a drastic reorganization of the whole plan of alumni organization, but also because it was one of the first efforts on the part of college alumni to set up a fund of this character, and was the first considerable alumni contribution to the University.
One of the earliest efforts for the establishment of fellowships by the alumni was inaugurated at about the same time. Some $3,000 was pledged, but the straitened circumstances of the Association, unfortunately, led to the discontinuance of the effort.
As a result of these financial difficulties, former Treasurer Samuel S. Walker ('61), Regent of the University from 1876 to 1884, recommended that there should be a "united alumni" which should have "such an organization as will have their entire confidence and execute the trusts that … arise, with honesty and efficiency." He also suggested that a "Board of Trustees of the Associated Alumni of the University," made up of representatives from each of the different alumni societies and reporting to the Board of Regents, be elected, and that the State Banking Department should be empowered to examine the books. This recommendation was considered a year later, in 1891, and a committee was appointed to study the plan.
This committee made a report in 1892 and was asked to continue its study of the consolidation of the various departmental alumni organizations. A significant action was taken at this meeting in the abolition of the time-honored practice of electing an annual orator and poet. It was also voted that badges should be worn and refreshments served at all alumni meetings.
The following year a new committee on reorganization, empowered to negotiate with the other departmental alumni societies, was appointed. No action was taken at the next meeting, and not until 1896 was the matter of the proposed reorganization again seriously considered. This time the proposal came as a result of an appeal from President Angell, just before his departure as Minister Plenipotentiary to Turkey. The President had expressed a hope that he would find the reorganization an accomplished fact upon his return. Eventually the movement was inaugurated through a resolution made by G. Frank Allmendinger ('78), of Ann Arbor, who moved that the chair appoint a committee to consider some plan of union of the alumni societies of the different departments of the University. This committee was composed of Levi L. Barbour ('63, '65l), Professor George Hempl ('79, Ph.D. Jena '89, LL.D. Michigan '15), Junius E. Beal ('82), and the newly elected secretary, Louis P. Jocelyn ('87).
The annual meeting held on June 30, 1897, with Regent William J. Cocker as chairman, was the last meeting of the old Society of the Alumni of the Department of Literature, Science, and the Arts. At this meeting the report of the committee on unification was approved. It presented five recommendations, as follows: (1) a unification of all alumni societies of the University, (2) the appointment of a committee to meet with like committees from the other departments, for the purpose of organizing a new society, (3) an annual membership fee of one dollar, (4) a paid general secretary and (5) that the Williams professorship fund, all fellowship funds, and all of the monies belonging to the Literary Department Society of the Alumni be turned over to the Board of Regents in trust.
Upon previous advice by President Angell the secretary had familiarized himself with the method of organization in other institutions and had ascertained the reasons for their success or failure. Most of them were organized in one general Page 366alumni body. The University of Pennsylvania reported a salaried secretary at $600, and the Lehigh University alumni paid their secretary $200. Obviously, however, these were not full-time officers. There was naturally some opposition to the consolidation movement, particularly in the old Society of the Alumni, which had thousands of dollars whereas the other associations had very little, but this was met by making the Regents custodians of the funds. Moreover, the literary degree meant four college years and strict entrance requirements, but in the Law and Medical Departments, even the entrance requirement of high-school graduation and the nine-month academic year were relatively new, and the courses had only recently been extended to three and four years respectively, the law degree representing but three years of training beyond the high school.
To answer these objections to the plan for consolidation, Judge Lawrence Maxwell ('74, A.M. hon. '93, LL.D. '04, LL.B. Cincinnati '75) of Cincinnati, Judge Claudius B. Grant ('59, A.M. '62, LL.D. '91) of Detroit, Dean Jerome Knowlton ('75, '78l) of the Law School, and other prominent alumni were stationed strategically and were called upon at the meeting. After a report by the secretary upon the practice of other colleges and universities, the recommendations of the committee were adopted. The old officers were asked to continue in office until the affairs of the society were closed and the funds turned over to the Regents.
Meanwhile the alumni associations in the other departments had taken similar action, and a meeting composed of representatives of the different departments was held in the old chapel in University Hall on the evening of the same day.
At this meeting it was voted that all departmental societies become one united body, that an annual fee be imposed, and that a paid general secretary be employed. Also, a constitution was adopted, providing for a board of five directors, chosen from the alumni at large and not as representatives of the different departments, which would choose from among its own members a president, a vice-president, a recorder, and a treasurer. The directors were also to elect the general secretary annually from outside their own number. Under this constitution Levi L. Barbour ('63, '65l) was elected president, with E. Finley Johnson (LL.M. '91), Louis P. Jocelyn ('87), Professor Frederick C. Newcombe, ('90, Ph.D. Leipzig '93), and Dr. G. Carl Huber ('87m) the other directors. Ralph C. McAllaster, who had graduated from the State Normal School at Indiana, Pennsylvania, in 1884, and had later attended the Literary Department (1885-86) and then the Law Department (1886-87) at the University of Michigan, was elected the first general secretary. He served only for a few months, however, and was succeeded by James H. Prentiss ('96), who held the position for three years.
Plans were immediately set on foot to expand the activities of the Association, and within a few months negotiations were concluded for the purchase of the Michigan Alumnus, which had been established in 1894 by Alvick A. Pearson ('94; see Part II: Michigan Alumnus). One of the first efforts of the new organization was to stimulate the organization of local alumni clubs, and a strong plea for the creation of such organizations was made by the acting president, Harry Burns Hutchins, in the Alumnus for June, 1898. The result was a very considerable expansion of the number of alumni clubs.
The finances of the new organization, however, remained in a precarious condition. Page 367The income, arising from the annual memberships of one dollar and from advertising in the Michigan Alumnus, proved insufficient to carry on the expanded program of the Association, and an additional source of revenue became necessary. After some study the Board of Directors announced, in July, 1899, the establishment of endowment memberships in the Alumni Association. This plan provided for the payment of $35 in seven annual installments of $5.00 each, with $1.00 of each payment to be retained as equivalent of the annual dues until the endowment of $28 should be completed. To provide for immediate expenses, the whole amount in the case of a certain proportion of these endowment memberships was made at once available, but within the first year the endowment fund was actually set up. It grew steadily from that time on, and in June, 1940, amounted to almost $69,000.
The years immediately after this reorganization formed an era of slow growth and consolidation. Shirley W. Smith ('97, A.M. '00) became General Secretary in October, 1901. His principal tasks were the publication of the Alumnus, the stimulation of contributions to the alumni fund, and correspondence with local alumni groups and classes. In addition to these activities he also served as editor of the University News-Letter and director of the general alumni catalogue, functions since merged with the general University program which are discussed elsewhere (see Part II: University News Service and Alumni Catalog Office). Special funds were voted to the Alumni Association in June, 1901, when an annual appropriation of $1,400 was granted — $600 for advertising the University in the Michigan Alumnus, $300 for the editing and publishing of the News-Letter, and $500 for the maintenance of the alumni catalogue. Support from the University for such advertising and for the catalogue has continued to the present time.
At the alumni meeting in July, 1899, an alumni clubhouse, to cost approximately $30,000, had been suggested, and the general secretary reported that some seven or eight thousand dollars had been subscribed. The project was carried no further, but a year later a room formed from a section of the old chapel in University Hall was set aside for the Association and was furnished as an office with a reception room at a cost of $324.50. This was made possible through a gift from the Students' Lecture Association and through action by the Regents. This room was used until the opening of the Alumni Memorial Hall in 1909.
The Alumni Association had an intimate interest in two projects which developed in 1903 — the plans for an alumni memorial hall, sponsored by a committee of the Alumni Association, and the Michigan Union, first advocated by a student group. These two projects to a certain extent divided the interests of the Association in their campaigns for funds, though the members of the memorial committee, who were well-known, distinguished alumni, insisted that the official interest of the Alumni Association lay with the project of a memorial building. However, the general secretary of the Alumni Association was made ex officio a member of the Board of Directors of the Union, and both causes were actively sponsored by the officers of the Association and through the columns of the Michigan Alumnus.
After three years of service as General Secretary, Shirley W. Smith resigned in the fall of 1904, to be succeeded by Wilfred B. Shaw ('04), who held the position for the following quarter century. During these years the successive annual reports show a gradual increase in the number of members of the Association, the establishment of alumni clubs, and a small, Page 368steady addition to the endowment fund through the enrollment of new members.
With the appointment of Harry Burns Hutchins as Acting President of the University, in 1909, a new era in the relationship between the University and the Alumni Association began. During the previous administration the attitude had been one of friendly but not especially active co-operation.
In order to prevent further conflicts such as had arisen between the several zealous bodies of alumni in their efforts to help the University, President Hutchins, with his characteristic astuteness, went directly to the Regents, and in their meeting of July, 1911, at his suggestion, they resolved "that no University organization of a general nature shall hereafter solicit funds for any purpose from the alumni of the University without first having obtained the approval of this Board" (R.P., 1910-14, p. 196).
He realized fully the implications of the alumni organization as a source of support for the University, and set about its immediate development. He made a special point of addressing as many gatherings of alumni as possible and actively encouraged their organization, particularly in the state of Michigan; as a result of his encouragement the Alumni Association made a special effort to organize the alumni in every county in Michigan where it was practicable to do so. In 1909 he was accompanied on a trip through the Middle West by Dean John O. Reed of the Literary Department, Dean Mortimer E. Cooley of the Department of Engineering, and Wilfred B. Shaw. These representatives of the University, after leaving Chicago, were met and cordially entertained by the alumni in Des Moines and Omaha. There the President was compelled to turn back, but the other members of the party continued to the Pacific coast.
Accounts of organization and meetings of alumni clubs were increasing in the pages of the Alumnus. By 1913 there were forty-six alumni associations within and sixty-nine outside the state of Michigan — a total of 115 — and at the end of the Hutchins era in 1920 there were 141.
Also during the Hutchins administration the alumnae of the University were becoming well organized, and as a result of an action taken by the Alumni Council it was recommended by the Board of Directors, in June, 1914, that the number of directors be increased by a change in the bylaws to seven instead of five, allowing for one director representing the alumnae (see Part II: Alumnae Council). A further measure taken at this time came as a result of a report by Professor I. N. Demmon on the Williams professorship fund. This fund had increased to $30,000 after lying dormant for twenty years, and the Board of Directors recommended the establishment of a Williams emeritus professorship to be supported by the income from the fund, the Board of Directors to make the nomination and the incumbent to be appointed upon approval by the Board of Regents. The Regents confirmed this measure. Certain matters of significance to the alumni organization also developed throughout this period as a result of actions of the Alumni Advisory Council, which had been created with the co-operation of the Alumni Association (see Part II: Alumni Advisory Council).
Declaration of war in the spring of 1917 materially affected the activities and the policies of the Association and may be said to mark the end of a period in its development. The general secretary's report made at this time shows that there were then 135 local alumni clubs, of which thirteen represented the alumnae, and that there were 6,500 subscribers to the Michigan Alumnus. For the next twelve months the energies of Page 369the Association were very largely concerned with the activities of the alumni in war service; succeeding numbers of the Alumnus gave the names of the faculty and alumni who were enlisted. For the time being, efforts toward organization lapsed, and no meetings of the Alumni Council were held.
During the next few years changes in the organization of the Association materially strengthened its effectiveness and made it more responsive to the interests of the alumni scattered all over the United States. Various means for enlarging the scope of the activities of the Association were considered by the Board of Directors and by the Alumni Advisory Council in the immediate postwar years, and as a result $7,500 was pledged in 1922 by a group of alumni to finance an expansion of the work of the Association. This permitted the appointment of a second executive, T. Hawley Tapping (Iowa '11, Michigan '16l), with the title of Field Secretary. At this time provision was made in the bylaws for eight new directors to be elected to the board from outside Ann Arbor, making a total of fifteen, and the treasurer of the University was made also treasurer ex officio of the Association. It was also provided that all former students of the University with credit for one year or more were eligible to membership upon payment of the annual dues. Also, an executive committee was created.
These changes in organization were suggested by a study of the basis of the alumni organizations in a number of leading American universities, made by the general secretary in 1922. He recommended in his report a federation of alumni clubs to be organized in districts, each district to be represented by a director. The creation of a class secretaries' organization was also recommended, to co-ordinate the work of the classes and to assist them through advice and help in the problems which confronted them.
As a result the organization of the Alumni Association was changed at the annual alumni meeting, June 16, 1923. Instead of the annual meeting, the local alumni groups were made the basis of the central Association. The whole alumni body was divided into ten districts, each of which elected a director of the Association, with the exception of the two Michigan districts, each of which elected two directors. (Very soon afterward one of the Michigan districts and, later, the far western district, were divided.) In addition, the Alumnae Council elected two directors, and six directors were elected at large. A few years later this plan was further changed. The past presidents of the Alumni Association were made ex officio members of the Board of Directors, and the three officers of the Class Secretaries' Council, composed of the chairman, vice-chairman and secretary-treasurer, took the place of three of the directors elected at large. The new plan also provided that the local alumni clubs pay annual dues of fifty cents a member to the general association. It was also provided that triennial meetings of the representatives of the alumni clubs be held at central locations outside of Ann Arbor. As part of this general expansion of the Association's program, the directors also authorized the creation of a small printing plant in the basement of the old Chemistry Building, known as the Alumni Press. The sum of $20,000 was borrowed to set up this press, which continued in operation for seven years.
These changes in the organization of the Association have proved on the whole effective. For the most part the districts have functioned as expected, holding annual meetings with fair regularity at which representatives of the general Association, the field secretary or general secretary, and sometimes the Page 370president have been present. The directors of the Association have met two or three times each year to receive reports from the various districts and to discuss the fundamental policies of the Association. The first triennial meeting was held in Detroit in 1925. The second was held in Chicago, the third in Cleveland, and the fourth in Grand Rapids; and the 1937 celebration in Ann Arbor served as the fifth triennial.
Wilfred B. Shaw ('04) resigned as General Secretary in 1929 to become a University officer with the title of Director of Alumni Relations. He had been active in organizing, in 1913, the Association of Alumni Secretaries, a national body of alumni executive officers, of which he was elected president in 1915 and again after its reorganization as the American Alumni Council, in 1927. For many years he had been interested in the broader and more fundamental applications of alumni organization, represented in the programs in alumni education considered as part of the then new movement in adult education. Michigan became a pioneer in this field. For six months following his resignation he was engaged in a study of alumni education for the American Association for Adult Education, under a grant from the Carnegie Corporation. He was succeeded by T. Hawley Tapping, Field Secretary of the Alumni Association since 1922, who had been largely responsible for the development of the district organization within the Association and the rapid growth of alumni groups throughout the country.
The beginning of the depression in 1929 brought a gradual recession in the activities of the Association; the number of alumni clubs decreased materially, dues declined, and the number of subscribers to the Michigan Alumnus fell off by about one-third. This naturally limited the program of the Association, while the drastically reduced income was reflected in an increasing deficit, which amounted to over $24,000 in 1934.
To meet this situation, paralleled in the alumni organization of almost every institution in the country, the help of the University was enlisted and an arrangement was made whereby $2.50 from the dues paid to the Michigan Union by the men was allocated to the Alumni Association. In 1939 this revenue was supplemented by a one-dollar allotment from the fees paid by women students. As a corollary to this action, the executive committee of the Board of Directors was reorganized to include four members of the University faculty, all alumni of the University, and placing in the executive committee the fiscal control of the Association. This measure proved a most fortunate one, and within three years the indebtedness was wiped out and the money which had been borrowed from the capital fund of the endowment was repaid.
At the present time the alumni of the University are organized into some 195 local clubs, and 275 classes are organized, have class officers, and hold reunions normally at five-year intervals. The endowment fund has gradually grown until on June 30, 1940, it amounted to $68,698.32, with a total of 1,750 living alumni enrolled as life members of the Association and recipients of the Michigan Alumnus for life. Since the dedication of Alumni Memorial Hall in 1910 the headquarters of the Alumni Association have been in that building, with the large room on the first floor as the general offices. In the basement of the same building, along with the Alumni Catalog Office, are a large storeroom for the Association and the editorial offices of the Michigan Alumnus.
The alumni organization has thus developed with the University from almost the first days of the institution. Page 371Michigan has always been aware of the place of the alumni in the University's whole educational program. In a creed drawn up by President Ruthven in 1932 this principle was stated as follows: "We believe that the student should be trained as an alumnus from matriculation. He enrolls in the University for life and for better or worse he will always remain an integral part of the institution."
This has been the cardinal concept upon which the Alumni Association has built, and it has met with general acceptance from the University's great body of graduates and former students, which totaled 98,914 in July, 1940. While it is difficult to assess the contribution alumni have made through personal efforts, advice, and co-operation in University undertakings, one concrete evidence of this support is revealed in the $22,034,609.88 given to the University by the alumni (see Part I: Gifts).
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