Alumni Relations and Development
Maintaining effective relationships with the alumni of the University consumes the time and energy of a sizeable staff, and of an even larger organization of voluntary workers, but the University president stands as symbol to most alumni, and personal involvement of the president is a necessity if those relationships are to develop properly. Vice President Radock, whose area of responsibility included alumni relations, on the occasion of Fleming's retirement, recalled some of the early days Page 23of Fleming's tenure. "Many of our alumni, particularly the older and more conservative graduates, were highly skeptical of Robben W. Fleming, the former chancellor of 'that ultra-liberal campus,' the University of Wisconsin. I happened to be in Texas making a series of talks to Michigan alumni clubs as part of our Sesquicentennial celebration of 1967 when President Fleming's selection as president was announced… Our alumni recalled that this was the Wisconsin chancellor who wrote a personal check to provide bail for Wisconsin student protestors… They were indeed concerned." He recalled further that "there were Michigan alumni who believed that President Fleming was too permissive in response to student demands."
Fleming spent a great deal of time meeting with alumni groups. Those who felt the University had not dealt with disrupters with sufficient harshness held him responsible. Non-resident alumni found much to complain about as tuition costs mounted, and as it became more and more difficult to achieve admission. The minority admissions program came in for both praise and criticism. Those who heard him repeatedly affirmed his candid demeanor, and his willingness to answer questions directly and forthrightly. Radock reported that Fleming "had a sense of humor and could laugh at himself." He affirmed that "President Fleming has brought our alumni constituency closer to the campus than it has been for many years."
There were notable developments in the Alumni Association during the period, as Fleming found already in place very able Director, Robert Forman, whose ideas of proper relations with alumni were entirely compatible with those of the President. The athletic program had been a principal focus of activity, and continues to attract large interest from alumni. But Forman's program included summer camps which brought faculty into contact with alumni for educational programs, weeks on campus with special programs to embrace artistic and educational activities, and a travel program which provided outlet for many alumni groups. All of these were strengthened during the Fleming administration.
Fleming inherited a well-staffed development office, and an effective structure for fund raising among the alumni as a result of the $55 M Capital Campaign which President Hatcher had completed in 1967. That structure, together with the Alumni Association activities mentioned above, continued to make the University of Michigan a Page 24leader among public universities in achieving financial support from private donors. In 1967-68, the annual giving programs produced $1,793,000, with total alumni support of $4,204,000. In 1971-72, annual giving had risen to $4,180,000 and total alumni support to $5,067,000. There is some evidence that alumni were not entirely happy with their alma mater, as alumni support fell by almost $2,000,000 in 1972-73, and the annual giving fund fell by almost $1,500,000 in a two year span. Whatever the cause, growth shortly resumed and in Fleming's last year, 1977-78, annual fund support reached a new high of over $5,000,000, and total alumni support reached $6,100,000.