Encyclopedia Brunoniana

Associated Alumni

The Associated Alumni was incorporated in 1919, when the organization known as the Alumni Association until 1891 and as the Associated Alumni since 1892 reorganized under a new constitution designed to involve the alumni in closer cooperation with the University. The first meeting of an alumni association recorded was in 1823. William Rogers 1769 was chairman and a fund was started to provide medals for contests in declamation and composition. In 1825 the medals, bearing the legend “Alumni Fund of Brown University,” were awarded at the “anniversary exercises of the Alumni Society.”

A later alumni association was formed in response to resolutions by Professor William G. Goddard at a meeting of the alumni on September 6, 1842, with the intent of bringing together annually the graduates of the University to attend literary exercises and share a dinner. A year later the Association met, adopted a constitution, heard an address by the Hon. John Pitman 1799, and celebrated at dinner. The next year there was an address by the Hon. William Hunter and again an alumni dinner. Meetings were held from 1845 until 1853, but the address and dinner were omitted. In 1853 an arrangement was made for the Alumni to hold their literary exercises on alternate years with Phi Beta Kappa, but they did this only in 1855 and 1857.

In 1868 President Caswell revived the association by inviting the alumni to a meeting before Commencement to consult on the interests of the University, specifically the founding of scholarships. A committee of the alumni reported in 1869 in favor of a permanent association to meet annually at Commencement and recommended the formation of local associations. Thus the Brown Clubs began, as the local associations were established in New York in 1869, and in Philadelphia and Boston in 1870. “Articles of Organization of the Alumni Association of Brown University” were adopted on June 25, 1872. A resolution passed the next year provided for the annual election of seven persons to constitute an Advisory Board of the Alumni to consult with the government of the University on matters relating to its interests and to submit suitable candidates for consideration in filling vacancies on the Board of Trustees. In 1875 the Corporation and the Alumni agreed on a plan allowing the alumni to vote on nominations for trustees of the University.

At the 1919 annual meeting a new constitution under the name, “Associated Alumni of Brown University, Incorporated” was proposed and accepted. The new constitution provided for the creation of an executive committee, the addition of a faculty member to the advisory board, the creation of a paid office of alumni manager, the establishment of an alumni register, and annual dues of three dollars. The first Alumni Manager, Norman Case ’08, was appointed and installed in Rockefeller Hall to be of service of visiting alumni. Case resigned after one year, and was replaced by Henry T. Samson ’19, who also left after one year. In 1922 Alfred H. Gurney ’07 took the job and remained until June 1939, his title having been changed in 1925 to Alumni Secretary. Dues were abolished in 1925, and the financial support of the the association was assumed by the Loyalty Fund. In 1931, the Advisory Board was replaced by a larger Advisory Council, which included the president or representative of each Brown Club and an additional delegate for clubs with membership of fifty or more, the officers of the Associated Alumni, the members of the Board of Directors, and all Alumni Trustees not on the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors was composed of the president and treasurer of the Associated Alumni, the vice-presidents and two representatives of each of the five districts, three Alumni Trustees, two members of the Association of Class Secretaries, one representative of the Brown Alumni Monthly, one faculty member, and six members at large.

James L. Whitcomb ’36 took the place of Alfred Gurney in January 1940, with the title of Director of Alumni Relations. Later in that year he went on leave, and remained on leave until his resignation in February 1946. In May 1946 William McCormick ’23 was appointed Alumni Executive Officer for the Associated Alumni. This new position made it possible for W. Chesley Worthington ’23, editor of the Brown Alumni Monthly, to devote more time to his magazine. During the war Worthington had also acted as Director of Alumni Relations and Executive Secretary of the Brown Alumni Fund. Paul Mackesey ’32 succeeded McCormick in 1962 and served until 1976. A further reorganization of the Associated Alumni in 1973 provided for an executive committee made up of the four elected officers, five appointed local directors, and 62 appointed regional directors. In 1973 the Alumnae Association merged with the Associated Alumni, and in 1979 Phyllis Van Horn Tillinghast ’51 became the first woman president of the Associated Alumni.

In 1984 the Alumni Recognition Ceremony was initiated, at which the Brown Bear and Alumni Service Awards honored service to Brown and the William Rogers Award recognized outstanding achievement of a graduate. On the advice of an ad hoc Committee on Governance in 1986, a new streamlined Board of Governors replaced the old Board of Directors and the executive committee. The next year a week-long program called Council I was held with about 100 alumni leaders representing such groups as the National Alumni School Program, the Association of Class Officers, Third World Alumni Network, and Board of Editors of the Brown Alumni Monthly.