The new plaque will be on permanent display in the Office of Alumni Affairs
(Photo at right) In attendance at the recognition reception were current and former Alumni Association officers: (left to right) Peter J. Farrell, treasurer; Reginald K. Hudson, president '91'92; Ann E. Trichilo, president '87'88; Jay Jarvis, president '76'77; Lester P. Schoene, president '98'99; Brian C. Drummond, president '02present; Lisa A. Mayne, president '95'96; Ken Reid, president '88'89; University President Alan G. Merten; Allen C. Lomax, president '89'90; Doris H. Kidwell, president '93'94; Jeffery M. Johnson, president '99'00; Catherine A. Lemmon, president-elect; James J. Laychak, president '00'02.
35 Years and Counting
Alumni Association celebrates milestone and looks to the future
Like fine wine, the George Mason University Alumni Association only gets better with age. With 35 years under its belt, the association boasts its highest number of active members, committed leaders, and an alumni and university reputation that reaches far beyond its Northern Virginia roots.
The association was established in 1968 during the years of George Mason College. Since then, the organization has grown to serve 89,000 and has had 27 presidents. The home of the Alumni Association has moved around campus—residing in places such as Kelley Drive, Mason Hall, and its current home in the Johnson Center. Even through complicated transitions, economic difficulties, and other challenges, the association has remained a strong voice for the university.
"One thing you can say about us is that we are stubborn," says Gail Bohan, B.A. English '70 and M.P.A. '82 and president of the Alumni Association from 1978 to 1980. "We were like a toddler wanting to try everything. We made some mistakes, but we learned a lot, too, and have matured."
The main focus of the Alumni Association has always been to connect George Mason graduates to their alma mater and each other and to support the university. Throughout the years, Alumni Association leaders have dedicated their time and efforts to enhancing the reputation of the university; establishing scholarships and awards to honor George Mason students, graduates, and faculty; and hosting a variety of events to enhance the personal and professional lives of alumni.
"The association leadership is made up of a group of exceptional people who are committed to building a strong alumni community," says Christine Clark-Talley, executive director of Alumni Affairs. "But the association always needs and welcomes more people. We can always use new talents and experiences."
One of the biggest accomplishments in the past year has been the establishment of an endowment that will help fund future alumni outreach programs and communication. The Alumni Association has also been able to establish traditions and events in its 35-year history that have a fond place in the hearts of many alumni. One favorite is the Virginia Gold Cup hospitality tent, a catered gathering during the exciting steeplechase races each spring. The talents and successes of alumni, students, and faculty have been continuously recognized during the association's annual Celebration of Distinction awards ceremony, during which the Alumnus of the Year, Alumni Service Award, Faculty Member of the Year, Senior of the Year, and other awards and scholarships are given. Other events include extravaGRADza!, a transition event for recent graduates after Commencement; Homecoming; and the StudentAlumni Program.
Another important component to the association's success is its chapter program. Sixty-three percent of alumni live and work in the greater Washington metropolitan area, making it possible for many alumni to meet in smaller groups with similar interests or ideas. In the past year, 4 new alumni chapters have been added to bring the number of active chapters to 15: Black Alumni; Broadside; Civil Engineering; Computer Science; Conflict Resolution; Forensics Team; History and Art History; M.P.A.; New Century College; Nursing; School of Law; School of Management; School of Public Policy; Washington, D.C., Metro Area; and WGMU Alumni. Alumni gather on and off campus for all sorts of chapter-hosted events, from golf tournaments, to visiting the Spy Museum, to attending a recognition dinner, to watching a hockey game.
And it's getting better all the time.
"The sky's the limit," says current Alumni President Brian Drummond, J.D. '88. "The spirit of the university is growing, our reputation is growing, and higher quality students are making George Mason their number one pick. I think it's great."
Jay Jarvis, B.S. Business Administration '74 and Alumni Association president from 1976 to 1977, believes the association's success is partly due to the incredible leaders who founded the university and the organization. "I made friends at George Mason 29 years ago with whom I still keep in touch and see once a year," he says. "I have very fond memories of my time at Mason."
Jarvis is trying to reconnect with other past presidents to form a strong Past President's Council. He participated in a gathering of past presidents on August 13 during which the past presidents were honored with a plaque recognizing their service and commitment to the association. He hopes more alumni will get involved in the association. "The university really needs our support. The association has a good relationship with the university right now, and we recognize that students are the sole reason why we are here," he says.
"We had our peaks and valleys, but I would be surprised if there
was any other school that has been able to do in 35 years what we've
done," Drummond adds. "We are a young university, but we've
accomplished quite a lot. I'm very proud of all that we've done."