Landslide


The proposal to integrate the Alumni Association and the University passed overwhelmingly:

Yes 92%
No 8%

Marie Earl was starting to worry. As director of services and systems at the Alumni Association, she was overseeing the vote by SAA members on the proposed integration of the association and the University. On July 2, the day that ballots began arriving in mailboxes, Earl, ’78, MLA ’98, was deluged with phone calls and e-mail messages. “I was hearing almost exclusively from people who were critical of the integration,” recalls Earl, who personally answered 469 queries from alums during July. “I was nervous for 10 days.”

She could have rested easy. When the ballots were tabulated by an independent accounting firm on August 14, members had voted 92 percent to 8 percent to endorse the merger. Perhaps more impressive than the lopsided margin: more than 23,000 members voted during the six-week election period -- a response rate of 34 percent. On September 1, the merger became official. The Alumni Association, independent since it was founded by graduates of the first class in 1892, is now a division of the University.

What does that mean? For starters, the association expects closer ties with the academic deans and the offices of admissions, student affairs and development.

It also will have access to more resources -- cash, faculty speakers, room space on campus -- for alumni programs. That should provide a boost for things like Reunion Homecoming, off-campus regional programs, the alumni website (www.alumni.stanford.edu) and -- full disclosure -- this magazine. SAA’s 29-member board will continue to serve; its president, Bill Stone, ’67, MBA ’69, now reports to University President Gerhard Casper.

The most concrete change will be construction of a grand alumni facility on the north side of campus, adjacent to Frost Amphitheater. When it opens in 2000, the Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center will have meeting space, a great hall, a history room and a café. The building is named for Fran Arrillaga, MA ’63, MA ’65, who was serving on the Alumni Association board of directors when she died in 1995. Her husband, developer John Arrillaga, ’60, is the principal donor.

While there was relatively little opposition to the merger, some alums did raise concerns. Topping the list, reports Earl, was the status of SAA members. She says they’ll continue to get special benefits -- and new perks are in the pipeline. Some alums worried about SAA losing its independence and flexibility. “My concern,” wrote David Hopelain, ’58, “is that SAA will be drawn into the Byzantine politics of University governance and miss the opportunity to have an impact.” SAA officials note the new division will have more autonomy than a typical University department and its officers will gain influence on behalf of alums.

Now that the deal is done, campus officials are working out details. Among upcoming programs: a Farewell Dinner on the Quad for seniors; an expanded alumni-student mentoring program; a role for alums in admissions; and a volunteer clearinghouse to match alumni skills with real needs on campus. Says Stone: “This is a bag of tricks that, while not yet completely defined, will give us a good start.”

If not, Marie Earl knows to expect calls and letters from concerned members.