October Contents |
I N SPITE OF (or perhaps, because of) this perceived constraint, the alumni of all schools increasingly organized. The law alumni formed a society in 1861; the medical alumni followed in 1870. Starting in 1880, incoming Provost William Pepper, C'1862, M'1864, led efforts to create a Central Committee of the Alumni, whose purpose was "a closer connection between the Alumni and the University." The Committee was composed of 10 representatives each from the collegiate, law, and medical alumni societies, elected annually by graduates who cast their ballots in person on Commencement Day; and it was permitted to nominate alumni trustees for every third vacancy on the Board. Though the nominees were by no means guaranteed election, Pepper successfully instituted the first step towards institutionalized participation by alumni in University governance.
The University expanded rapidly in the 1880s and soon interested alumni were forming still more organizations. Within the decade alumni societies were formed by the graduates of the new Schools of Dentistry, Business Administration, Graduate Arts and Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, and Architecture. Of equal importance were the regional and class alumni societies beginning to form -- the New York Society of the Alumni in 1886, a New England society by 1890, followed by the District of Columbia, Chicago, Delaware, and Pittsburgh within the next five years. In 1892 the trustees authorized Provost Pepper to form a committee for proposing changes in the charter of the Central Committee to incorporate these new organizations, but committee leaders resisted and in April 1894 the process apparently came to an end with a communication from the committee to the trustees opposing any changes.
In response to this dilemma the General Alumni Society was born. Again it was William Pepper who recognized the need for innovation, for a united organization of what had truly become a national group of alumni. On Wednesday, June 6, 1894, at 11 a.m., in the University Library, Pepper convened the first meeting of the General Alumni Society. For the first time alumni of all schools participated and resolved that all matriculates of the University in good standing should be members.The first annual meeting was held a year later, on June 12, 1895, when Pepper was elected president and William Lane Winner, D'1885, secretary and treasurer. The General Society's executive committee represented the College; the schools of Medicine, Law, Dentistry, and Veterinary Medicine; and the Athletic Association. In January 1896 the General Society published the first issue of The Alumni Register, in which Pepper described the need for the Society "in addition to the Central Committee and to the various [school] alumni societies, there is a necessity for an organization with a broader scope"; its purpose "to bring each and all of [the alumni] into touch with the University"; and its methods, which included an alumni office, the Register and other publications, and the celebration of Alumni Day as a major component of Commencement Week. In May 1897 the organization of the Society was finalized when it was incorporated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. "The unification of the University has been practically completed," Pepper said, "so far as internal organization is concerned. The establishment of the General Alumni Society completes the unification so far as concerns the relations of the graduates."
Alumni took the greatest interest in athletics. A group of undergraduates formed The Athletic Association in 1873 and in 1879 opened its membership to alumni. In 1882 the alumni incorporated the Athletic Association and obtained from the trustees "certain rights in the control of athletics at the University and the use of a plot of ground for sport." The Association soon raised $15,000 and built Penn's first athletic fields and grandstands on the south side of Spruce Street between 36th and 37th Streets (where the Quad now stands). From 1885 to 1895 all athletic competitions were held on these grounds. Granted complete control by the trustees of all finances associated with University athletics, the Association built Penn's intercollegiate athletic program into one of the nation's most prominent and most successful. It also proved that its alumni supporters possessed a very substantial capacity for fundraising. Continued ...
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