The first notable interest in organizing a Rensselaer alumni association to carry school spirit beyond graduation appeared in the 1850s.
Several years later, Samuel Edward Windy Warren, professor of descriptive geometry, would be the first to make the idea into a reality.
In November 1868, Warren asked James Hall if he could use Halls name in a distribution letter calling for a meeting of alumni at Commencement the following year. Hall, New Yorks first state geologist, had been a Rensselaer chemistry professor and was an 1832 graduate of the Institute.
In 1869, the Association of Graduates was incorporated. Ninety alumni attended the first meeting from as far away as Canada and Cuba. The organization adopted a constitution, set annual dues at $2, elected officerswith James Hall as presidentand named various committees.
In 1922, the Association of Graduates renamed itself the Rensselaer Alumni Association (RAA) and established a permanent office in New York City to become more accessible to Rensselaer alumni at large.
For the next 37 years, the RAA was largely run under Eddie Dion, RAA secretary (shown above, first row, second from left). During this time, the activities of the organization were to a large degree independent of the Institute.
In 1933, Dion started a job-placement bureau for alumni out of work. He is warmly remembered by scores of graduates of the Great Depression years who were able to obtain jobs through his contacts.
In 1941, the Institute trustees approached the RAA to establish an alumni fund. A committee of university trustees and RAA members established the fund on May 16, 1942.
Eventually, the university assumed the administration of the Alumni Fund, renaming it the Annual Fund. In 1953, as part of its public relations development, Rensselaer established an Office of Alumni Activities under a full-time director. When Dion retired in 1958, the RAA headquarters moved to Troy to work more closely with the university.
In the 1970s, RAA leadership began to integrate membership more fully into affairs of Rensselaer, taking a more active role not just in reunions and regional chapter activities, but also in fund-raising and admissions activities. Students and faculty joined alumni in the governance of the RAA, making it more representative of the university.
The RAAs partnership with Rensselaer is epitomized by the Heffner Alumni House, constructed on campus as a result of the leadership of Samuel Heffner 56, Michael Duffy 62, and Carl Westerdahl, former alumni relations director. David Bohan 82, who has been associated with Rensselaer as a student, alumnus, volunteer, and staff for the last 20 years, is the current director of alumni relations.
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