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Minnesota Alumni Association records

Identifier: 955; 956

Scope and Content

Collection 955 contains yearly lists of students and faculty members who have been elected to honor societies or have won scholarships, newspaper clippings, copies of the constitution and by-laws, anniversary materials of particular graduating classes, correspondence and minutes pertaining to the Greater University Fund (1921-1928) as well as campaign materials for Memorial Stadium and Northrop Memorial Auditorium These records belonged to E.B. Pierce, who served as chariman of the Senate Committee on University Functions as well as secretary of the General Alumni Association.

Collection 966 includes commencement material, legislative requests and activities, speeches, committee minutes, account and financial ledgers and papers, class of alumni mailings, general correspondence, membership reports, football program and play lists, homecoming mailings and publicity, alumni fund mailings, auxiliary files, national outreach files, correspondence with individual alumni and alumni societies and black alumni materials.

Collection 966 has not been processed.


  • 1881-1990


Language of Materials


Use of Materials

Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only.


Requests for permission to quote from the Minnesota Alumni Association records should be arranged with the University of Minnesota Archives head.

Historical Note

The University of Minnesota Alumni Association was established on January 30, 1904, when more than 350 alumni gathered in the Armory. This constituted the founding and first meeting of the General Alumni Association (GAA).

E. Bird Johnson served as the first Executive Secretary from 1905-1920, followed by E.B. Pierce from 1920-1948. Edwin Haislet served as director from 1948-1976, followed by Vincent Bilotta, 1976-1978, Stephen Roszell, 1979-1984, and Margaret Sughrue Carlson beginning in 1985.

There had been active alumni groups at the University of Minnesota prior to 1904. Individual colleges – agriculture, law, medicine, pharmacy, dentistry – had them for a number of years but an effective central organization had been lacking. In the late 1870s, what was known as the Alumni Association had been formed at the U, but it functioned more like a club than a representative organization. This group met annually, around commencement time, and had officers that included an orator, toastmaster, poet, and historian. Despite the conviviality suggested by these titles, this early association was occasionally animated by serious problems, most dealing with the University’s president at the time, William Folwell, whom many in the group felt was mismanaging the school. But there was a sense of pettiness and overkill in the Alumni Association’s criticism of the president, which had the effect of negating its impact with the Board of Regents. Subsequent Alumni Association boards were even less effective and the group had lost most of what influence it had by the 1890s, when it became not so much an organization as a committee.

The constitution of the GAA, was ratified by the January assembly, and the first article states that the primary object of the association was to be “the promotion of the welfare of the University of Minnesota through the stimulation of the interest therein of all graduate and nongraduate matriculates of all colleges [at the University].” The alumni association was charged with keeping graduates in touch with “the doings of their Alma Mater” and helping to cultivate in these alumni “a fraternal spirit.”

The Minnesota Alumni Weekly, founded by E.Bird Johnson in 1901, served to acquaint alumni with the activities of the University and foster University spirit by keeping them in touch with the University and each other. The Weekly, under Johnson's direction, campaigned to rally alumni to challenge the State Board of Control, to which the University of Minnesota had become financially accountable. In 1905 Governor John Albert Johnson sided with the University and helped steer the Board of Control out of existence. This action did much to shape the role of the alumni association and it would tackle other political issues by lobbying for the University on a variety of matters over the years, including budgets, regent selection and a football stadium. In 1906 the ownership of The Weeklypassed from Johnson to the General Alumni Association.

The GAA indeed began to form a direct link to the Board of Regents; these actions would signal a subtle shift in the history of the GAA. In the future, the two entities would become closer allies in efforts at improving the University; at the same time, the alumni association would lose some of the independence that had been the hallmark of its earliest years. In 1920, the GAA began receiving financial subsidies from the University, thereby becoming an integral part of the University.

Local chapters, initially called clubs or units, predated the formation of the General Alumni Association itself. The first out-of-state group was established in Chicago in 1895. A second was organized in Omaha in 1898, and a third in New York in 1900. The number of units, both in- and out-of-state, boomed through the 1910s and 1920s.

With unprecedented enrollment at the University after World War II, and the prospect of increased numbers of alumni, the General Alumni Assoication instituted strategies for change. These changes began in the fall of 1946 with the establishment of a new strategy for a more coherent form of alumni association fund-raising. Annual giving became the focus of this effort and a $50,000 goal was set for that first year. In addition, the association appointed a committee “to study alumni contributions for general University purposes” and efforts were made to revitalize local chapters, which had been largely dormant during the war. The work of the alumni contributions committee resulted in the birth of the Greater University Fund, established in May 1947. This home for alumni donations was a descendant of the Greater University Corporation, but was intended to be a more permanent receptacle for gifts. Alumni donations were to be used to fund programs for which other moneys were not available. The fund was sponsored by the alumni association and held in custody by the University’s Board of Regents. In August 1948, the General Alumni Association became the Minnesota Alumni Association (MAA) and was reincorporated as an entity distinct from the University and distinct from the Greater University Fund. All of the GAA assets were transferred to the MAA.

War conditions also brought change to the alumni magazine. Instead of being issued weekly, it became a monthly publication in 1943 and its name was changed to The Minnesota Alumnus.It would undergo several other name changes until 1978 when it was called by it current name, Minnesota, and became a quarterly publication.

By June 1950, office staff had been increased to 18 full-time and six part-time employees. MAA membership jumped to 10,000. As the post-World War II era evolved into the turbulent 1960s, the MAA began to modernize and expand its mission of serving the University of Minnesota and its alumni. In 1961, there were 17,000 members, but staff acknowledged a need for a more effective means of increasing membership. Steps in modernizing the situation were taken in 1962, when the MAA became the first alumni association to put all its records on computer. In addition, the first membership drive supported by phone work was instituted.

Collegiate alumni societies numbered 14 by 1965 and continued to grow to a total of 19. Local alumni chapters also continued to spread to the cities of Jacksonville, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami; to India and Korea; and to the newest state in the union, Hawaii. A highly successful alumni study program was begun in the late 1960s and the MAA sponsored tours to Russia, Rome, the Scandinavian countries, and Hawaii over the next several years.

In 1970, the MAA left Coffman Union after more than 30 years due to overcrowding. The staff settled at a site at 2610 University Avenue in St. Paul, but the organization had not found a permanent home. This relocation resulted in the MAA being isolated from the heart of the University. As much as the U seemed “out of touch” to many of its students, the alumni association was “out of touch” with what was happening at the U. Membership stalled and then began to dip in 1969. Attendance declined at grand alumni traditions like the annual meeting and homecoming festivities.

The MAA rallied in the mid-1970s, with an increase in membership and for the first time in MAA history, it topped the 25,000 mark. In 1980, the MAA came back to campus, relocating to a new space in Morrill Hall. Even as the MAA returned to familiar territory, it continued its pursuit of a place of its own. Reinvigorating the MAA and making it more relevant to the lives of younger alumni – those disaffected students from the late 1960s and early 1970s became a top priority of the association. So, too, was an effort to link current students with alumni. In 1980, the University Student Alumni Association was formed. This group was composed of student leaders who were recruited by the MAA to be involved in alumni issues, to spread the word on campus, and, upon graduation, to serve as alumni advocates and volunteers.

In 1985, Margaret Sughrue Carlson Ph.D. was named executive director of the MAA, the first woman to hold that position in the Big Ten. In 1994, informal discussions on timely University issues were initiated between the alumni association and the Board of Regents. Called 3-by-3s, the meetings included three members of the Board of Regents and three representatives of the alumni association. Since 1997, these meetings have been held on a regular three-month basis.

A string of goals were set and achieved in the 1990s, culminating in the cresting of the 50,000-member mark in 2000 and the opening of the first alumni building - the McNamara Alumni Center - on campus. Along with these accomplishments came a dedication to the sensibility that membership and membership numbers should not be an end in and of themselves. The true mission of the alumni association remained as it had always been: to support and serve the University and its alumni. In 1990, the alumni association underwent an ambitious reorganization and a name change. The Minnesota Alumni Association (MAA) officially became the University of Minnesota Alumni Association (UMAA). Administrative services were restructured by dividing its growing number of constituent organizations into categories: collegiate alumni societies, geographical chapters, and interest groups. In response to the changing needs of a growing membership, a number of important programs were added to the association’s offerings during the 1990s and early 2000s. Among them were a campus-wide Mentor Connection, which pairs alumni with current University students; lifelong learning programs through a strategic alliance with the College of Continuing Education; an extensive and informative Web site; and an Employment Expo to give students and graduates an opportunity to meet with representatives of local and national companies.

Historical information taken from A Century of Memories: a history of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association.


109 Cubic Feet (78 boxes, 3 oversize flat boxes and 9 trays)


Collection contains the records of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association.

Source of acquisition

The papers were originally donated to University Archives by Teresa Fitzgerald, secretary of the General Alumni Association in 1957. Subsequent donations have been added to the collection, the last arriving in 1993.

Related Materials in University of Minnesota Archives

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University of Minnesota. School of Mines and Metallurgy Alumni Association records

Minnesota. A magazine of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association, v. 1- , 1901-present (MIN/M66)

Minnesota Alumni Association. A Century of Memories, 2003 (MIN/M66ce)

Minnesota Alumni Association records, 1881-1990
Karen Spilman
September 2005
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • March 2023: Additional contents added.

Collecting Area Details

Contact The University Archives Collecting Area