News from Alumni House

Why loyalty?

Mark Dollhopf ’77 is executive director of the Association of Yale Alumni.

A delegation of 65 Yale alumni, family, and friends recently returned from the two-week Yale Global Alumni Leadership Exchange trip to Turkey. Participants in this pioneering Association of Yale Alumni program are Yale alumni who have served in a leadership capacity—board members of Yale clubs and shared interest groups, class officers, reunion chairs, Yale Alumni Fund agents, former AYA board members—any and all alumni who have exhibited a passion to serve their alma mater by serving other alumni.

These ambassadors shared their experience in organizing Yale programs and events with the staff and alumni of a number of leading Turkish universities. We attended special dinners hosted by the universities, led small-group discussions, and participated in panel presentations as part of a conference in Istanbul.

At the concluding session I was asked a very simple question by one of the Turkish university alumni in attendance, who was eager to start an alumni association for his university.

"Why are alumni loyal to Yale?" he asked.

I responded that, as there are more than 130,000 alumni of Yale, there are probably as many reasons for loyalty—or not. Made me think, though. So here is my top-ten list of reasons why alumni are loyal to Yale, or rather, how Yale engenders loyalty. If you have a different reason, let me know at

  • 10. Fostering and promoting community as students, enabling friendship for a lifetime. Because of our intimate residential college system, Yale has few peers among American colleges in fostering community.
  • 9. Sharing traditions—those campus rites and rituals that bind us together. Mory's cups, Feb Club, bladderball, tap night, tailgating, intramural sports, masters' teas . . . Need I say more?
  • 8. Providing opportunities for networking and reconnecting. Class reunions, shared interest group reunions, regional club events, educational travel programs, professional and graduate school reunions—all are means for networking, formal and informal.
  • 7. Vesting ownership of the mission of the university with alumni. Lest we forget, Yale is a nonprofit organization—one with an awesome power to influence and change many lives. Alumni want to be actors on the stage that is Yale, not merely members of the audience.
  • 6. Engaging alumni in leadership positions. The AYA gives them opportunities to share their accumulated wisdom and work experience, and challenges alumni with personally fulfilling and meaningful activities.
  • 5. Encouraging community service. If Yale's mission is to train world leaders, then how are communities better because Yale alumni live there? Coming together to serve others brings our alumni family closer together.
  • 4. Providing opportunities for lifelong learning through faculty lectures at reunions and clubs, online courses, seminars, and educational travel.
  • 3. Sharing common values—including our shared beliefs in academic freedom and integrity, in tolerance and diversity, in excellence, and in community service. "For God, for country, and for Yale" is not just an alma mater tag line.
  • 2. Inspiring students with the finest faculty and research facilities in the world. Students leave campus intellectually stimulated and motivated for a lifetime of learning.
  • 1. Imparting a sense of stewardship—a grateful response to the gifts of generations of alumni donors who gave to make the Yale of today possible. Yale is a great institution because alumni recognize the responsibility to keep their gifts in motion; that being the beneficiary of a world-class education as a student implies that one should pass it on.

It is this circle of reciprocity that I believe most engenders loyalty, pride, and the inspiration to change the world and provide for the next generation.

I then asked what was the most fascinating idea they had heard all day. The response?

"Boola, boola."


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