News from Alumni House

The third year of the AYA strategic plan

Mark Dollhopf '77 is executive director of the Association of Yale Alumni. Visit the AYA website at for a full copy of the current AYA State of the Union.

More alumni, doing more things, more than ever before: this is the result of the AYA strategic plan.

This year, as you have in two of the past three years, you set new attendance records for the class reunions—the foundation of Yale's alumni relations for more than 200 years. The alumni, family, and friends who attended their reunions totaled 6,700, representing nearly 30 percent of eligible classmates.

But the increase in alumni engagement is not just increased attendance in traditional events. Perhaps the greatest impact of the AYA strategic plan has been the interest and attendance at shared interest group (SIG) events. It's hard to count, but it is likely that the total number of alumni who attended a SIG event or graduate or professional (G&P) school reunion this year was equal to the number who attended class reunions. And that doesn't count the surge in attendance at many of our regional clubs and associations.

I don't think that alumni are coming back just because of what they get. I believe that more are coming back because of what they can give.

More and more of the alumni returning to campus, most importantly those volunteering for leadership positions in class, club, SIG, or G&P groups, are those whose first experience with an alumni program was through the Yale Day of Service, or one of the many other avenues now available for giving back one's time and talent—AYA Community Service Fellowships, the Yale Alumni Service Corps, the Yale Global Alumni Leadership Exchange, or Bulldogs Across America.

It is Yale's longstanding mission of service that sets us apart. From its inception the Collegiate School was dedicated to the ideals of community—service to church and state. Its original charter of 1701 includes a vision of service: the school was to be a place "wherein Youth may be instructed in the Arts and Sciences [and] through the blessing of Almighty God may be fitted for Publick employment both in Church and Civil State." Education not for oneself, but rather for God and country, if you will.

In recent memory Yale presidents have echoed that mission with a forward vision of Yale that puts service at the top of the list. Long before nonprofits would emphasize the importance of "changing lives," Yale president Kingman Brewster '41 noted in a speech that "The chance to make a constructive difference in the lives of others, not the full dinner pail, is the highest reward of a higher education."

There is a remarkable tradition of service at Yale, and Yale students have the longest and most innovative tradition of community service among America's colleges and universities. Founded in 1881, Dwight Hall is a unique student-led college center for community service and social justice. More than two thirds of current Yale students at one time or another volunteer.

The need for the care and stewardship of community is all around us: a quarter of New Haven's population lives below the poverty line, many in areas bordering or directly adjacent to the Yale campus. To attend Yale is to realize the significant urban challenges we face as a city and as a nation. We confront those challenges every day on our way to class or work.

Lastly, but not least, as alumni we stand on the shoulders of giants. Service has been an ideal voiced by many of Yale's most influential leaders. Yale historian George Pierson '26, '33PhD, observed that Yale "remains, as it has always been, a nursery of scholars and a gateway to that life whose test is achievement and public service."

In these current difficult economic times I am proud of the fact that—as evidenced by the huge participation of our alumni in our new service opportunities—our alumni are as concerned about the bread-and-butter necessities of life as they might be about wine-and-cheese receptions.

I am convinced by the depth of their conviction that Yale alumni are leaders in stewardship, in giving back, in passing it on, in recognizing that because of the enormous gifts we received from Yale—gifts of knowledge and friendship—we are accountable. Yale alumni are a force for change in a world in desperate need of lux et veritas.

My heartfelt thanks to all of you who have risen to the challenge—and the great opportunity—to serve.


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