Texas Tech Alumni Association History
By Jean Ann Cantore
NOTE: In 2002, the Texas Tech Alumni Association celebrated its 75th anniversary. As part of that celebration, Texas Techsan editor Jean Ann Cantore wrote a comprehensive history of the association. That six-part story, which follows, appeared in the six issues of the Texas Techsan that were published in 2002.
Texas Tech Alumni Association: The First 15 Years, 1927-1942
In the beginning, it was about staying in touch - with each other and with an alma mater. The first graduates of Texas Technological College, the Class of 1927, had something more in mind when they formed the first alumni association, though. They wanted to give back to the school that had come to mean so much to them.
The goals of the earliest association membership were very similar to what members want today. Members wanted to remain in touch with their classmates and to keep abreast of what was happening on campus. They wanted to provide input to the school as well as financial support.
The first graduating class had the shortest tenure of any at Texas Tech: two years. The students attended from the opening of the school in 1925 until their commencement on May 30, 1927. Immediately after the graduation ceremonies, the 26 classmates formed the Texas Tech Alumni Association. The original membership of the association marked the first and last time that all graduates of the school belonged to the organization.
The first president of the Texas Tech Alumni Association was E.W. "Ned" Camp Jr. C.W. Ratliff served as vice president, Hobson Roberts as secretary/treasurer and Mary Hope Westbrook as corresponding secretary.
In the early years of the organization, there were several forms of the name "alumni association" in use. The Aug. 15, 1933, association meeting minutes referred to the "Alumni Association of Texas Technological College." More often, though, the group was called the "Texas Tech Alumni Association." By 1935, the organization changed its name to the Alumni and Ex-Students Association to include members who held degrees and those who did not.
The first alumni publication, Texas Tech Magazine, appeared in October 1937. Produced by the Alumni and Ex-Students Association, the monthly publication was geared toward both current students and exes. At the time, there were 5,000 students. Calvin Hazlewood served as editor of the magazine, which contained articles related to campus and the association, as well as fiction, cartoons and general interest articles. One issue of the magazine per year was dedicated to each academic college on campus.
The association offices were located in 317 Administration Building in 1937, and then in 1939, moved to 109 Administration Building. Annual membership dues were $2 per person. For those who simply wanted to receive Texas Tech Magazine, the subscription rate was $1.50 per year or 20 cents per issue.
Early homecoming festivities were held around Nov. 11 each year in accordance with Veterans Day (Armistice Day) and the laying of the cornerstone of the Administration Building on campus. Class reunions took place during homecoming week. An annual alumni banquet was held each spring as well.
In 1939, the first board of the association was formed with 31 "district committeemen," one from each of the 31 Senatorial districts in Texas. Board members were selected by alumni members of the association to work with the executive committee to promote the organization, plan activities and establish policies. Association chapters were in Amarillo, Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, Slaton and Waco.
Marshall Formby, 1940 association president, wrote in his "President?s Page" column of Texas Tech Magazine, "This writer dreams of a Texas Tech Alumni and Ex-Students Association which will some day have a membership of several thousand and one that will be able to do great things for Texas Tech and the boys and girls who desire to attend Texas Tech."
Membership in 1940 jumped from 600 to 800. That same year, the association began setting aside 25 cents from every $2 in dues to put toward a permanent savings fund for an alumni building or loan fund. In the fall of 1940 Wendell Watson, a 1937 graduate and former schoolteacher, became the first full-time secretary (director) of the organization. His duties included editing the magazine.
Although the Depression began to subside toward the end of the 1930s, the association had financial difficulties. By 1941, the United States was on the verge of entering World War II.
In the February 1941 issue of Texas Tech Magazine, acting editor J. Doyle Settle wrote, "An Open Letter to Ex-Students," in which he says, "Our organization is on the very verge of folding up due to its financial trouble. Mr. Wendell Watson has accepted a position in the teaching profession. The alumni income has not been sufficient for him to carry on as secretary . . . Please pay your dues at this time if you can make the sacrifice and help us pull the organization out of the red."
Alumni gatherings continued to be a focus for the organization once more, despite the looming threat of war. Once the U.S. entered World War II in December 1941, the alumni association began pushing to keep in touch with alumni and ex-students who served in the military.
Reminders began to appear in the magazine in 1942 to "keep your association posted at all times and completely on your military record." The publication ran reports in each issue of the whereabouts of those serving in the war.
On May 30, 1942, (Memorial Day) at the annual banquet of the Alumni and Ex-Students Association, a goal was set to build "a magnificent Memorial gymnasium upon the campus to honor the sons of Tech who are serving in the present world conflict."
November 1942 marked the first war-time homecoming for Texas Technological College. The world was changing, and so was Texas Tech.
Texas Tech Alumni Association: 1943-1958
After World War II ended, it was time to return to normal "at least as normal as a place could be after such a dramatic time in history. The student population of Texas Technological College suddenly included not only teenagers and people in their early 20s, but also a large group of veterans, either returning to school to complete their education or attending college for the first time.
In 1946, a group of three businessmen were having coffee together when they decided to re-establish the Ex-Students Association, which had not been very active during World War II. W.B. "dub" Rushing '31, owner of Lubbock Commercial Buildings Inc. and founder of Varsity Bookstore in Lubbock, was one of the group who established the "100 Club."
"Knowing that we needed an organization, we decided that we needed to raise $10,000 to start it with; that's like $100,000 today," Rushing says. "The way we did it was there were three of us. We each put $100 in and pledged $100 for two more years. That's how the 100 Club came about-100 people give $100 for three years. The three of us went to call on somebody else. We'd already pledged and said, "Would you do it?" As soon as he pledged, we said, "Come on, go with us." Soon, we had 10 or 12 go in, and how could you turn that down? That's how we built the organization."
As the association became more stable toward the end of the 1940s, the group hired as the first full-time executive secretary (director) D.M. McElroy '35. He was charged with overseeing the operations and finances of the organization.
"That was a lucky day," Rushing notes. "We got D.M. McElroy to be the director of the ESA. We could convince him to come with us because we had raised this $10,000. He was an ex-football player, and then he had a personality that everybody liked. He had done his football under Pete Cawthon, and he learned "we" instead of "I," which is a hard thing to learn."
The year that Rushing served as president of the association, 1950, was significant for both the Ex-Students Association and for Texas Technological College. The year marked the 25th, or silver, anniversary of the college, and the association wanted to play a role in commemorating it. The gift committee was made up of Rushing, O.B. Ratliff, C.E. Wigginton and Bruce Zorns.
"We came up with the idea for the silver punch bowl that?s over in the Ex-Students Association building," Rushing recalls. "We raised money by selling cups for $25 each. We got a good deal on the bowl because Mr. Jay Hassell, who was the manager of Hemphill Wells Co., on a buying trip to market in New York City, had that bowl made up for us at a price that we could afford. At the halftime at a football game that year, I presented the bowl to Dr. Wiggins, the president of Texas Tech at the time."
In 1950, Texas Technological College had 50,000 exes. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the college, the homecoming parade included floats showing the history of Texas Tech. The winning float that year depicted the laying of the cornerstone for the Administration Building.
Texas Techsan Magazine appeared for the first time in 1950. Published eight times annually, the magazine focused not just on campus activities and people, but also on alumni activities. The first staff of the new magazine was Byrdean Roberson '50, editor; Bob Rutland, managing editor; and H.A. Tuck '51, sports. In 1951, the magazine won one of three honorable mentions for faculty news in the American Alumni Council magazine contest.
To keep in line with its purpose of supporting the college, the Ex-Students Association set a goal in 1951 of raising money for the new Student Union building that was planned. By the next year, the organization had raised $5,000 to give toward the $542,000 project.
D.M. McElroy resigned as executive secretary in 1951, saying that he would stay on in the position until a suitable replacement was found. L.C. Walker was hired to take over at the end of 1952.
In the minutes of the Oct. 31, 1952, meeting of the Texas Tech Ex-Students Association Council, the last where he served as executive secretary, McElroy pointed out, "Loyalty of the Ex-Students to the Association and to Tech is based not on what the Ex-Students get in return for their contributions, but rather on what they have already received from their school. Their contributions are to help their school by providing some of the things that the State Legislature does not provide."
The association continued to flourish. By 1952, four employees worked for the organization, and there were 30 alumni chapters. That year, members set a goal of raising money toward the new Student Union.
Although McElroy resigned as executive secretary, he remained involved with the association and became resident of the council the next year. In minutes of one of the meetings that year, he was quoted as saying, "There are a lot of things that we ought to do. There are a lot of things the Association is responsible for which cannot be exactly recognized, lobbying, [being a] public relations body for the College. Great alumni associations go hand in hand with great colleges. They are synonymous. . . ."
As the organization continued to grow through the 1950s, it gained more visibility with alumni, thanks to technology. In 1956, a 16 mm color film entitled "Letter to a Tech Grad" was made available to exes who wanted to view it or show it at chapter meetings. The film showed changes on campus. Shot by Rollin Herald and narrated by Rex Webster, the film was produced by the association and the Texas Tech public information office.
Wayne James, a 1957 journalism graduate of Texas Tech, was hired as field secretary in 1957. Part of his duties included editing the Texas Techsan Magazine. James was promoted to assistant executive secretary in 1958.
The word was getting around that belonging to the Texas Tech Ex-Students Association was a good thing.
Texas Tech Alumni Association: 1959-1974
The late 1950s and early 1960s marked many changes for the United States, Texas and Texas Tech. The Texas Tech Ex-Students Association mirrored those changes in many ways. As the university grew, so did the association. As more students graduated, the membership of the association increased.
Wayne James began his 19-year tenure as executive secretary of the association in 1959. He was the third person to hold the position. Some of the biggest changes in association history took place during the time that James ran the organization.
Until 1960, students helped edit the Texas Techsan Magazine on a part-time basis. That year, the association publications committee voted to hire a full-time employee to edit the magazine. Mary Alice Cretsinger, a 1960 journalism graduate, became the first full-time editor.
The Century Club was initiated in May 1961; there were 130 charter members, each of whom gave $100 annually. The purpose of the club was to provide even more academic support to the university than previously.
One of the main benefits of membership in the Century Club was being invited to attend an annual dinner that featured high-profile speakers. For the first Century Club dinner (Scholarship Awards Dinner), held during Homecoming 1961, U.S. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson spoke. At that time, he was the highest-ranking individual to have visited the Texas Tech campus.
"Meeting Vice President Johnson was one of the best memories of being part of the Ex-Students Association," notes Tony Gustwick '60, association field secretary from 1962 to 1963 who had been student chairman of the homecoming committee.
Gustwick recalls that during his time as a student employee and a full-time employee at the association, the staff worked in two-and-a-half offices in the Administration Building. In all, there were eight employees at the association.
"The university was in a much different situation in 1962 than we are now," comments J.C. Chambers '54, an executive with Massachusetts Mutual in Lubbock and 1962 association president. "We had a smaller student population, and the alumni base hadn't matured. The Ex-Students Association cultivated alumni for the university; in some ways, we were the only outreach for Tech. Our focus then was fund raising because we desperately had to have funds to pay an executive director. The ability to raise funds was different; we did it through the magazine and by mail, and very few personal calls.
"In those days, we only had information about an alum if someone wrote it down on a piece of paper and handed it to you," Chambers continues. "We didn't have computers."
He says that because air travel wasn't as inexpensive or prevalent as it is now, having board members who lived more than 100 miles from Lubbock was unusual.
"The network across the country was smaller than it is today," Chambers explains. "The numbers were small, but alumni were very involved. Many people who had attended Texas Tech still lived in and around Lubbock. Having so many people on the board from this area made the association look like a 'Lubbock deal' in those days. We?ve changed that image as travel has become easier. We have had presidents from Houston and Dallas and board members from across the country."
The inaugural Distinguished Alumnus Awards of Texas Technological College were presented in October 1967. The first honorees were William W. Akers, Ph.D. '43, a biomedical engineering researcher at Rice University; Jack F Maddox '29, chairman of the board and president of New Mexico Electric Co. and Cochran Power and Light Co.; Fred H. Moore ?30, former president of Mobil Oil Corp.'s North American company and director and executive vice president of the worldwide company; and Jack Tippit '47, a nationally syndicated cartoonist.
A banner year for the association was 1969, when it was relocated to the former President's Home at 17th Street and University Avenue. The two-story structure provided room to host receptions and meetings, as well as more offices for the growing staff.
That same year, after much deliberation, Texas Technological College became Texas Tech University. For many years, people affiliated with the school had been divided about the issue of whether the name of the school should be changed to "university." "Texas State University" was the forerunner for a new name for the school. However, many alumni and others associated with the school wanted a name that would enable them to keep the Double T emblem. On Sept. 1, 1969, the Texas State Legislature changed the name to "Texas Tech University."
With increasing programs, more staff was added over the years. In 1973, Peggy Pearce joined the Ex-Students Association staff as the secretary to the executive director. Since 1979 she has been the director of special events. Pearce has worked at the association longer than any other employee.
Texas Tech Alumni Association: 1975-1987
In July 1978, Bill Dean, Ed.D., came on board as executive director of the Texas Tech Ex-Students Association. A 1961 Texas Tech graduate, Dean had been director of student publications and associate professor of mass communications at Texas Tech for several years. Dean also earned earned his master's degree and doctorate in education from Texas Tech.
Dean took the place of Wayne James, who resigned as executive director in the spring. During the interim, Peggy Pearce served as executive director of the association.
"I am grateful to Wayne James and Tony Gustwick, who hired me as secretary to Wayne, who was then executive director of the association," Pearce notes. "They taught me valuable basic tools about alumni work."
Choosing a new executive director was a task that the board of directors of the association took seriously. R.G. "Wick" Alexander, D.D.S., a 1958 graduate from Arlington, Texas, served as president of the association when Dean was selected for the position.
"Wayne James had just resigned, and we were looking for a new director," Alexander recalls. "I was really concerned about the future of the organization. Asearch firm was hired to tell us what we needed in an executive director.
"One evening, I was sitting at home, and I pulled out my 'La Ventana' yearbook from my senior year. I was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity, and Bill and I had been good friends in college. I had pledged him, in fact. I stopped at the fraternity page and saw Bill's photo. It was as if God had directed me to that picture. I knew Bill would be the perfect person for this position.
"I called information and got his number and called him at home that evening. I said, "Bill, this is Wick Alexander, and this phone call is going to change your life."
"I told him I was on the search committee for the executive director position. He wasn't interested at first. He was teaching and in charge of student publications and liked what he was doing. I had to beg him to submit his name.
"The committee interviewed Dean and eventually hired him. Without question, my greatest contribution to Texas Tech was hiring Bill Dean as executive director."
"Bill Dean has been an incredible mentor to many longtime members of our staff," Pearce comments. "His management style has allowed me to acquire the confidence and the skills to tackle projects I never would have imagined possible."
As director of special events, Pearce is in charge of the Distinguished Alumni program and dinner, the Scholarship Awards Dinner, the Top Techsans Awards luncheon, the 50th Reunions and many other events and projects sponsored by the association.
With a new regime came other new faces. Jim Douglass, a 1970 graduate, was named the new assistant director in November 1978. Taking over the role held by Jim Hess, Douglass began developing chapters and expanding membership.
Douglass, now associate vice president of the association, oversees alumni chapter activities, the vacation travel program and the legislative network, and he serves as liaison with the university's athletic department.
"As a former Saddle Tramp and avid Red Raider fan, I was very excited to have the opportunity to work for my beloved Texas Tech," Douglass says. "Over the years, there have been many positive changes both on campus and within the alumni association. Thanks to thousands of dedicated volunteers from across the country, the association has had a real impact on our university and has been a significant factor in Tech's continued success."
Marsha Gustafson became editor of the Texas Techsan Magazine in 1978, a role she held for 20 years, until she became associate director of the National Ranching Heritage Center in 1998.
Jean Finley, former business manager of student publications at Texas Tech, was appointed to the newly-created position of alumni services coordinator. She was responsible for maintaining alumni records.
"Growth in our alumni base and in the number of staff required advanced technology to meet the association's needs," Pearce comments. "When I began working, address correction entries were made by the records department staff by penciling in dots on sheets like those often used for exams during that time."
Keeping track of members and money was no small feat. The Alumni Information System, designed to take records that were kept previously on paper into a computer database, came about in 1980.
In 1980, the association had 6,278 members. The next year, the association began the Target '85 campaign, launched to raise $750,000 annually by 1985 and to establish a $500,000 scholarship endowment. By the fall of 1981, the association had received more than $450,000 endowment gifts toward the goal.
By 1982, the association boasted 70 chapters, with the addition of 11 new chapters that year. That fall, the association started a new homecoming tradition: Red Raider Road Race, a 10K road race that held its 21st run in 2001. More than 450 people participated in the inaugural event, held Saturday morning.
The Texas Tech University Office of New Student Relations convinced the association in 1983 to fund a summer counselor's conference to bring about 50 high school counselors to Texas Tech to spend two-and-a-half days learning about the academic and extracurricular opportunities available for students on campus. The conference continues to be successful and is well attended each summer.
The association formed a legislative network in 1987. This network of volunteers helped to keep legislators informed of Texas Tech's interests. The group remains one of the most active of all association board committees.
There were just a few committees in 1987, finance, the Century Club Dinner and the legislative network committees. The next year, however, more committees were developed, and all board members serve on at least one committee.
By the end of the 1980s, the association membership and board were becoming more active in the organization than they ever had.
Texas Tech Alumni Association: 1987-2002
Since 1991, the Texas Tech Alumni Association has undergone several major changes, perhaps the most noticeable being the addition of two structures, the Merket Alumni Center and the Frazier Alumni Pavilion.
Bill Dean of the Texas Tech Ex-Students Association decided in 1990 that it was time for the association to have a check-up. He invited a team of other alumni association directors to visit Lubbock and evaluate the organization.
That audit made a number of recommendations, 90 percent of which were implemented. One of the strongest comments was that the association had one of ?the worst alumni centers they had ever seen."
Although the President's Home, which had served as the association offices since 1969, provided a cozy space for everyday activities, it wasn't large enough to host reunions or other gatherings of a grander scale. In addition, being one of the original structures on campus, the building was nearly 70 years old and in need of repairs.
"We were literally on top of each other," Dean comments. "I had held off on a major fund-raising drive because we had so many other projects underway, not the least of which was our scholarship drive. After the consultants' reports, we had a golden opportunity, and we took it."
In 1992, the association began the Alumni Center Campaign in order to raise funds for the remodeling and expansion of the current facility. By June of that year, one-third of the $1.5 million needed to complete the project was raised. Bill Adling '70, a Lubbock architect, oversaw the project, which involved renovating the 8,150-squarefoot old President's Home and adding 11,650 square feet of space.
During that year, the association held luncheons in several Texas cities to encourage alumni and friends to contribute to the project. In addition, the association began selling bricks, bronze pavers, black granite plaques and black granite benches to people interested in having their names or names of loved ones displayed at the new facility.
On Oct. 16, 1993, ground was broken for the new alumni center. Lee Lewis Construction Inc. was the general contractor, and H. Deane Pierce Associates Inc. of Lubbock was the design team hired for the project.
"I was really excited to get to work on the building," notes Pierce, a 1950 architecture graduate of Texas Tech. "I enjoy restoring old buildings - it means a lot to me.
"I was first in the old part of the building (the President's Home) when I was about six years old. My mother was very good friends with the wife of the president of the school at the time, Bradford Knapp. I always remember walking into the living room with the fireplace and seeing a very strange object there. It was a spinning wheel, and Mrs. Knapp showed me how it worked."
"When I was approached to do the interior work on the building, I referred to a photograph of that living room. The fireplace had been redone by then; the stone mantle had been replaced by gypsum wallboard. I hoped, when we took out the wallboard, that the mantle would still be intact, but it wasn't. I used that photograph to recreate the original mantle as best I could."
"The association really gave me free reign to design the interior, which was wonderful. I felt you have to do something that's classic and timeless for the building. We kept as much of the original as possible but adapted it to the needs of today."
Numerous donations of materials and labor helped reduce the costs for the project. Dan Law, former CEO of Fields and Co. in Lubbock and a member of the association national board of directors, spearheaded the campaign to acquire in-kind donations to the project.
The realization of the financial goal for the project was made possible by a gift from the late Gerald Merket '48 and his wife, Louise "Sammie" Merket '41. Their gift of $700,000 to the alumni center project prompted the association to name the facility the Merket Alumni Center. The project was completed in 1995.
Along the lines of money, a decision was made in 1993 to allow the Texas Tech Office of Development to maintain the alumni database. Since the 1970s, the association had been the alumni record keeper for Texas Tech in exchange for financial support from the university. When the university decided to purchase a new software system for the records in 1993, the association returned the duties to that office to streamline the process.
On Oct. 25, 1997, the association broke ground on another spectacular campus structure, the Frazier Alumni Pavilion. The 10,000-square-foot all-weather facility was constructed southwest of Jones SBC Stadium, on land occupied by the University Police Department for many years.
To fund the facility, the association once again embarked on a campaign whereby alumni and friends could have their names on the building, in the form of bricks, courtyard pavers, cast stone walkway markers, interior stone columns, benches or special plaques on a Ring of Honor. Various parts of the pavilion were also available for naming opportunities.
The idea for the pavilion was that of James Sowell '70 of Dallas, Texas, who is also former chair of the Texas Tech Board of Regents. Sowell has continued to donate funding for the project.
On March 10, 1998, the association announced that David P. Frazier '73 of Dallas, Texas, was making a sizeable gift to the facility and toward a plaza south of the building. The structure was named the Frazier Alumni Pavilion in honor of Frazier and his father, George H. Frazier.
While the pavilion became a tradition in itself for the association, serving as a popular gathering place for pre-football game activities and a myriad of other events, the association was gearing up for another tradition.
In 1999, the association re-established the idea of having one university ring design for all graduates. Texas Tech had such a practice at one time, but in the 1970s, it was abandoned. The association began working with Milestone Traditions in 1999 to create a ring that displayed symbols familiar to all Red Raiders. The ring was made available exclusively to graduates of Texas Tech or students who had attained junior status in good standing. At press time, more than 5,200 rings had been sold.
"The Texas Tech Alumni Association set forth to restore the official ring for Texas Tech University five years ago," notes Mandy Wiley, assistant marketing director for the association. "Prior to this time, a small percentage of Texas Tech graduates cared enough to order a class ring. This percentage had been declining steadily over the last two decades. There were no eligibility requirements; all varieties of styles to choose from, the rings were more expensive and were impersonally delivered. Our students wanted a standardized ring, a common design that everyone would immediately identify as the university's official ring.
"We worked closely with students and alumni to research Tech's original class ring and unveiled the restored design three years ago. Official ring ceremonies at the Merket Alumni Center have become as much a part of the ring tradition as the ring itself. We have been amazed at how many alumni have elected to trade-in their custom rings for the new unified design. We are convinced that the endeavors that were made to restore the class ring tradition was the answer for our students, alumni and administration."
Working with the ring ceremony is the Student Alumni Board. This group of students, dedicated to being ambassadors for Texas Tech, participates in numerous activities sponsored by the association.
Members must go through an interview before being accepted into the service organization. Founded in 1975, the group was originally called the Student Foundation. Since 1983, the group has been affiliated with the association and offices in the Merket Alumni Center.
An important event that took place in 1999 was membership in the association surpassed the 20,000 mark.
"This had been a goal in our strategic plan, and I think one thing that really helped spike our totals was the joint effort by the association and the university to send the magazine to more than 60,000 alumni," Dean explains. "This encouraged many non-members to join so they could continue receiving the magazine."
In keeping up its practice of helping to beautify the campus, the association commissioned Utah sculptor Grant Speed in 2000 to create a one-and-a-quarter-lifesize bronze of the Masked Rider in full gallop. "Masked Rider Monument" was dedicated Sept. 9, 2000, at the Frazier Alumni Pavilion where it graces the plaza south of the building.
Once again, at the end of the decade, the Texas Tech Alumni Association National Board of Directors decided to have another program audit of the association. They hired Mary A. Chicoine of Gonser Gerber Tinker Stuher of Naperville, Ill., in 2000 to conduct the audit. After months of meetings and careful consideration, Chicoine presented many recommendations, most of which were adopted and implemented. Out of her audit came a strategic plan that would guide the association through the next few years and improve its programs. One of her other recommendations was to change the name of the organization from Ex-Students Association to Alumni Association.
The year 2002 marked the 75th anniversary of the association. To celebrate, the association held a dinner Feb. 8 during which the new name and a new logo were unveiled. On Feb. 10, an open house was held at the pavilion.
The association made great strides during the 1990s. The organization now boasts an increasing membership, two beautiful facilities and numerous successful programs. Unlike the comments made about the association facilities during the evaluation visit in 1990, comments made during the 2002 Big 12 Alumni Directors meeting held in Lubbock were very favorable. In fact, one alumni director was so impressed that he commented that he would like to come work for the Texas Tech Alumni Association when Dean retires.
Texas Tech Alumni Association: What the Future Holds
The year 1927 was a big one. Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic Ocean that year, and Babe Ruth hit 60 homeruns. In addition, the Texas Tech Alumni Association was formed.
Just as air travel has evolved into space travel, and the sport of baseball has gone from being an American pastime to an institution, the Alumni Association has grown into something more than many people could have imagined. If the past 75 years of the association are an indication of what can happen when people work together, who knows what the next 75 years hold?
Today, the Alumni Association supports the university in many ways. One of the most visible is by providing more than 400 scholarships to students. Another is providing support for academic recruiting and the annual high school counselors conference held at Texas Tech.
The organization also funds the Alumni Association Distinguished Visiting Mathematician Program and the Alumni Association Distinguished Professor of Mathematics. Each year, the association recognizes service and achievements by presenting New Faculty Awards, Top Techsan Awards to outstanding Texas Tech staff and Distinguished Alumni Awards. At the annual Scholarship Awards Dinner held homecoming weekend, the association presents the Distinguished Service Award to someone who has served the association or the university well and the Lauro Cavazos Award in recognition of outstanding contributions to Texas Tech.
The association has gone from a membership of 26 to nearly 25,000 since its inception. One goal of the association over the next few years is to increase membership to 30,000 and to maintain an 80 percent membership retention rate annually. Doing so will help ensure that the organization can continue providing academic support to the university.
"There is considerable fund-raising competition throughout our campus," says Bill Dean, executive vice president and CEO of the association. "We encourage alumni to support their college, but we also hope they will join the association. We have been successful in dramatically increasing membership in the last six years. But we need to do more. I think the goal of 30,000 members is an achievable goal, and we are going to work very hard to get there."
As the cost of an education increases, so do the financial requirements of the university. Basic membership in the Alumni Association currently is $35 per year. Dean says that in the near future, he would like to see the average annual gift increase to $100, which is Century Club membership level.
"Increasing the average gift will be a gradual process," Dean explains. "Our minimum gift in order to receive the Texas Techsan Magazine was $25. That has been the minimum contribution level since I first joined the association in 1978. As costs have risen, we could no longer hold that at $25, so we increased it to $35 this year. It will probably go up again in the next few years."
Of all the great benefits to members of the Alumni Association, the most valuable is the opportunity for alumni to stay connected to the university and to other alumni. The Alumni Association has numerous alumni chapters in Texas, elsewhere in the United States and even in other countries.
"The alumni chapter program has been a real success story for the association," comments Jim Douglass, associate vice president of the association. "To date, there are 85 domestic chapters and 12 international chapters. We anticipate these numbers growing significantly in the future. With Texas Tech graduates finding employment all over the country (and the world), we feel that this number of interested groups of alumni will increase. Many alumni enjoy staying connected with the university, and their involvement in a local chapter fills this void.
"Another area of expansion will come from our constituent groups. Currently, the Black Alumni Council and the Raiders Rojos (Hispanic alumni) chapters are doing a great job of providing additional programming for their members. We anticipate that other target audiences among our alumni will surface.
"For example, there is a group of alumni who are involved in the entertainment business. These are actors, directors, producers, writers, etc. who share a common interest. Many of them are located on either the east coast or the west coast but are interested in what the others are doing. We feel the Alumni Association can be the link to seeing that effective communication exists between the two groups.
"The bottom line is that, by staying involved with the association, Texas Tech alumni can stay in touch with the university and other alumni no matter how far they are from the Lubbock campus. Our goal is to make that connection as meaningful and as enjoyable as possible."
So that students will be familiar with the association and the importance of staying in touch with the university and alumni, the association sponsors the Student Alumni Association, an organization that enables students to be members while still in school. Another goal of the association is to enroll more than 2,500 students as members. Currently, 900 students are members. The Student Alumni Board, which governs the SAA, has a closed membership of 36 students who go through an interview process to join.
"Today's students are tomorrow's alumni," notes Derrick Morgan, associate vice president of the association. "We want to inform current students now about how they can remain involved with Texas Tech after graduation, both in Lubbock and throughout the world."
To spark student interest, the Alumni Association supports and participates in the freshman campus introduction program Red Raider Camp each summer. Each year, the association provides funding; for the first year of the camp, the organization gave more than $56,000. An association staff member or board member attends each of the six sessions of the camp in Junction, Texas. In addition, during each session, students take part in an informal ring ceremony, during which they receive key rings that are replicas of the class rings they can purchase from the association when they qualify to receive one as juniors.
"Red Raider Camp is a highly effective means of introducing students to the traditions of Texas Tech University," Morgan adds. "The Alumni Association is a proud supporter of Red Raider Camp, and we look forward to growing our support in the years ahead."
As Texas Tech continues to make strides, so does the Texas Tech Alumni Association. No matter how you look at it, the future looks bright.